12 Things You Should Know Before Building a Fire Pit

15 June, 2015

Fire pits have always been a fun addition to any backyard, but recently the trend of fire pits has taken over backyard design and landscaping.

There are a lot of reasons a homeowner would choose to build a fire pit. These cozy backyard additions provide a space and tool for year-round outdoor entertaining, they’re fun for families, and they add value to a home when built well.

If you’re thinking about building a fire pit in your backyard, there are a few things you should know first. Where and how you build your fire pit are important details that will determine the materials you use and the backyard furniture you’ll need to accompany it. Here are a few things to consider before you break ground on your pyro-addition.

1. How are you going to build?

When building a fire pit, you have a few options. The most cost effective is to do it yourself, but the construction can be tricky and time consuming. Make sure you do plenty of research and give yourself enough time if you plan to build it yourself.

If you don’t want to do all the work but still want a low-cost option, you can buy a prebuilt fire pit. Home improvement stores and online vendors are great places to find quality fire pits that won’t put too much of a dent in your wallet.

For more extravagant or complicated designs, you can reach out to a contractor. It will cost more, but you’ll get the exact design and efficiency you want. If you’re looking to build a fire pit that will add resale value to your home, this might be the best option.

2. Distance your fire pit from possible dangers

Finding the perfect location for your fire pit is paramount. Your pit should be at least 10 feet away from your house and any tall trees or fences, if possible. It also should not be underneath low-hanging vegetation or an awning.

The area above your fire pit should be completely clear, and the area surrounding the pit should also be free of flammable material. Don’t build your fire pit around tall or dry grass, and try to fill in the area around the pit with gravel or brick to keep flying embers from catching fire.

3. Research your city code

Most cities have building ordinances for backyard fire pits. Before you start construction, research what your city’s requirements are. You don’t want to spend the time and money to build a fire pit that the city won’t accept.
Some city ordinances ban open flames all together. If that’s the case, you may be able to use a cover over your fire to comply with fire safety codes. Make sure to approve construction with the local fire department before you start building.

4. Decide on your building materials

Before you can choose the material you’re going to use, you need to decide whether your fire pit will be permanent or portable. If you want the fire pit to be the focal point of your backyard, a permanent design gives you more creative freedom for making a statement piece. If you want backyard entertaining to be more flexible, a portable fire pit can easily follow the action or be stored for later.

Once you’ve decided on the permanence of your fire fixture, you can plan your materials.

Typically, stone or concrete fire pits give you more design and customization freedom, but they are more permanent and won’t be moved any time soon. Metal fire pits–copper for lighter weight or iron for better heat–are easily portable.

Fire tables are also a permanent or portable option. They sit at about the height of a coffee table and can include gorgeous fire pit glass. Outside fireplaces are also coming up in popularity, but for an easier build you can take advantage of chimney-style fire pits, which come in a variety of materials and designs.

5. Gas vs. Wood

This is the next big decision that goes into building a backyard fire pit. Gas or propane fire pits make for easy, instant fires. They aren’t as hot as wood fires and don’t come with that campfire smell. If you’re interested in a fire more for entertainment and decor than utility, a gas fire pit is a great option.

For those who desire a more authentic fire experience, woodburning is definitely the way to go. These fire pits will transport you to an idyllic mountain scene with that campfire scent and mystic smoke. But they’re more work. Wood fires have to be stoked, and you’ll need to maintain a steady supply of firewood.

If you can’t decide or have uses for both, there are some dual-fuel fire bowls and tables that will let you do both. Built-in, dual-fuel fire pits are another option, but they’re more difficult to design and expensive to build.

6. Size up the space

Once you know the location and materials of your fire pit, you’ll need to decide on the diameter and height. You will want the pit to be proportional to your yard, to fit with the furniture and landscaping in your backyard, and big enough for the whole family to gather around.

You don’t want to build a fire pit that’s too small and leave people out in the cold.

Consider the furniture that will surround your fire pit. Will you use small wicker chairs or larger, long benches? Will a table or barbecue be nearby?

These details can help you determine the scale of your fire pit. If you’re unsure, the general rule from designers is to go bigger rather than smaller. It’s easier to size up the furniture and have extra room to huddle than not enough.

7. Prepare for the cost

The type of fire pit you decide to build and the materials you use will cause the cost to vary fairly dramatically. DIY fire pits can cost as little as $100 if you are building a smaller space, and predesigned units from big box stores can also be budget friendly.

But be prepared to pay up to several thousand dollars if you use a contractor, want a custom portable design, or build a hybrid fire pit. If you’re looking to save cash, look for fixtures made with cast iron or build it using bricks. For a more upscale piece, spring for copper, which won’t rust and can easily be manipulated into a number of designs.

8. Fill your pit with the right materials

Sand or hard rock gravel can spark and even explode if it gets too hot. Especially when burning wood, it’s important to fill your fire pit with a material that can handle the heat. The answer? Lava rocks. Lava rock, or special fire pit glass, can handle the heat of a fire without sparking.

Even lava rock, though, can potentially explode when heated if there is moisture inside. Make sure your fire pit is dry and use caution the first time you use it after rain.

9. Get that added value

Fire pits, when done well, add a lot of value to an outdoor space.

They open the backyard up for year-round use, they can extend the square footage of a home, and they’ve consistently ranked as popular outdoor features with buyers over the last few years.

Use your fire pit as the focal point of an outdoor makeover. You can bring the indoors outside with elegant landscaping, quality furniture and consistent design. Use materials outside that are also represented inside to create a seamless flow from one location to the next and watch the value of your home instantly rise.

10. Complement your fire with ambient lighting

Although a fire will provide some light when the sun goes down, you’ll still need extra lighting to continue entertaining guests outside or see those s’more ingredients.

Keep the backyard fun going all night long with the right outdoor lighting.

Some simple options are to add light fixtures to the patio or use stringed lights. Light posts or torches are easy to install and add a unique feel to your backyard space. If you have trees or a covered patio, string lights across the yard. You’ll create a magical ambience and make the backyard even more inviting.

11. Find the right furniture

What really transforms a backyard from being foliage to fabulous is the furniture you use.

Outdoor furniture can be simple or eclectic, but should always create a consistent theme. Highlight your fire pit with comfortable furniture that looks beautiful around the fixture during the day and provides a comfy place for conversation at night.

RST Brands can help you find the perfect furniture for your backyard getaway. Create a classy, rustic space with our Zen Collection or embrace bright colors and cozy cushions with the Deco Collection.

Our outdoor furniture matches the quality and style you require when designing your outdoor space.

12. Don’t forget the extras

Enjoy the full fire pit experience with additional fire-friendly gear. If you’re burning wood, keep a bowl cover and fire stoker nearby to keep the area safe and the fire burning. If you have a gas fire pit, make sure you have a cleaning broom and clear the burners regularly to prevent blockage.

Be prepared for weekend s’mores with marshmallow roasting sticks and keep the bugs away with soothing citronella candles. Keep a flashlight or lantern nearby to tell spooky stories and in case you need to see farther than the fire’s glow.


Building a fire pit can not only be a wonderful addition to backyard parties, it can also be an investment in your home’s value.

Create lasting memories and become the envy of the neighborhood with a fire pit this summer. And don’t forget to complete your backyard haven with outdoor furniture from RST Brands.