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Backyard Fire Pit advice

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by abrucerd, Apr 12, 2011.

  1. abrucerd

    abrucerd Member

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    Hi all!

    I'm looking for some advice/tips on building a fire pit in my back yard, and I've had a lot of success with the Pellet forum so I decided to try out a post in here as well.

    I want to build it more natural than with a polished finish... so leaning towards loose field stones (no mortar). However, most of the DIY sites & videos are designed for masonry bricks and cap stones, etc, so I wanted to get a feel for what other recommend.


    Question dump:
    Is is better to go with the finished bricks or loose stones (from a safety perspective)? If so, what types of stones are recommended? Do I need to line the inner wall with fire brick? What about the base... I've read about lining it with pea gravel... though I'm not sure what for? What do you recommend for clearance above the firepit (height-wise)?

    Let me know what you think... I'd love to see what others have done too.

    Thanks in advance!

    adam

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  2. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    I guess my feeling is that a fire pit has to be one of the most primitive constructions known to man . . . I mean it's not exactly rocket science. Dig a hole, line it with rocks . . . or you can be lazy like me and just grab some nearby fieldstones from the rock wall, don't even bother digging a pit and build a rock ring.

    That said . . . hopefully other folks will come along shortly to show you their fire pits . . . which I am sure will be fancier than my simple rock ring.
  3. billb3

    billb3 Minister of Fire

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    no shortage of stones and rocks here to make a circle with.


    Unless this fire was in the woods with dry peaty mulch that would burn the usual dirt usually doesn't burn.
    Then you might want some inches of gravel under the ashes.


    Beyond primitive there's lots of ways to make a fancy pit.
  4. REM505

    REM505 New Member

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    One thing I noticed and don't really like on the metal fire pit is that if it starts to get windy it will throw the flames out about a foot over the sides. I So keep that in mind when building wall height especially if you will have children or pets near.
  5. woodchip

    woodchip Minister of Fire

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    I suspect the main reason people are influenced into making elaborate firepits is because it's a nice little money earner for diy stores.

    People had circles of stones for millennia and never had a problem with them. In fact, most fishing trips down the beach end up with a few stones with a fire inside, either to cook a few fish or just to boil a kettle for a coffee whilst waiting for a bite.

    Firepits are like most things in life, you can make them as free as you like, or as expensive and elaborate as you like.

    Just don't fall into the trap of firepit one-upmanship, that happened to a couple of neighbours where we used to live.
    Nobody needs $500 dollar firepits with "special" stones........ :)
  6. Delta-T

    Delta-T Minister of Fire

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    I'm a big fan of the firepit on a giant "lazy susan"..that way you can just rotate the whole pit when the wind changes directions....theres an idea for ya...and it'll certainly be fancier than the neighbors non-spinning firepit.
  7. gpcollen1

    gpcollen1 Minister of Fire

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    I think a concrete base with a firebrick 'liner' and field stones on the outside will do nicely and be relatively cheap. i like this so that wind cannot blow right through the entire pit and blow embers out. A few weeks back something blew out of my burn barrel/pit and started some leaves on fire. Would have been scary if i was was not paying attention. I did not have the hose hooked up so i had to move quickly. Dry leaves can burn in a hurry with some wind.
  8. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    I have made a few mistakes and built a lot of firepits. My most evolved pit, and my current one is 4 feet across at the bottom so that I can throw pallets right in. It is made of quarry rock and NOT round rocks from the dirt or riverbed. The angular quarry rocks will not explode, roudn rocks will. Exploding rocks are bad. Dig the hole about a foot deep but in a place that the pit will not fill with water when it rains. Do not put anything on the bottom since scooping ashes will be easier when you just need to dig down until you hit dirt. Put a reasonable amount of batter (lean) to the rock lining the pit so that the rock lining will not fall into the pit. The batter seems to help reflect the heat too. Around the top of the pit set a single row of large rock that will be the capstone.

    The only drawback to the below grade firepit is that a kid could fall in a bit easier than a big above ground pit. I have had fears of a kid tripping and ending up head first in the hot pit unable to climb out.

    The other good reason for a four foot pit is that you can sit a lot of people around it. Fill that pit with firewood and it can make some heat.
  9. yooperdave

    yooperdave Minister of Fire

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    i guess if you want it to be on "display", then go with something fancy. nothing wrong with a 4" hole in the ground with a ring of rocks around it. mine is about 3-4 feet square and has been used for years. occasionally need to change a rock, but we haven't run low on rocks for quite awhile along the lake shore!
    now that you mention it, this past winter someone had posted pics of an outdoor pizza oven. nice set of pics...taken at various stages of construction...see if you can find that one i suppose if you are in a more populated area, you would want something "nicer" or "showier"
    on my pit, the stones are loose, but embedded in the dirt and stick up above grade about 6-8". the pit itself has no lining whatsoever...just a dirt bottom. with this set up, the smoke is able to go where ever the wind/breeze wants it to. so...can't burn on real windy days, but the wind usually dies down in the evening anyway
  10. homebrewz

    homebrewz Minister of Fire

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    I agree with Jake and others that you can just have a hole in the ground.. keep it simple or complex to your liking. Keep a source of water nearby and watch those overhead branches.

