How to Build a Brick Fire Pit: The Complete Guide

How to Build a Brick Fire Pit: The Complete Guide

A fire pit is an excellent addition to your outdoor living space. 

Fire pits contain dangerous flames while creating a cheerful, attractive area for socializing with friends and family.

They’re made from fire-resistant building materials such as stone, brick, cement, and metal – each of which fulfills different design preferences and maintenance requirements.

This article will focus on brick, a durable and reliable fire pit building material. We’ll show you how to build a brick fire pit and discuss why it’s one of the best options for your DIY fire pit project. 

Keep reading to find out:

  • The tools and materials you’ll need
  • Estimated project costs
  • Step-by-step instructions for how to build a brick fire pit
  • Alternative fire pit ideas
  • Fire pit safety tips

Tools and Materials You’ll Need 

One benefit of building a DIY fire pit is that you can alternate materials depending on your design preferences and outdoor decor needs.

For example, use cement blocks in place of bricks if you’d like a variety of shapes and sizes to make up your pit’s structure.

This tutorial will focus on building a brick fire pit atop your backyard turf or patio. While you read, consider what steps you could tweak to match your aesthetic and skill set.

Materials and tools you’ll need to build a brick fire pit:

  • Work gloves
  • All-purpose gravel
  • Bricks or paver blocks
  • Brick trowel
  • Rubber mallet
  • Bubble level
  • Manual tamper
  • Construction adhesive/mortar
  • Lava rock
  • Seasoned firewood

Costs Associated With Building a Brick Fire Pit

If you opt to build your fire pit from scratch, the cost will depend on the materials you use and what you already have on hand. 

We’ve listed the average price of each tool and material to give you a cost estimate for your completed brick fire pit.

Item Average Cost
Work gloves $10
Seasoned firewood $10
Brick trowel $15
Rubber mallet $10
Bubble level $15
Manual tamper $50 to purchase a new tamper

$10 to rent a manual tamper for 24 hours

Bricks $100 for 50 trapezoidal bricks

$40 for 50 rectangular bricks

All-purpose gravel $30 for a 40-pound bag
Construction adhesive $10 for a 28-ounce bottle
Lava rock $15 for a 10-pound bag

Your brick fire pit could cost around $285 based on these price estimates. This estimate is most likely on the low end of the price range; you might need more bricks, adhesive, or gravel, depending on the size of your fire pit and the location you select.

Consider buying a fire pit kit from a home improvement store if you want a predictable price and pre-portioned materials. Most fire pit kits include a fire pit ring and the exact number of blocks you’ll need for construction. Home Depot sells kits starting at around $500. 

How To Build a Brick Fire Pit

You’ve assembled your tools and materials and are ready to build your own fire pit. The following sections will take you through step-by-step instructions for each part of the building process. Then, we’ll show you how to use your fire pit safely and efficiently. 

Step One: Check Local Guidelines

Before building any fire pit, research local fire codes to ensure you won’t break any laws. 

Most areas allow fire pits for recreational purposes, but there are a few guidelines to consider. Here is an example of a standard burn ordinance from the City of Winston-Salem Fire Department:

“No person shall kindle or maintain any bonfire or rubbish fire or authorize any such fire to be kindled or maintained on any private property, or on or in any public ground, without a permit or other proper authorization. Allowable burning includes fires used solely for outdoor cooking and other recreational purposes.”

The ordinance then defines “allowable” fires as those:

  • Confined to a container (such as a fire pit)
  • At least 25 feet away from structures
  • Lit only with dry wood or other kindling material; accelerant, garbage, and garden clippings aren’t acceptable fire starters.
  • Maintained with seasoned wood
  • No more than 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide

Next, check your homeowners insurance policy to ensure a fire pit won’t affect your coverage. In the least, your policy may require you to disclose your plan to build a fire pit on your property, so notify your agent ahead of time.

Once you’ve determined that installing a fire pit is safe and lawful in your area, you’re ready to start building.

Step Two: Select the Shape and Location of Your Fire Pit

The next step in building a brick fire pit is to choose its shape. 

You’ll need trapezoidal blocks to construct a circular fire pit. Trapezoidal blocks fit together to create a circular shape without leaving any gaps.

Build a rectangular or square fire pit for more design options and ease of building. No matter what fire pit shape you choose, it should be about 3 to 4 feet in diameter.

