How big should my fire pit be?

What Are Backyard Fire Pits , And How Much Do They Cost?

At the most basic level, a fire pit is a container where you can make an outdoor fire.

The name itself seems pretty self explanatory, but there are actually a few different types of fire pits you can choose from: in-ground, permanent above-ground and portable fire pits.

These are less-expensive options if you want to add a fire feature to your backyard, compared to a fireplace. A fire pit can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand, depending on the size, materials and type you want installed — whereas an outdoor fireplace can be anywhere from $5,500 to $10,000.

Fire pits also give you a 360-degree view of the flames and can create a center focal point for you and your guests to gather around. They are more versatile and give you a wider range of options when it comes to where they are installed.

To get the most from your fire feature and ensure its safety, here are seven things to think about when constructing a backyard fire pit.

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Distance of people around the fire pit?

The distance between you and your guests and the fire pit’s edge should be around 30 inches for a wood-burning fire pit and 24 inches for a gas fire pit.

To be most effective, fire pits need to be at least 4.5 feet wide and 6.5 feet high with an additional foot of clearance behind it for ashes.

The fire needs to allow room for firewood, fire screens, chairs, benches or other furniture around it where people can enjoy it without being too close to the heat.

Tools Materials

  • Brick hammer

    Brick hammer

  • Cold chisel

    Cold chisel

  • Spade

    Spade

  • Hoe

    Hoe

  • Metal rake

    Metal rake

  • Tamper

    Tamper

  • Level - 2 foot

    Level – 2 foot

  • Level - 4 foot

    Level – 4 foot

  • Mallet

    Mallet

  • Caulk gun

    Caulk gun

  • Pointed trowel

    Pointed trowel

  • Power grinder

    Power grinder

What materials should I choose for my fire pit?

Fire pits commonly consist of an inner wall, an outer wall, a “cap” (i.e., a flat tabletop-like surface around the opening at the top of the pit), and decorative stones or rocks in the center of the pit. And all these materials must stand high temperatures. 

It’s super important to pay attention when choosing the materials that will compose the fire pit because some types of rocks have the potential to explode. The rocks that you should avoid are sandstone, limestone, pumice, and river rocks.

The internal wall must be of a material very resistant to high temperatures because they will be directly in contact with the fire. Fire bricks and a fire-proof mortar or grout are great options. You can go with masonry block for the rest of the pit, poured concrete, stone, bricks, or pavers

Remember that building a fire pit on your own is not a good idea. The installation, the requirements, and all the details can get confusing, and something can go wrong. The best option here is to hire a professional to do your fire pit project for you.

Choose Your Materials

Going for something permanent? Then you might like the look of a stone, brick or concrete fire pit. Prefer something portable? Then you have several metals to choose from. Copper is popular and iron is another great option. You should also consider a fire table, which can be permanent or portable. Consider filling your gas-fueled pit with lava rocks or special fire pit glass.

Are Backyard Fire Pits Safe And Legal ?

We’ve all heard the saying about what happens if you play with fire. So, it’s only natural that you would wonder how safe fire pits really are.

Backyard fire pits can be a safe feature for your outdoor space if you take certain precautions. Here are some ways to ensure your fire pit is safe:

  • Keep fire pits at least 15 feet away from your house, other structures and combustible materials (ex. leaves, wood, chemicals, etc.). It should be in an open space, like on your patio or a cleared part of your landscape. Don’t put it on a wood deck.
  • Avoid lighting the pit during extremely windy weather, as the embers might go somewhere you don’t want them.
  • Make sure you have a bucket of water, hose or extinguisher nearby before lighting the fire.
  • Watch children near fire pits so they don’t get burned.
  • Keep the flame small: The larger it is, the bigger chance you have for it to get out of hand.
  • Never use gasoline to start the fire.

Beyond being safe, you also want to make sure your fire pit is legal. The city of Idaho Falls allows fire pits and other enclosed outdoor fire features (ex. fireplaces) that are at least 15 feet away from structures and combustible material. They also require that they are used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

(Each city’s fire and burning codes are different, so check with your local municipality before you install a fire feature.)

1. How much heat do you need?

The amount of heat you want your fire pit to produce will depend on the size of the groups you plan on having gather ‘round, and that heat output dictates the size of the fire ring or burner your fire pit needs.

Pick Your BTUs

Fire Pit Art has a variety of fire pit sizes, addiFire Pit Art has a variety of fire pit sizes, adding a range to the BTUs they offer.