    Delta-T.. that is awesome. Patent that. :lol:

    I suppose there might be something to the angular versus round rock thing, but basically you want to stay away from shales and sandstones, or any sedimentary rock that is porous. The air trapped inside these rocks expand when heated leaded to exploding rocks and hot rock fragments going everywhere. Some igneous rocks will be porous too, but I think where you are there are a lot of granite-type rocks and gneisses. That should work out just fine.
  11. Czech

    Czech Minister of Fire

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    You guys are no fun. A big fire and some good wet sandstone can be a heck of a lot of fun! Amazing we lived this long, remind not to show the kids that one.
  12. CJ-SR4ever

    CJ-SR4ever New Member

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    Ahhhhh...who needs a fire pit when you can light your shed on fire? hahaha I agree with Czech, small contained fires are not as fun as big ones.
  13. billb3

    billb3 Minister of Fire

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    That must piss off the goldfish.
  14. yooperdave

    yooperdave Minister of Fire

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    aren't there some rock walls down by the river near you that people go to and build fires in during the warmer weather??? these would have been eroded away over time to make "caves or overhangs". a buddy of mine was at one of em when the damn overhead let go. after his death, i think the "officials" may have tried to fence it off. poor guy was a newly wed
  15. Czech

    Czech Minister of Fire

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    Sorry to hear that, yes to your questions. There are huge cave networks here from the old Miss, many are carved into sandstone and limestone. These go miles, and yes sometimes heat from fires is enough to cause ceilings to collapse, heck they just collapse anyways. The city blocks off entrances, the kids dig them out again, ongoing battle. These are caves that they used to grow mushrooms in (aka the Mushroom Caves) and store beer and beer trucks in due to the nice controlled temp (the Schimdt Caves). The Schimdts go miles and connect with the Univac Caves, appropriately named after the Univac company that sits on top. Back on topic, really not safe to put sandstone in the fire (or any wet rock), just saying!
  16. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

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    I've got a small fire pit of stacked bricks. The open sides give the fire a ton of air and it works very well, but of course its too small to throw in a whole pallet. The most important part for me is keeping the fire and embers in the pit. I've got a hose 5' away.
  17. mayhem

    mayhem Minister of Fire

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    Well how the heck deep are you making your firepits? Doesn't need to be much...maybe a foot at the center of a 4-5 foot circle I'd say. The pit is really just to help keep the ashes and coals from spilling out too easily and to help keep it in place in wind.

    I'd say dig a shallow pit, get some nice rocks off your property and make a ring around it. If you're after the fancy look, use bigger, flatter rocks and make it into more of a chimnea kind of structure. Don't overthink it and don't bother with special rocks, bricks or whatever from Home Depot.
  18. flyingcow

    flyingcow Minister of Fire

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    Kinda redneck, but i like a big rim off of a front end loader. 4 or 5 ft round. (Price of steel, might be hard to find.) Pile some nice looking rocks up against it, or do some landscape bricks. Might want to cut a few air holes on the lower end. Whatever you do, make it big enough so you can shovel it out easily.
  19. Flatbedford

    Flatbedford Minister of Fire

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    We put the old stove on the deck. It sits on some bluestone and has about 6' of chimney that helps keep the smoke out of our eyes.
    [​IMG]
    I can move it onto the lawn too.
    [​IMG]
  20. PapaDave

    PapaDave Minister of Fire

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    Depends what you want. PO's had one here about 3 ft. diameter. Too small for me, so everytime we'd go someplace, we'd end up on the back roads looking for nice big stones.
    Brought a bunch home, moved old stones away, dug the pit a little deeper ( maybe a foot or so), then rearranged the stones around the perimeter.
    Pit is now 6' across, and I'm thinking it needs to be bigger. :lol: Just found a nice big stone to add just a few days ago.
    Can't post any pics, it's full of branches from the last storm, and you wouldn't be able to see it.
    ALWAYS have the hose on and less than 5' from where I sit when there's a fire going.
  21. Mt Ski Bum

    Mt Ski Bum Member

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    Here's a couple firepits I made this past summer... just gather up some decent-sized rocks & make them into a circle!

    Attached Files:

  22. Dune

    Dune Minister of Fire

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    My advice; don't build one. Waste of wood and free polution to boot.
  23. woodsman23

    woodsman23 Minister of Fire

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    KILL JOY......
  24. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    I don't know . . . in my case I only use my rock ring burn pit to a) burn up dead branches around the yard, b) when friends come over and I would like a bit of light and heat on the cool summer evenings or c) when friends come to visit and we're cooking meals over the fire. While a fire in a burn pit certainly isn't as efficient or clean burning I am willing to use up a bit of wood for the ambiance, heat and cooking.
  25. dvellone

    dvellone Feeling the Heat

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    drystone is a great way to go. Makes it very simple to build and it'll look great with tightly fitted joints. As soon as you introduce mortar into the design you run into design details regarding expansion, weathering, and a foundation (depending on where you live.)

    Other than that, your design details might take into account how high you want it (low is nice for sitting around on a cold night, and higher is nice to cook on)

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