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I’m so excited to share my beautiful large fire pit with you! It’s been a crazy week, but as part of the big overhaul of my backyard, I’ve been working on this awesome fire pit.
When I started building the fire pit, I was surprised at how easy it was to create. I seriously love this gathering spot in my backyard. It’s so welcoming—the perfect place to host a backyard get-together with friends.
So if you’re ready to build a fire pit in your backyard, here’s the step-by-step process I followed to create this gorgeous, large fire pit (and let me tell you, this fire pit ain’t going ANYWHERE—it’s SOLID)!
Building a Large Fire Pit: Not My First Fire Pit Rodeo
So, you may be thinking, “I swear she’s built a fire pit before.” And yes, you’re right.
This project is actually the third fire pit I’ve had in the backyard over the years, but unlike my previous ones, this solid, large fire pit isn’t going anywhere!
Thanks to my experience with building fire pits, I knew exactly how to make this pit all official with stones and landscaping fabric and everything (I still need to do more, thus the “part 1” in the title of this how-to post).
The first fire pit I ever built in my backyard was in a spot almost identical to this, but it eventually got covered over and went unused (it was more or less a hole dug in the same place as an old water fountain from when I moved in). If you haven’t seen my old “how to build a firepit” post yet (here), it’s a real classic, but it had a later follow up when Dad almost lit my whole yard on fire. Understandably, I needed a break from backyard fires for a while.
The second fire pit I built was deliberately temporary in another spot in the backyard. This backyard fire pit came about because I’d worked on leveling and filling in of the whole yard and found a place that was still too high. (If you don’t remember the sinkhole, the backhoe, etc., check out part 1, part 2 of my backyard makeover, and part 3 of the backyard makeover series.)
The purpose of my second simple backyard fire pit to burn out some remaining stumps after removing several pine trees. The stumps were ground down, but once I leveled out the yard, I unearthed remaining thick tree roots and big chunks. This “controlled” backyard brush fire was effective and gave me great topsoil after a while, but I was never convinced it was the final spot for my official backyard fire pit.
But now, the yard is filling in more, the grass started to grow, and I’ve had “outdoor entertainment space” ideas buzzing in my head for years. It’s time to let these projects finally come to fruition. And so, I started building out my beautiful, large fire pit as a permanent fixture in my backyard.
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How to Build a Beautiful Large Fire Pit in the Backyard
One of the biggest hurdles I dealt with in this backyard fire pit project was the size. Not only did I want a fire pit place where lots of friends could gather around the bonfire, but the pit had to be large and functional enough to burn brush and yard waste. Basically, I wanted a fire pit that looked nice but was as useful as my fire pits in the past.
So, I started to research how to build a large fire pit. I looked at lots of fire pit tutorials online, but most of the online tutorials were for tinier backyard designs—more backyard decor and less “yard maintenance” types of fire pits. I wanted both.
I realized a run-of-the-mill fire pit kit wasn’t going to cut it for me because it would be way too small. Those above ground fire pits with the teeny tiny metal base and (sometimes tacky) cutouts wouldn’t work at all. I needed a LARGE fire pit.
When all is said and done, this pit comes to about 1 1/2 to 2 times the size of those ready-to-use fire pit kits. My large fire pit spans approximately 6 feet total, including the stones. Since most fire pit stones are designed to fit snuggly in a smaller circle, mine were a bit looser to accommodate the larger ring.
When I laid the stones, I made sure the exteriors touched and lined up, so the pit would look put together. The interior of the fire pit clearly shows the gaps due to positioning the stones at wider angles (In a later post, I’ll show you how I’m going to cover those too). But before I get too wordy in this “how I built a fire pit” saga (too late), here are all the details on how it came together!
Items You’ll Need to Build a DIY Fire Pit:
- Retaining wall stones (or other landscaping stones of your choice)
- Construction/masonry adhesive
- Caulk gun
- Level(s) (one to span the width and a smaller one to level stone by stone)
- Heavy-duty yard gloves
- Landscaping fabric
- Landscaping border
- Landscape pins
- Paver sand (optional)
- Rebar and mallet (optional)
1. Lay Out and Dry Fit the First Ring of Stones for Your Fire Pit
The first steps of building my fire pit were simple. I had already dug a portion out of the yard where I wanted the new pit and burned brush in the spot (both because I still needed a place to do yard maintenance and to get a full picture in my mind of whether this spot was the right one for the new pit).
Once I’d settled on the ideal fire pit spot, I measured the diameter of the hole and did a little math while at the home improvement store to get the right number of retaining wall stones (I needed 16). Basic geometry is essential for this fire pit project, but thankfully Google has me covered with instant calculators for such tasks. With the size figured out and stones purchased, I laid them all out in a ring as a dry fit to create the outer edge of my DIY fire pit.
2. Level the First Layer of Stones
I had leveled a lot of the backyard in general before building my fire ring, but the yard still isn’t 100% flat and even. In fact, I deliberately kept a small slope to the yard, so rainwater would continue to flow back and out of the yard as before—no puddles!
To build the fire pit, I still needed first to create a completely flat surface to form the base of the pit. I used my longest level (4 feet), but since it didn’t span the whole width of the cavity, I used a straight piece of lumber and moved it around the circle, digging out higher points so the stones would all lay level with the stone on the opposite side of the pit.