Consider the brick material you’ll use. We recommend using fire brick – also known as “refractory brick” – because of its ability to withstand extremely high temperatures.

Prepare the location of your fire pit by marking it with spray paint or chalk. For a fire pit ring, place a marker at the direct center of where your fire pit will be. Then, outline your circle around that spot. Mark the location of a square pit by laying out your bricks and then marking around them. Use a tape measure to ensure the perimeter of the pit is proportional.

Remember that your fire pit should be at least 25 feet away from any structures or trees to avoid them catching flames.

Also, consider the surface on which the fire pit will sit. 

We recommend placing the fire pit on a patio or concrete slab to prevent it from catching its surroundings on fire. If you want to put your brick fire pit in your yard, do so cautiously and establish a good base. 

We’ll show you how to build your fire pit base in the next section.

Step Three: Build the Fire Pit’s Base

The location of your fire pit will determine its base.

You’ll need to lay gravel before building a fire pit on a grassy area. The gravel base will ensure your fire pit is on a stable foundation and isn’t sitting on flammable turf.

Build your fire pit base on the grass with these steps:

  1. After marking the outline of the fire pit, use a trowel to remove grass and sod from the area. 
  2. Continue removing turf and dirt until the fire pit site is 5 to 7 inches deep.
  3. Manually tamp down the area and check for uneven ground with a bubble level.
  4. Fill the hole with all-purpose gravel.
  5. Thoroughly soak the gravel with a watering hose and tamp down the gravel to create a sturdy, compact base.
  6. Recheck the area with the bubble level and add in gravel as needed.

You won’t need to lay a gravel base if you’re building the fire pit on an existing patio or concrete slab. The ground is already even and free of flammable material, so you’ll jump straight to laying out your first row of bricks. 

Step Four: Stack the Bricks

Once you’ve established the base of your fire pit, you’re ready to start stacking bricks. 

You won’t be binding the bricks together with mortar or adhesive yet; you’ll just be stacking the first two layers of brick to ensure your fire pit is the correct size for a fire pit bowl.

Place the first layer of bricks around the outline you drew earlier. Lay the bricks around the border, fitting each one snuggly against its neighboring block. 

As you build your way around the perimeter, use a level to make sure everything is even. Add leveling sand beneath uneven bricks if necessary. Once you’ve laid the first layer of bricks, recheck it with the level.

Next, you’ll apply the second layer of bricks. Remember, you aren’t adhering any of the blocks together for this step, just temporarily laying out the shape of your fire pit.

While laying the second layer, alternate the placement of the brick joints — the area where two bricks meet. Create a sturdier fire pit wall by placing the center of a brick on the joint of the layer below it.

Check the temporary second layer with the level and make adjustments as needed.

Step Five: Fit the Fire Pit Bowl

A fire pit bowl is a structure placed in the middle of your pit for enhanced safety and style. Fire pit bowls are often made of steel and coated in a high-heat finish to keep them durable through many uses.

The bowl also catches charred embers from your bonfires, allowing you to dump the debris after using the fire pit.

A fire pit ring is similar to a bowl, but it doesn’t have a base. Ring inserts are suitable for backyard fire pits with a gravel base. You’ll need to add additional gravel to the bottom of the pit after building the walls. This step will aid in draining out moisture and provide a foundation for kindling materials that the fire pit bowl would otherwise support.

No matter which option you select, purchase a bowl or ring that corresponds to the size of your fire pit. Correct sizing will make the fitting process more manageable and help you avoid having to resize your brick border. 

Test fit the bowl by setting it down in the center of your fire pit, ensuring that the lip of the bowl can rest on the brick border. Remove the bowl after test-fitting it and set it aside. Make size adjustments to the bricks as needed, and get ready for the final step of your DIY project.

Step Six: Apply Adhesive to the Bricks

The last step of building your brick fire pit is to apply adhesive between the brick layers.

Start by removing the bricks you temporarily laid as the second layer of your pit. We recommend removing and replacing them in small sections to keep the pit’s shape consistent. 

If you’re placing your fire pit on a gravel base, ensure the bottom layer of bricks is stable and doesn’t shift when you walk around the area. If the fire pit is on an existing concrete or brick patio, consider adhering the first layer of bricks to the foundation to prevent it from shifting. 

Once you’ve established the initial row of bricks, you’re ready to build up the rest of the fire pit.

