I Built a Fire Pit and You Can Too

A long time ago (…like a year or so) I made this blog post about how I made a fire pit in the back yard for around $60.  And it was a good post, and it was a good fire pit.  But then at some point I deleted all our blog entries :(
A lot of people pinned that entry to pinterest, so I’m re-posting a streamlined version of that post so those links won’t be broken anymore. Later this year I’m going to do a firepit update post and a fire pit revamp post. Stay tuned for that!

Easy Fire Pit for About $60

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What you need:  

  • 8 Cement Blocks from Home Depot or Lowes (16″ x 8″ x 8″) $9.20
  • 8 Flat Cement Cap Blocks (16″ x 8″ x 4″) $11.68
  • 4 2ft x 2ft Flat Square Patio Stones or Pavers ($34) optional

That’s $54.88 plus tax! These prices are from Lowe’s web site from stores in my area.

All you need to do now is find a nice flat spot to put down your 4 big flat pavers to form a 48″ x 48″ square for the base of your fire pit. I put mine in a gravel courtyard, so it was pretty easy to move the gravel around with a rake to level it out.  You may consider adding gravel or sand underneath the pavers to help level it without trying to scrape at the ground. The pavers will have a little bit of space between them when in place. You can put a little sand or gravel in the cracks for a more finished look if you want.  If the pavers have a little bit of wobble to them, it’s OK. They will settle under the weight of the remaining building blocks over time.

Next you take your big cement blocks and simply arrange them in a square, centered on the big square pallet you just made.  Top that square with your cap blocks, making sure to overlap the spaces between the blocks where they are butted up against each other. This just makes it a little more stable. Take a look at how the cap blocks are placed in the first photo if that doesn’t make sense. You could put a little bit of mortar or something between the blocks to hold them together, but I didn’t.  You’ll have to straighten them up a little bit here and there but they stay put pretty well.

fire pit in action

It’s that easy!

Tip: Turn one of the base blocks (say, on the side facing away from the house) on its side so that the holes are exposed (the holes will be oriented horizontally instead of vertically). This will allow some air to enter into the fire pit at the base. I’m not sure it’s entirely necessary, but it would seem that more air could get to the base of the fire this way.

See the holes I'm talking about?

See the holes I’m talking about?

Notes:

  • On my first go, I made this firepit with 2 levels of large blocks plus the cap blocks. It was WAY too tall. This fire pit is the perfect height as long as you aren’t trying to do some crazy hillbilly bonfires. That’s what big metal barrels are for.
  • There was concern from some readers that these blocks aren’t fire-rated or something, and that they will absorb moisture then explode when exposed to heat from the fire. I have not experienced this in over a year of use, and we have had some fires in this thing that were way bigger than this fire pit is made for.  What DID happen is a few of the blocks cracked in half. We didn’t even notice it happen; It may have happened upon cooling after a fire, I’m not sure. If I remember correctly, it was only the cap blocks that cracked, none of the larger ones. Also, I just noticed that these blocks are “Fire Resistant” per Lowes web site. I don’t think they could call them fire resistant if there was a risk of explosion. However, feel free to prove me wrong by doing some experiments with water, cement blocks, and fire and get one to explode. I want to see the video :)

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15 Responses to I Built a Fire Pit and You Can Too

  1. Tom Rowan says:

    Thanks for this post, Brian. I have been looking for something like this to put in the middle of my raised bed garden plot. It’s perfect!

  2. Dawn33713 says:

    Thank you, Brian.

    We hosted a meetup Saturday night, and everybody loved the fire pit that we built using the information that you posted here. We were amazed how easy it was.

    We really appreciate your putting in the work to post the info here to share it with everyone.

  3. Patrick R Guinan says:

    I just noticed your “how to build a fire pit information. I just complete my fire pit with the same material but I went three block high. I realize it’s a little higher than the average fire pit but I sank the first block 6″ into the ground on top of 3″ bed of 2″ gravel. I then filled the concrete blocks with cement and # 4 rebar for added strength and stability. I was looking at finishing the exterior of the block walls with a small mosaic tile installed with a good quality thin set motor. Any thought’s on this! will it work?

    • Brian says:

      Sounds really cool! I think that would work great. The outside of the blocks probably don’t get any of the heat, so expansion & contraction shouldn’t be a problem. I’d use a mortar made for outdoor masonry though so it can stand up to hot sun and winter cold. Good luck, and I’d love to see photos!

  4. Perry Smith says:

    Thanks, Brian, I’ve been looking for a really great gift idea for my sister’s birthday.

    My question is this: her patio is a rectangular concrete pad with enough space to put a fire pit on one end. Can this be built right on the pad, or should there be that layer of pavers first?

    • Brian says:

      I would definitely put something down to keep the patio concrete from getting scorched, in case they want to move it/take it down later. Also the expanding and contracting caused by the heat and cooling could crack the concrete. So i would at least put a layer of pavers under it. Maybe some gravel or something too.

  5. Jazz says:

    Hi, i like your firepit and actually i am getting ready to build a brick barbeque pit using the same big cinder blocks. I was wondering if i can use the 2 x 2 flat square stones on the bottom or should i make a bottom with cement instead? Do you have any suggestions they would really be appreciated. This is my first attempt at building something. Thank you.

    • Brian says:

      You could do it on plain old dirt ground or gravel, or on concrete. But concrete sounds like too much work for me. I’d rather have the 2×2 pavers down so I could remove them later if I wanted to. And there is the possibility the concrete could crack. I would go with the pavers and maybe some gravel too.

  6. Head says:

    Nice work! I will build one base from your instructions. The only question I have is if you are using anything to hold up the walls or you only stack them together. How stable the walls are if people accidentally push it would it fall apart? Thank you!

    • Brian says:

      I’m not using anything else to hold them up. They stay put pretty well. If anyone is bumping them while there is a fire going, they have bigger problems (too close to the fire!). They will move if you push them, but they have some weight to them.

      Another commenter mentioned filling them with concrete. That sounds like a pretty good idea, but it will be a bit harder to take it down in the future if you want to. ALSO I would keep the top cap blocks separate so you can replace them if they crack. A couple of mine cracked.

      I’m not sure if they cracked because of high fire temperatures or just constant expanding and contracting in the weather.

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  8. Susan Carpenter says:

    Hi, I am having a party this weekend and while getting the yard ready, I realized how bad my fire pot was, rusted through and just really awful looking. So I Goggled how to build one and I found yours. I had cinder blocks and patio stones from another job already so the only thing I had to pick up were the flat blocks for the top layer. I build mine 2 layers high and I am so happy, it looks wonderful and cost me $20. Thanks so much for the pattern, I can’t wait until my friends see it and I get to tell them I made it all by myself!! :)

  9. Tena Thomas says:

    To build a underground dryer 20 x 20 x8 how many sender blocks will I need and any advice on building this would be nice and helpful. Thank you Tena Thomas.

  10. Tena Thomas says:

    Shelter

  11. Maureen says:

    I just built one today! It’s rectangular shaped… I saw you put I bet I could stain it… I’ve been searching the web to see if that’s safe, have you painted yours yet? I used the solid bricks
    IMG_1706.PNG

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