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How to Build a DIY Stone Fire Pit

By Sep 9, 2022September 23rd, 2022Home DIY, Outdoors
How to build a DIY Stone Fire Pit

Building a DIY stone fire pit is an easy project you can complete in less than a day. But there are key decisions you’ll need to make along the way. With step-by-step instructions, I’ll show you how to build a stone fire pit that you’ll love for years to come.

Before we get started, make sure to follow me on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram to keep up with all my latest builds!

Here is what you’ll need for the project:

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How to build a DIY stone fire pit 

  1. Choose your location
  2. Decide on size and materials
  3. Prep the ground
  4. Build the fire pit

Before we get started you’re probably wondering, how much does a DIY stone fire pit cost?

Also, is it cheaper to build your own fire pit?  Obviously the materials you choose to use will affect your price, but in general it is cheaper to build your own fire pit.  

I spent $230 dollars to build my DIY stone fire pit. 

That amount includes: 

Should you buy a Fire Pit Kit?

Most home stores sell ready-to-go fire pit kits.  The one I saw at Lowes included fire pit stones along with a fire pit ring.  It was $255, but it didn’t include the rest of the materials you’ll need. 

If you choose to buy a fire pit kit, you’re paying for convenience.  Nothing wrong with that, but this isn’t a good option if you’re trying to save money. 

DIY Fire Pit Kit

For even more convenience (and an extra $80) you can have the fire pit kit delivered to your home.  This will save you from hauling heavy stones around the store and getting them home.  If that’s worth $80 to you than this is a great option. 

1. Choose the right location for DIY Stone Fire Pit

Fire Pit Location

Your fire pit needs to be at least 10-20 feet away from any structure and on flat ground.  In my area the requirement is the fire pit should be at least 15 feet from any structure.  I measured to make sure I was at least that far from my deck, and we were good to go!

measuring location of fire pit

The more level your land is, the easier it will be to build a level fire pit.  But you can work with a gently sloping yard like I did.   

You’ll also want to make sure that the center or the fire pit is at leas 5-6 feet from any sizable slope.  This will give you space for seating.

Fire Pit Seating

Fire pit seating ideas can be anything from wooden benches, to Adirondack chairs, to regular old folding camping chairs. It doesn’t matter what you go with, and outdoor furniture will work!

2. Decide on size and materials

To decide on the size and materials for your fire pit you’ll need to know:

  • How much space you have 
  • Are you using a fire pit ring
  • Which stone to use 
  • How many fire pit stones you’ll need to buy

1. How much space do you have?

A good rule of thumb is to have at least 7 feet of space surrounding your fire pit for seating.  That may sound like a lot, but you’ll need to sit back from the fire to be safe.  This is the best time to make sure you have enough space for seating.   

2. Are you using a fire pit ring?

What is a fire pit ring and do you need to use one? 

Fire pit rings are made of solid steel and are designed to contain your fire.  They also protect the fire pit stones from the heat of the fire, which helps the stones last longer.  Fire pit ring can also add stability to a stone fire pit.  

metal fire pit ring

Do you have to have a fire pit ring?   No, but I would recommend it.

Planning to build a smokeless fire pit? You must use a fire ring to make a smokeless fire pit.  The fire pit ring will need to be at least 10” deep for a smokeless fire pit.  Check out how I converted my DIY stone fire pit into a smokeless fire pit.  

Nope. I’m Not Using a Fire Pit Ring:

If you’ve decided NOT to use a fire pit ring, you can build your fire pit with any size fire pit stone.  You’re not trying to get a fire pit ring to fit inside, so you’re good to go. 

Just make sure you build the fire pit deep enough.  Generally you want the fire pit walls to be 8 to 12 inches high, measuring from the base of the fire pit. 

Yes! I’m Using a Fire Pit Ring:

If you’ve decided to use a fire pit ring, your goal is to make sure the ring will fit inside your circle of fire pit stones.  I’ll go into more detail on this process below.

3. What stone to use for fire pit?

So which stone should you use for your DIY Stone Fire Pit?  There are tons of options out there, but I’m only looking at the options available at my local Home Depot and Lowes.  That boiled down to two choices:    

Retaining Wall Blocks

retaining wall stone

Pros:

  • Top and bottom are both flat (except one ridge of cement on the back bottom edge)
  • Flat surfaces make them easy to stack
  • Affordable, they’re only $2.18 each 
  • Popular choice for DIY Fire Pits
  • Works well for smokeless fire pits

Cons

  • Wide gaps between stones to fit around 33.5” fire ring insert
  • Ridge of cement on bottom back edge, stones won’t sit flat unless it’s chiseled off
  • Big gaps between stones to get them to fit around fire pit ring
  • Will need a capstone for the top layer to cover gaps between stones

gaps between retaining wall stones in grass

I’m not a fan of the gaps between the retaining wall stones, and I don’t want to make a capstone to cover them.  That’s why I’m going with the next option.

Tumbled Wall Block 

Tumbled Wall Stone

Pros:

  • Fits well around a 33.5” fire ring insert, no large gaps
  • Affordable.  Only $2.48 each
  • Bottom of each stone is flat, no ridge of cement to chisel off

Cons

  • Tops and sides of each stone are contoured; they take a bit more effort to level
  •   Small variation in size due to contoured top
  • Much harder to use for a smokeless fire pit, I wouldn’t use this stone

I used tumbled landscaping stones when I built my DIY Retaining Wall and I really liked the way they looked.  They do take more effort to level, but it was worth it to me.  I also really hate big gaps between retaining wall stones and I didn’t have any gaps with the tumbled wall stones.  

