How to Build a Fire Pit: Steps for a Permanent (or Temporary) Heat Source

Learn how to build a fire pit.

When camping, it is important to know how to build a fire pit to contain your fire. It isn't difficult to do and can be the only difference between a controlled and a dangerous fire.

What Is a Fire Pit?

A fire pit is an area designed to contain all the components of a campfire. In its simplest form, a fire pit is little more than a cleared area of ground encircled by stones to keep the embers within the safe zone. You can also make elaborate, permanent fire pits or even buy them.

For the most part, when camping you will be interested in just a simple area to build a safe fire and perhaps cook your food.

Choose Your Location

Where you locate your fire pit is very important. You will want it to be as far away as possible from trees and other flammable materials. You will also want to situate it so that the smoke does not blow directly into your tent or camper if the wind changes direction.

Try to find a clear area close to your tent. Look for signs that tree roots are close to the surface of the ground. Tree roots can catch on fire and spread below ground in the right conditions. If water isn't readily available keep a bucket of water or sand by your fire pit to handle any emergencies.

Surfaces that are safe for your fire pit include:

  • Sand
  • Dirt
  • Gravel

How to Build a Fire Pit for Camping

After you have decided on the best location, take a few minutes to find enough large rocks to encircle the area where you will build your fire. The rocks will serve two purposes:

  • They help contain the components of the fire and keep it from spreading.
  • You can set a grill across them for cooking.

If you are in an area where there are no large rocks, it is important to make sure that you dig a six inch indentation in the ground to hold the fire. Pile the dirt nearby so that you can return it to the pit when you are ready to break camp.

Steps to Build a Fire Pit

  1. Choose a safe location
  2. Draw a circle in the dirt the size you want the pit to be
  3. Dig an indentation in the ground, deeper if you will not be surrounding it with rocks
  4. Find enough rocks to surround your fire pit
  5. Use wood and build your fire

A Permanent Fire Pit for Your Home

Building a permanent fire pit can give you the camping experience in your own back yard. While there are a few more details involved when building a permanent structure, it isn't difficult. The walls should be no more than 12 inches tall for the best, most stable results.

Materials to use for the walls include:

  • Cast concrete
  • Fireproof brick
  • Steel ring
  • Stones
  • Pavers

Steps to Build a Permanent Fire Pit

  1. Check local ordinances and codes
  2. Check with local utility companies for possible pipes or cables underground
  3. Choose your location carefully
  4. Dig a 12 inch deep pit
  5. Add six inches of gravel
  6. The base of the wall (the first course of your chosen material) should sit six inches in the ground for stability, so add the first course now
  7. Add about three inches of cushioning sand
  8. Continue building up the wall

Dry stack the pavers or whatever material you are using to build your walls. Most adhesives are not heat proof and dry stacking makes it easier to replace and repair broken bricks.

If there isn't a permanent fire pit structure at your campsite, and fires are permitted, knowing how to build a fire pit is a great way to have a safe fire. Whether you are cooking on an open fire, toasting marshmallows, or just watching the flames at the end of the day, watching a campfire is one of the most relaxing parts of camping.

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How to Build a Fire Pit: Steps for a Permanent (or Temporary) Heat Source