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How to Build a Custom Fire Pit

Liven up your landscape with a custom fire pit. Here’s how to build one with retaining wall blocks.

Planning for a Custom Fire Pit

Cross section diagram of a modern outdoor fire pit.

We built our fire pit on the lawn from regular retaining wall blocks lined with clay fire bricks — you can also build your pit on a patio. Rectangular blocks make it easy to adjust the layout to a size that works well for your design. Using blocks of a different style can also change the look of your fire pit. Check out Fire Pit Ideas to see how to build a fire pit ring or an in-ground fire pit.

Caution

Before beginning any excavation, call 811 to check for underground utilities. Also, before you buy materials or begin work, check local building codes, ordinances and homeowner association guidelines to make sure that fire pits are allowed.

Choose a Location

Location before modern outdoor fire pit installed.
  • For safety, choose a spot located away from your house and low-hanging limbs, or anything else that could catch fire.
  • Make sure you’ll have enough room for outdoor furniture around the fire pit. It's best to keep the back legs of furniture about 6 to 7 feet away from the pit.
  • For convenience, you may want to locate your fire pit near your wood pile.

 

 

Installing a Custom Fire Pit on a Patio

If you’re installing on a paver patio with polymeric sand in the joints, you’ll need to line the bottom of the fire pit to protect the sand. Use fire-rated bricks cut to fit the inside of the pit. Cut the bricks using a circular saw with a concrete blade or a stone chisel and hammer.

Prepare the Area

Step 1

Checking fire pit layout.

Begin by outlining the shape of the fire pit with blocks. It’s easiest to design a layout using full size blocks.

Step 2

Checking layout with square.

 

Check the layout for square and adjust as needed.

 

Step 3

Marking outline.

Mark the fire pit outline with a shovel. Remove the blocks and set aside.

Install the Paver Base (If Building on the Lawn)

Step 1

Digging up area.

Remove the sod and dirt to a depth of 2 inches.

Good to Know

Keep the sod slightly wet if you plan to reuse it.

Step 2

Tamping area using hand tamper.

Tamp down the soil, keeping the area as level as possible. Adjust if needed by added or removing soil and tamping again.

Step 3

Pouring paver base.

Add about 2 inches of gravel base and spread evenly with a garden rake.

Step 4

Tamping paver base.

Wet the paver base and tamp it down. Then add another 1/2 inch of base and tamp again.

Step 5

Checking paver base for level.

Check the paver base for level. Adjust if necessary.

Set the Stones

Step 1

Laying first row of blocks.

Lay the first row of stones on top of the paver base, making sure the blocks are touching. Check for level and square as you’re working.

Step 2

First row with cut block installed.

Lay the second row of blocks, staggering the joints with the first row.

Step 3

Marking blocks.

As you work, you’ll probably need to cut some blocks to fit. To cut a block, hold it in place and mark around it.

Step 4

Cutting blocks using a circular saw with masonry blade.

Cut the block using a circular saw with a concrete blade. If your saw blade won’t cut all the way through, use a hammer and chisel to split the block. See Cut Patio Block for more details.

Caution

Using a circular saw to cut pavers can be dusty. Consider having a helper use a shop vacuum to clear dust away while operating. Always wear appropriate safety gear.

Step 5

Laying second row of blocks, staggering joints.

When the second row of blocks is in place, level and square, remove two blocks at a time, apply construction adhesive, then reposition the blocks.

Step 6

Laying third row of retaining wall blocks.

Set the third row of blocks using the same technique used for the second row — checking for staggered joints and locking the blocks in place with construction adhesive. Allow the adhesive to cure.

Good to Know

Make sure the construction adhesive has completely cured before lighting a fire.

Install the Fire Bricks

Step 1

Adding fire bricks inside custom fire pit.

Line the inside of the fire pit walls with clay fire bricks. To align the bricks with the top of the fire pit, add more paver base, gravel or more fire bricks to the bottom of the pit.

Step 2

Spreading lava rock.

Add a few inches of lava rocks to hold the bricks in place.

Step 3

Finished modern fire pit.

Add logs and kindling, and you’re ready for a pleasant evening by the fire!

Caution

Only use stones that are specified as heat resistant in your fire pit. Keep a fire extinguisher or a bucket of sand or water nearby just in case, and always fully extinguish fires before leaving the fire pit area unattended.