With the purchase of my home I inherited a pile of stones, they were nice stones, but still it was a pile of stones. After my wife and I built several small retaining walls from the pile, we still had a good bit of stones left.
We decided to build a fire pit. I had already built a small fire pit, but it just wasn’t the right size.
With only a few tools and several steps we were able to build our new pit in one morning.
1. First we traced on the ground the outline of the fire pit with a shovel. We scored the dirt deep enough so that the line could not be covered easily. The key was to not go too small, with the stones in place the inside opening can be much smaller than imagined.
2. Our priority was to make the area flat and level. Because of a drainage pipe running under the fire pit area we had to have one end of the area higher than planned. By making the spot as flat as possible, the higher end was not really noticeable.
3. I laid all the usable stones on the lawn next to the fire pit, like when I do a jigsaw puzzle. This way I can see all the available pieces, because as I build the design slightly changes. I like to pick the largest, flattest stones first.
4. Pick one spot to start, then begin laying them out. I find it amazing that as I work on a project like this the stones will begin to fit into place, you might have to replace some or flip them, but they eventually will fit together. You will want to lay out the entire first course. Take a 6 foot level (or shorter level on a straight piece of wood) and see how close to level the course is.
We must be realistic, the course will not be completely, level but you do not want it to be off by two or more inches. If the stones are off too much you will have to remove that stone and dig out some of the underlying dirt. Keep doing this until the course is acceptable to you.
5. On the second course you will want to overlap the joints of the first course with stones for the second. This is where the size of the stones really starts to matter. Some of the stones may be too thin, too thick or uneven. With a hammer (stone hammer is best) you can break off some of the uneven spots. If the stone is too thin you can use smaller stones as shims to wedge the rocks into place. You can make these wedges by breaking off small pieces of stone with your hammer.
6. In this wall I do not use any mortar or bonding agent, so you will want to make the stones as stable as possible. Don’t forget that this is a rustic, dry stack wall, so there will be some movement with the stones over time, but that is the beauty of the pit. So you will want to fit the stones as tight as you can.
7. After completing the second course you can than decide if you want to go higher. I made my fire pit three courses high, so I repeated step 5 and built another course. If the chairs you will be using sit low you may want to leave the pit wall lower so you can see the fire.
8. The wall is done. I finished the inside by placing two fireplace log rocks (found in the trash) on the floor of the pit. I found that this helps with burning. My wife and I also laid pea pebble around the perimeter of the pit, I wanted a durable material that was hard to mess up.
My family loves to sit outside at the fire pit, we roast marshmallows, cook hot dogs and have a good time. The best part was that this project only took a morning and did not cost me much. So I hope you can build your own fire pit and enjoy it as much as I do.