Do It Yourself Firepit

Want to keep cozy around the firepit this winter? We found 417-land experts who offer tips and steps to building your own winter-friendly outdoor feature, plus a list of pros who will build one for you if you’re not up to the task.

By Ettie Berneking

Nov 2012

Winter is a great time to celebrate with friends and family, and curling up around a firepit is the perfect group-friendly activity. These cozy outdoor features have recently been set ablaze in popularity, so we talked to landscape designer Grant Williams of Sticks and Stones Landscaping and landscape contractor Chris Jensen with CJ’s Lawn & Landscape to learn a few tips on building your own.

First, the experts say you have a few options. For the do-it-yourself crowd, you can buy a pre-cut kit to install. Or if you’re feeling really handy, you can purchase and rent materials to build a firepit from the ground up. Williams shares tips for the ground-up project, but says to be warned. “Building a true masonry firepit is more challenging than putting together a pre-cut kit,” Williams says. But if you’re up to the challenge, it’s worth it. “It’s hard to beat the character and classic look of real stone,” Williams says. “Plan on spending two days to complete this mid-skill-level project.” 

There are a few things to keep in mind when setting up a spot and building plans for a custom firepit. Safety is No. 1, Williams says. “You want to keep the pit a good distance from the house and away from overhead trees and branches.” Another key is to build the firepit on a level foundation, Jensen says. So digging a shallow hole and packing it with gravel is a good way to create a stable and level footing. 

With safety checked off the list, aesthetics is important to keep in mind, so put the firepit where you can see it from your home, and make it a focal point of your backyard. “Firepits are the best of what landscaping is,” Williams says. “Anytime I design something, I’m thinking of how to get people outside. And the firepit is the perfect conversation spot.”

Want to tackle the project?

Here’s what you need to build your own firepit:

Rental Items:
Cut off saw or mallet and chisel
Paver or circular saw with diamond blade

Marking paint, Marking pencil, Shovel, Pick axe, 
Hacksaw, Metal trowel, Wheelbarrow, Hand tamper, 
String line, Mini sledgehammer, Rubber mallet,
Level, Wire brush and sponge

The Steps:

1|  Determine the location and size.  
The firepit in this example is 5 feet across with an opening of 3-feet-by-2-inches. Build your firepit away from any structure and foliage that could catch fire or be damaged by heat.

2|  Mark the center point.
Drive a piece of rebar to create the center point.  This rebar will remain in the ground until you are almost finished, so make sure it is driven securely in the ground.

3|  Paint the excavation area.
Loop a string line around the rebar to make a compass and paint two circles. One circle should be four inches larger than the outside radius of your firepit, and the other four inches smaller than the inside radius of your firepit. (Figure 1). Excavate the painted area eight inches below grade.

4|  Create a base.
Next, add and compact four inches of base rock in the hole.

5|  Add rebar.
Create a grid of rebar. Elevate the grid two inches above the compacted gravel with small stones or rebar supports. Use enough supports to avoid creating any sag when the cement is poured around and over it. (Figure 2)

6|  Pour foundation.
Mix and pour the cement to fill the remaining four inches of excavated ground. Allow the cement to cure for seven days. Once the cement is cured, excavate the remaining interior portion of the firepit four inches, and fill it with gravel to allow for drainage.

7|  Bevel the firebrick.
Before you install the firebrick, bevel the edge of enough bricks to create the inside radius of the firepit using a paver saw or circular saw. Cutting the brick at an angle allows you to get the capstone as close as possible to the inside edge of the firepit without compromising the fireproofing qualities of the brick. (Figure 4)

8|  Install firebrick.
Making a compass again with the rebar and string line, draw the inside radius of the firepit and build the inside walls using firebrick and refractory mortar as shown in Figure 4. You can remove the center point rebar at this point.

9|  Build stone veneer.
Using the wall stones, build the outside walls leveling them as you go with mortar below, between and on the sides of the stone. Leave enough room at the top to add capstones. Clean the excess mortar with water, a wire brush and a sponge. (Figure 5)

10|  Add capstones.
Cut or trim your capstone pieces, and dry fit them around the firepit. Set and level each piece with mortar both under and between the stone to keep water from penetrating the surface. Let the mortar cure for several days before using your new firepit. Add a patio around the firepit to make the area more inviting.

Trust the Pros

If spending days beveling stone and pouring concrete doesn’t sound like the ideal weekend, trust these 417-land experts, who will gladly build a firepit for you.

Sticks and Stones Landscaping
Springfield, 417-868-8278

CJ’s Lawn & Landscape
Rogersville, 417-299-1962

Outdoor Rooms By Design
11966 Missouri 13, Kimberling City, 417-739-1019

Garnet & Company
Rogersville, 417-522-9000

R&D Lawn Care and Landscaping 
18839 Hottel Springs Rd., Seneca, 417-438-6590

Trim Works Lawncare & Irrigation
3328 E. Linwood St., Springfield, 417-840-0282
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