How to Install an Inexpensive Inground Fire Pit in a Backyard

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An inground fire pit provides a place to relax around with friends and family on a chilly night. Children roasting marshmallows and adults unwinding after a long day -- in front of a warm fire, under the stars -- is a picture-perfect ending to a long day for some families. A built-in fire pit requires less maintenance than a freestanding metal fire pit, making it a practical choice. An inground fire pit allows you to determine the size and shape to personalize your backyard setting.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Stakes
  • String
  • Shovel
  • Hand-held tamper
  • Stone, brick or cinder blocks
  • Type S masonry mortar
  • Trowel
  • Gravel
  • Wood
  • Sand
  • Flat rocks or pavers
  • Call your utility companies to mark pipes and underground utilities in your backyard. Do not plan a fire pit over the utility lines or within a safe distance as prescribed by the utility company. Check local laws and ordinances pertaining to fire pit size and placement in regard to houses and outlying structures. Look at your land survey to ascertain placement of dry wells, underground water sources and septic systems. Do not build fire pits over unstable ground.

  • Measure the area where you'll build your fire pit and drive stakes into the ground to mark the dimensions. Tie a string from stake to stake to use as a guide when digging.

  • Dig a hole 12 inches deep within the string guidelines using a shovel.

  • Tamp the base of the hole with a hand tamper to compress the loose dirt.

  • Set cinder blocks, bricks or large stones inside the hole, up against the dirt wall, around the entire inner edge. Tightly butt each brick, block or stone up to one another.

  • Mix type S masonry mortar with water. Use a trowel to apply a 1/2-inch layer of mortar to the top of the first course of stones, bricks or blocks, and apply 1/2-inch layer of mortar to the bottom of the stones, bricks or blocks. Set the stones, blocks or bricks in place atop the first course. Stagger the seam lines so they do not line up with each other. Continue building up course-by-course until the stones, bricks or blocks sit 6 to 12 inches above grade or higher if you desire. Let the mortar dry overnight.

  • Fill in the base of the hole with 4 inches of gravel. Drag a long piece of wood across the top of the gravel to level it. Tamp the base gravel with a hand tamper. Spread a 4 inch layer of sand over the gravel. Drag a piece a wood over the top to level the sand.

  • Set large flat rocks, bricks or pavers into the sand in a circular pattern beginning at the middle or on lines running across the base of the fire pit. You can also fit pieces together tightly as if you were assembling a large puzzle. The design is up to you. Continue to lay flat rocks or bricks until they cover the entire base of the fire pit.

Tips & Warnings

  • Check local codes and ordinance to see if they require a spark screen over a lit fire pit.
  • Provide adult supervision when children and pets are near a fire pit.
  • Do not burn garbage in a fire pit as many items can emit harmful smoke.
  • Do not build a fire pit under overhanging tree branches.
  • Do not store flammable materials near a fire pit.

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References

  • "The Complete Book of Outdoor Projects"; Time Life Editors; 1998
  • "The Book of Skills and Tools"; Family Handyman Magazine Editors; 1993
  • "Masonry and Concrete"; Creative Homeowner Editors; 2009
  • Photo Credit Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images
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