In our Guide to BTUs blog article we talk about the amount of heat we recommend based on the square footage that needs warming. For those comfy two to four person gatherings, 40k-90k BTUs of heat will usually do the trick. If you’re looking to fit a few couples and all their kids, though, you’ll be better off with 150k BTUs or more (we always prefer warmer, if we’re being honest).

To-Do: If you’re not quite sure on how much heat you need, you can get a rough estimate from . Just make sure to bump up your number to account for wind chill, as this tool is designed more for use with indoor fireplaces.

Where to safely place a fire pit?

In Seattle, the Fire Department says that you need a distance of 10 feet from your house and your neighbors’ yards.

However, if your fire pit fits within specified size limits, it does not require a permit. Others need a site examination from local fire officials to ensure that your proposed location is safe (away from fences, buildings, overhanging trees, etc.).

Some communities don’t allow people to have fire pits. You need to talk to the officials before you buy or plan one.

Type of Fire Pit

  • Whether your fire pit is portable or in the ground, it should have enclosed sides that are 6-12 inches high at the very least. It should also be made of materials that aren’t combustible such as heavy-duty metal, brick, or stone.

  • If you choose to build an in-ground fire pit, it needs to be lined with material that is non-combustible, such as a heavy gauge metal or brick and mortar.

  • When building your pit, there should be a base underneath the fire pit that is at least ten inches deep. Make your base out of materials such a rock, sand, or gravel. This non-combustible base allows you to build a fire without that fire coming into direct contact with the earth.

  • Always be sure to add a border around your fire pit in case any burning debris accidentally ends up outside of your burning area. This border should be made from at least sand or gravel. If you’re feeling fancy, you can make a patio from paving stones around the fire pit.

  • To ensure your fire pit is within recreational sizing guidelines, do not create an open fire larger than 3 feet in diameter and 2 feet high.

The Simple Solution

DIY solutions an often lead to inherent safety and liability issues, in addition to being far more heavily restricted in urban and suburban areas. A common way to ensure you are following safety guidelines and fire pit regulations is to buy one that has already been tested and certified safe like the ones from Outland Living. You can find fire pits for both wood and propane fuel sources. Often these are permitted in more locations because of the safety and protective equipment that comes with them.

Usually, no matter your location, the most reliable solution is to simply purchase a safe, tested, and certified solution! 

Our selection Oakridge Wood Fire Pit This wood-burning fire pit is perfect for cooking and keeping warm in the backyard – fully accessorized with a protective mesh lid, grill grate, and poker tool. View Product

Fire Pit Parts: An Overview

Illustration by Gregory Nemec

A built-in fire pit is a glorified campfire, with sturdy walls of stone that help contain the flames and heat. That’s especially important in the parts of the country where there’s a risk of brush fires. So the first task in building any fire pit is checking local codes on open flames. The pit must be located far from overhanging trees, the house, and any other flammable structure.

To make building stone walls easier, you can use blocks made from cast concrete and molded to look like real stone (available at any home center). They’re flat on the top and bottom so they stack neatly, and some interlock for added strength. Glue them together with masonry adhesive. Choose a block with angled sides, meant to form curves when butted against each other. The optimal size for a fire pit is between 36 and 44 inches inside diameter. That will create enough room for a healthy fire but still keep gatherers close enough to chat.

As an added precaution, the fire pit should be lined with a thick steel ring like the ones used for park campfires. These protect the concrete in the blocks from the heat, which can cause them to dry out and break down prematurely.

A fire pit should sit low to the ground, with walls rising no more than a foot off the ground. But for stability, the base of the wall must be buried below ground in a hole lined with gravel, providing drainage and protecting against frost heaves in winter. The gravel also creates a level base for the stones to rest on. Most concrete blocks are about 4 inches high, so if the first course and a half sit underground, and there are two and a half courses above ground with a cap on top, you’ll end up with a foot-high wall—just right for resting your feet on while sitting in an outdoor chair.

Accessorize!

The last thing you can focus on is gathering your fire pit accessories. Along with the basics, like a spark screen and metal log poker, it’s a good idea to have long leather gloves (if you have to grab a log that topples), a garden hose you can turn on quickly and a supply of fuel (wood or gas).

Once you’ve got the safety accessories you can move on to the fun stuff like hot dog roasting skewers, s’mores and popcorn makers

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