4. How many fire pit stones do you need to buy?  

If you plan to use a 33.5” fire pit ring (like I did)

For a three-layer stone fire pit, you’ll need to buy 30-33 fire pit stones

  • 10 firepit stones fit around the fire pit ring per layer
  • I added a few extra stones to the total, just to be on the safe side.

To figure out how many fire pit stones to use:

  1. Pick out your fire pit ring and get the measurement for the outside diameter of the base.  
  2. Pick out the fire pit stone you want to use
  3. Lay the fire pit stones in a circle on the ground at your home store
  4. Measure the inner diameter of the circle of fire pit stones 
  5. Make sure your fire pit ring will fit inside the stones. The outside diameter of the fire pit ring should be 1-2 inches smaller than the inner diameter of the circle of stones.
  6. If the fire pit ring fits, multiply the number of fire pit stones by the number of layers you plan to make and you’re done!
  7. If the fire pit ring doesn’t fit, try again with a different stone, or try to find a fire pit ring with a different diameter.

3. Prep the ground for DIY Stone Fire Pit

Should you put a fire pit on grass? 

Before we go any further, you may be wondering if you can put a fire pit on grass.  Specifically, can you build a DIY stone fire pit right on top of grass?  And the short answer is yes you can.  Lots of people build fire pits on their grass and then add gravel to the bottom of the fire pit.  

However you may run into two problems with that set up:

  1. Your fire pit isn’t level (or stable)
  2. Your fire pit doesn’t drain well

Without good drainage your fire pit can fill up with water after a heavy rain making it unusable.  Also we want to build a fire pit that’s sturdy and safe.  That’s why building it on a level base is so important.  

I’m going to show you how to avoid these problems by building a fire pit the right way.

Lay out your pavers

After carting my pavers to my backyard, I started laying them in a circle right where I wanted my fire pit to be.  Then I went a step further and put my fire pit ring inside the pavers just to double check that it fit.  We were in business!

test fitting fire pit ring inside stone fire pit

If you’re building a stone firepit on your grass, think about the area directly surrounding it.  Are you also adding a gravel patio area for your seating?  We may do that in the future but for now we decided to just add a ring of gravel around the stone fire pit.  

Dig cut line into grass for the DIY Stone Fire Pit

I started by laying a few 3.5 inch wide pavers on the outside of my temporary fire pit.  Then I used my shovel to cut a line into the grass just to the outside of those pavers.

laying small paver around stone fire pit

I moved the small pavers as I went and cut the dig line all the way around my fire pit.  Finally I removed to small pavers and rolled my tumbled stone pavers to the outside.

Cutting a line in grass around stone fire pit

Remove grass 

Next I used my shovel and removed the top layer of grass from the whole fire pit area.  I tried not to take off too much, just the top layer of grass.  

Add Drainage to fire pit 

You don’t want to have a pool of rainwater just chilling in your fire pit after a heavy rain, right? Me neither.  To prevent that, I added drainage to my fire pit in two ways.   

1. Dig a drainage hole (optional)

digging a drainage hole in bottom of fire pit

  • Good for soil with a lot of clay which doesn’t drain well
  • Dig a hole in the center of the fire pit about 8-10 inches deep and 10 inches wide
  • Backfill the hole with gravel 
  • Use a tamper to make sure the rocks are compacted together
  • The rock-filled hole will allow water to trickle through and be absorbed into the surrounding soil

tamp down rocks in drainage hole

  1. Add Paver Base

  • Necessary for every fire pit 
  • Add about 2-3 inches of paver base to the entire bottom of fire pit
  • Tamp the paver base into place as you go
  • Water will trickle through and then be absorbed into the ground

Level the fire pit base

Once all of your paver base has been added, check for level with a large level.  This doesn’t have to be absolutely perfect, but try to get the ground as close to level as you can.  Add more paver base to any low spots to help get it level.

level paver base in fire pit

4. Build the fire pit

Build First Layer of Fire Pit Stones

I started by rolling each paving stone back into place creating a circle.  Then I used my 4’ level to span a few stones so I could make sure they were all level. 

checking fire pit stones are level

If any stones were sitting high, I used my dead blow hammer to knock them down into place.   I repeated this process when I used my smaller level to check the stones from front to back.   

small level on fire pit stone

Finish Building Fire Pit and Add Ring

Once you get your first layer of fire pit stones level the rest is easy.  Just start stacking the next layers on top checking for level occasionally. 

building second layer of stone fire pit

You can also use construction adhesive to cement the layers together as you go.  I’m planning to convert my fire pit to a smokeless fire pit so I skipped this step for now.  

With all three layers of your stone fire pit in place, it’s time to add your fire pit ring.  Just lower it into place allowing the upper flange to rest on the fire pit stones.  

lowering fire pit ring into diy stone fire pit

What do you put in the bottom of a fire pit?

The bottom of your fire pit needs to:

  1. Support the fire
  2. Be easily cleaned 
  3. Allow for air flow 
  4. Allow rainwater to drain

What should you put in the bottom of a fire pit? 

After trying different things, I decided to use one large square paving stone surrounded by gravel.  The paving stone gives the base of the fire pit a flat surface.  This makes it easy to clean up ash after a fire.  While the gravel allows rainwater to drain to the ground below.

What should you NOT put in the bottom of your fire pit?

I wouldn’t use lava rocks for the base of a fire pit. They were the first thing I put in the bottom of my fire pit. And they looked great… until I made my first fire. The ash mixed in with all the tiny lava rocks which made cleaning really difficult.

Finally I put a layer of river rocks around the outside of my homemade fire pit and I was done.  And that’s how I made my DIY Stone Fire Pit!  We’ve been busy sitting around the fire and making s’mores.  It’s been a great addition to our outdoor space.  For more great project ideas check out my Outdoor Projects and get building!

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