Apply adhesive to the first layer of blocks and refit the second layer on top. Use your brick trowel to smooth the mortar and the rubber mallet to push the bricks into place. 

Avoid uneven fire pit walls by checking the layers with a bubble level as you go along. Repeat the fire bowl test fitting with each row to determine if the blocks need adjusting.

Complete this process until you have three or four layers. Then, place your fire pit bowl or ring in the middle, and you have your own brick fire pit.

How To Use Your Fire Pit

Now that you’ve built a brick fire pit, you need to know how to use it.

Before starting any fires, line the bottom of your pit or bowl with 3 to 4 inches of lava rock. 

Lava rock is a volcanic substance that works well in fire pits because of its durability and tolerance to high temperatures. Lining your pit with lava rock will produce well-dispersed flames and protect the bottom of the pit from collecting moisture. 

Carefully check the label of any other materials you use in your fire pit – some varieties of river rock and glass explode under high heat.

Lay a pile of dry, seasoned wood atop the lava rock. Wood that is seasoned has had time to dry out, making it excellent for burning. Unseasoned wood is full of moisture which drastically slows the lighting process and produces a lot of smoke.

Dry wood will light with little effort and burn for more extended periods without fizzling.

Light your wood-burning fire pit with a long-stemmed match, and add kindling materials to get the fire blazing.

Benefits of a Brick Fire Pit

A benefit of using brick for your fire pit is the material’s durability and combustion-proof characteristics. 

Clay brick, in particular, forms when clay particles are subjected to extremely high temperatures. The particles morph together to form a sturdy substance that’s stronger than concrete or cement pavers.

Another benefit of brick is that it’s essentially maintenance-free. It doesn’t typically break or rot, so your fire pit will last for years with little to no care.

A brick fire pit’s long-lasting strength isn’t its only benefit.

Fire pits are an excellent way to enhance your backyard patio space with a cozy touch. Add seating around the pit to provide guests with access to a warm outdoor oasis.

Your brick fire pit can also double as an outdoor kitchen. Toast hotdogs for a family cookout or sweeten cool summer evenings with roasted marshmallows and homemade s’mores.

Brick Fire Pit Alternatives

If building a brick fire pit isn’t your forte, don’t worry. You can transform your outdoor space with these alternative fire pit ideas.

  • Fire bowl – A fire bowl is a stand-alone structure that can act as a fire pit. Like the fire pit bowl you’d place in the middle of your brick pit, fire bowls contain flames without the grunt work.
  • Concrete blocks – Follow the steps listed above but substitute the bricks for cement blocks. A cinder block fire pit is an excellent option for homeowners on a budget or those who want to build a quick, simple fire pit. While cinder blocks are fire-resistant, they aren’t fire-rated and will deteriorate after repeated exposure to flames.
  • Tabletop fireplace – Tabletop fireplaces are small, often portable, devices available for purchase at many home improvement stores. Tabletop fireplaces typically burn using bio-ethanol, an alcohol-based fuel that doesn’t emit smoke or debris.

Fire Pit Safety Tips

No matter what kind of fire pit you have, safety should always stay top of mind. 

Here are some tips for safe fire pit use from the City of Raleigh Fire Education program:

  • Build the bit in a flat area away from trees.
  • Never place a moveable fire pit on a slope.
  • Whether buying or building your pit, make sure you get a fire screen that fits the enclosure.
  • Place your pit on gravel, concrete, or dirt. Avoid placing it on grass, leaves, or other combustible materials.
  • Select non-flammable seating to surround your pit.
  • Place seating at least four feet away from the fire pit.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher or watering hose nearby at all times.
  • Build the fire pit at least 25 feet away from your house or other structures.
  • Never leave a lit fire pit unattended.
  • Do not use the fire pit during windy weather.
  • Closely supervise children around the fire pit.

Final Thoughts

Brick fire pits are easy to construct and durable enough to last for years with little maintenance. Brick forms under extreme temperatures, so flames are no match for this mighty material.

After stacking bricks and applying mortar, you’ll have a blast sprucing up your fire pit area. Finish off the area with rocks and lighting – and don’t forget to surround the pit with comfy chairs.

Your beautiful brick fire pit will be an excellent place to assemble friends and family for hours of conversation and fun. You’ll have a warm, welcoming haven right in your own backyard.

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