I also used a smaller level to make sure each stone was level with the ones on either side, so there were no ridges to cause wobbling with the next layer (important when you’re laying stones that rest on the edge of another stone). The digging took a while, but trust me: it’s worth it to get your fire pit leveled out as much as possible right from the start (I’ll show you why later).
3. Fill in the Stones with Sand (Optional) and Start Gluing the Next Layer of Stones
Once I had all of the first layers of stones in the place where I wanted, I filled in the lowest layer of the fire pit with paver sand. A DIY hollow retaining wall tutorial I read recommended paver sand (you don’t need it if the stones are solid). The sand is more or less a stabilizing agent (the blog also suggested gravel as an alternative).
After putting in the sand, I decided I could take it or leave it, honestly. While the sand did seem to make the stones less likely to move around, it made gluing on the next layer a little tougher (adhesive no-likey sand). I brushed off excess paving sand with a thick old paintbrush, and it all worked out. The cement adhesive is solid once it cures
4. Glue and Finish All Three Layers of Stones for Your Fire Pit
As you can see, the first layer of stones lines up with the third as far as stone placement, while the middle layer divides the above/below stones in half. This style of stone laying is called half-bonding or a running bond.
I chose to skip the sand for the next two layers of fire pit stones because I was also planning on adding rebar and filling in the stones later. The sand would fall out of the gaps between the stones, anyway.
5. Add Landscaping Fabric Around the Outside of the Fire Pit
Now that I’d put down the three layers of stones for my firepit, I wanted to give them time to settle and prepare to finalize the fire pit. I wasn’t quite ready to add the final layer (stone caps that would hide the hollow look of the stones). I wanted to let the adhesive dry and set.
So, I took the time to start laying out landscaping fabric around the pit. This time allowed me to figure out how big of an area I would want for the gravel surrounding the pit (where I planned to put the seating).
6. Add Optional Rebar for Reinforcement of the Fire Pit Stones
While DIY fire pit tutorials I found didn’t really mention rebar, I decided to add extra reinforcements. I looked at it like building a stone retaining wall in the yard and forced a few pieces of rebar into the stones and ground. A mallet made quick work of pounding in the rebar.
I mainly decided to add the rebar reinforcement to the fire pit stones because my fire pit design was larger than most kits and because I dug into the ground to create the pit. My pit is technically an above-ground fire pit and a (slightly) below ground fire pit. I wanted to get the stones nice and solid. (Note: I know the rebar isn’t in the narrower hole, where you would think to put rebar, but that spot wouldn’t work because of the half-bonding layout of the stones.)
7. Add Stone Caps to Your Fire Pit
Now that my fire pit was pretty solid and stable, I decided to add the caps to the fire pit. The hollow stones are functional, and they were easy to move around, but they aren’t the prettiest when it came to the final look. I added thin stone caps on top of the fire pit to finish it off and make it more aesthetically pleasing (curb appeal counts!).
8. Finish the Landscaping Fabric and Edging
I’ve been using a flexible edging material lately for landscaping. This material is fantastic for getting a nice crisp edge without a lot of work; it’s plastic and bendable, but also really solid once you hammer in the yard spikes to keep it in place.
For the landscaping fabric around the fire pit, I used plastic landscape pins to hold the fabric flat. One reader suggested DIY-ing your own with wire hangers, but I had a whole bag of these already, so this was a great way to use them up.
And here’s where we’re at with the finalized large fire pit!
I still need to add in gravel and create extra seating, but the fire pit is complete! The picture also re-emphasizes how important it is to level out the entire project as you build your fire pit spot. As you see in the photo above, there’s one spot in the stones that didn’t match up perfectly, and it didn’t present itself until the very last layer! As you can imagine, this frustrated me to no end (I was so careful!).
To be fair, misalignment can just as easily happen if the stones have an accidental ridge or flaw (such as if the mold didn’t get leveled out). It’s not the end of the world, though, because I have an angle grinder to grind away any imperfections. I’ll review how to use the angle grinder in another post.
I’ve already had people over to see if they noticed the misalignment (it looks far less pronounced when you’re standing around the pit in person), and after pushing them to look for flaws, they then pointed it out. I’m only adding this info because it’s easy to get invested in the imperfections of a project, but most people won’t notice (they’ll be far more interested in enjoying the space than nitpicking).
Next up, I need to fill a truck bed with about a half-ton of gravel and get it spread out around the fire pit. Oof. But I’ll feel thrilled when it’s all finished, including a few more backyard improvement projects:
- Part 2 of the large fire pit build (gravel, fireproofing, fixing the stone)
- The pub shed project (yes, pubshed… there will be no “she shed” crap in this house!)
- Mulching and fertilizing everything for fall (finalizing the yard = more maintenance)
- Grass maintenance
- Removing the chain link fence (it’s finally happening!)
- Planning out the new deck area and patio upgrade
But first, I plan to kick back and enjoy my brand new large fire pit and beautiful backyard! It’s the perfect gathering spot for yard parties and get-togethers with friends. I can’t wait to entertain in my great backyard space!
So many new changes are happening back here, and I’m so excited! Are you working on any summer/fall outdoor projects?