Fall is the perfect time of year in the Lowcountry, with its crisp air and sunny afternoons. The nights get a little longer and much cooler, and it’s a great time to build a little sanctuary of warmth in your backyard. If you’re looking to roast marshmallows or have some people over for a football game, a fire pit is a place where they can all gather, and a project you can tackle in a weekend!
First you need to decide what kind of fire pit you want, and it will depend heavily on the amount of space you have. If your backyard is on the small side, or you have a lot of tree cover, you may want to opt for a chiminea. If you have a more sprawling space, then you can build a fire pit (most contractors recommend being at least 25 feet from your home or tree). Here are tips on how to execute:
Know the code
Some regions have fire code regulations, including what goes into it (sand, gravel). Be sure to contact the Fire Department to ask about rules and regulations before you start building.
Get the right materials
Obviously, the materials with which you build your fire pit need to be fireproof: brick and stone. Plan out your diameter and height prior to purchasing materials to ensure you have enough. You’ll also need a stake and string, spray paint, shovel, trowel, level, concrete mix (we like Quickrete), the brick and stone to line it with, sand and/or gravel.
Start by prepping your space. Measure the fire pit out (we recommend about 5′ in diameter and 2′ high). To measure the diameter, drive a stake into the ground with an attached string of half the diameter you want. Use spray paint to mark the circle on the ground (this will be the outside circle). Dig the ground out to a depth of about 6″. Then spray paint another smaller circle that will represent the inside of the pit. Mix concrete for the wall foundation. It should be the consistency of peanut butter. Lay the foundation between your big outside circle and smaller inside circle, and put in rebar as a reinforcement. Cover the rebar and smooth the surface with a trowel.
Lay the stone & brick
This is the part that can be the most tedious. When you’re laying the brick and stone, be sure to use a level each time so that you don’t end up with wonky edges. Have the stone and brick laid out nearby so you can choose the next size and shape without tossing around a bunch of the pile. Build the wall about 2′ high, using mortar to secure each of the pieces together and scraping away excess, so that the mortar is flush with the bricks. You can either build the brick inner wall first and then the outer stone wall (if you’re doing two), or alternate them at the same time. If you prefer to keep this step to a minimum, simply use brick and do one thick wall (as opposed to an inner brick layer and outer stone layer).
Once you reach your desired height, add a top layer of stones to give it a streamlined look. Place mortar between the stones to give it a smooth surface.
The finishing touches
Place gravel or river rock at the bottom of your pit to keep it fire safe. If you so choose, you can also dig out the area around the pit and place landscape mesh along the soil to prevent weeds from growing up around it. Then throw down some gravel to keep it even more fire safe. Hose down the pit to remove any excess mortar and dust and set your chairs around it. You’re ready to roast!