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Southern California Gardening: Simple DIY Fire Pit

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Lowe’s Southern California garden contributor explains how to build a simple fire pit for grilling.

Finished DIY fire pit in setting

By Bonnie Jo Manion

When Lowe’s challenged me to create a do-it-yourself project for under $100, I knew exactly what I wanted to share with you: a fire pit.

The project is very simple, though a little brute strength is one key component. When all the tools and materials were assembled, it took about two hours to complete.

I had been thinking of building a small outdoor grill counter or a wood-burning fire oven in a neglected area of the yard. Building a DIY fire pit is a simple way to “test the waters” first. NOTE: Use extreme caution when deciding where to place your fire pit because of the heat it produces.

“Before” photo of area

My idea is from Michael Chiarello, founder of NapaStyle and author of the new book Live Fire: 125 Recipes for Cooking Outdoors. Chiarello has been cooking over wood fires his entire life. He says there’s less smoke and char than over a flame, and that “it makes your food taste much cleaner.”

This is what the area looked like before I started. The wood box conceals irrigation valves.

Building flagstone wall

I removed the tired landscape, leveled the soil line and began to build a dry flagstone wall. I had a pile of this flagstone from a previous walking path.

This flagstone is a great divider between the seating area and garden. It also buffers the heat from the fire pit.


Penny, my Dark Star hen

I left the wall low so the garden still was visible and accessible from the sitting area. When the low flagstone wall was finished, my hen, Penny, came by to inspect.

Layering brick to create fire pit

Next came the easy layering of the bricks—dry-stacking layers on top of one another. I found this attractive gray brick at Lowe’s to match my garden palette and style. On bare ground (not grass) I began layering bricks in the shape of a box.

Completed fire pit

For air flow I left a couple of bricks out of the top layer on opposite sides. A standard circular 21-in Weber grate, also found at Lowe’s, covers the top of your pit nicely. You easily can customize the size of your pit and grates if you wish.

Newly planted 1-gallon boxwood plants

The last step was to plant a row of African boxwood behind the flagstone wall. It should grow into a low hedge and meet with the existing mature boxwood hedge.

A few notes about grilling:

  • Before beginning a wood fire, spread a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil inside the fire pit floor and around the outside circumference to catch food drips and fire sparks.
  • Chiarello suggests creating your fire in a tipi form, arranging kindling and logs, then light. It takes about 1½ to 2 hours to start getting ashy chunks of fire with low flames, perfect for grilling.
  • Always use caution with attending a fire, for yourself and those around it. Do not leave an open fire unattended, and put it out completely when finished.

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