Step-by-Step Guide to Building an Outdoor Fireplace or Fire Pit

Updated on March 7, 2018
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

DIY Outdoor Fireplaces
DIY Outdoor Fireplaces | Source

How to Build an Outdoor Fireplace

Before you begin to research how to build an outdoor fireplace, be sure to check with your city and county to get a list of the different ordinances and codes that may apply and permits and licenses you may need. Some cities have regulations regarding the type of fireplace you can have and what fuel can be used, so check with your building inspector. Also be sure to check with your homeowner's insurance to see if it will require changes to your policy. If you know what to expect ahead of time, then you will not get broadsided halfway through your building project by an inspector putting a hold on the work.

Once you have that worked out, it is important to consider your home design as well as the design of your garden, patio, and other landscaping and hardscaping features. Keep the style and materials of the fireplace similar in look to the rest of the patio area. This does not mean that you can' t make it stand out, just design with an eye toward fitting it in to the rest of your outdoor plan.

If you are unsure whether you want an outdoor fireplace or a fire pit, you might want to read The Difference between Patio Fire Pits and Outdoor Fireplaces.


Choose a Location Carefully

As you look around your property for an ideal spot to build, you will want to consider carefully the characteristics of the location you choose.

Your location should:

  • Be a safe distance from your house
  • Be a safe distance from any other buildings, barns, garages, sheds, playhouses, etc.
  • Clear of trees and overhanging vines and branches
  • On level ground
  • Not have any underground wires, cable, or pipes (call your utilities company to ask about underground pipes and cables on your property).

If you are building on an existing deck, consider whether or not your deck can support the weight of the fireplace. A wood deck could also present a fire hazard, so you may need to cover the area around the fireplace with heatproof masonry. Be sure to keep these things in mind and always double-check your plans with your local building inspector.

Be sure that you follow all the rules and have all the inspections and permits: Don't cut corners!
Be sure that you follow all the rules and have all the inspections and permits: Don't cut corners! | Source

Outdoor Fireplace Design

The next thing to consider is how are you going to use your new outdoor fireplace? Make a list of all of the roles you want your outdoor fireplace to play and try to find a design that fills as many of those desires as possible.

If you will be using it mostly for ambiance and don't need the heating aspect, then you can go with a traditional-looking enclosed fireplace with a chimney and firebox. If you are interested in the warmth as well as the ambiance, then an open pit fireplace may be just what you are looking for. Are you going to want to use your fireplace for outdoor cooking? If so, you may need to consider what size grate you will need.

Keep an eye on the style of your home's architecture and your decorating style when you are choosing the look of your new, outdoor fireplace.

Always maintain at least a three-foot space between your seating area and the fire, no matter what design you use.

Almost anyone can build an outdoor fireplace.
Almost anyone can build an outdoor fireplace.

Building an Outdoor Fireplace, Step-by-Step

No matter which type of outdoor fireplace you plan on building, you will first need to prepare your building site. Remove any plants, vines, trees, or other landscaping features such as wooden fences, trellises, and the like. You don't want any fire hazards, and you don't want anything to be in the way of the various structures you may need to build.

Two Options: Fire Pits or Fireboxes

Below, you'll find instructions for both: Fire pits, then fireboxes.

A fire pit is very much like a campfire in your backyard. It can be as simple as you like, or you can build seating around it. It is the easiest type of fireplace to build for the do-it-yourself-er.

You will begin by deciding what diameter you want your fire pit to be. Once you have decided on the size, drive a stake into the ground in the center of where you want the pit. Attach a cord to the stake and attach a funnel with a small hole to the cord. If the cord is two feet long, this will give you a four-foot fire pit. Fill the funnel with flour and scribe a circle around the stake, keeping the cord taut. Repeat the process with a cord that is 12 inches longer: This will give you the area where you will build the walls, which are normally about 12 inches thick.

Remove the grass inside the small circle and dig a one-foot deep hole with straight sides. Pour in pea gravel to a depth of four inches. This will help with drainage. Add three inches of sand on the top of the pea gravel (to help contain the fire by protecting roots that may be underneath the fire pit).

Dig a four-inch deep trench with straight sides in the area between the two circles. Now, building the wall can be accomplished in several ways.

For a Dry Stack Wall

Laying down a layer of cushioning sand to level the area is a good idea, whether you are laying loose pavers or making a masonry wall. You can dry-stack concrete pavers easily to make the wall. Be sure not to use any adhesives because they could give off toxic fumes when heated.

For a Masonry Wall

For a more permanent structure, you can make a rock wall. You will need the following materials:

  • Trowel
  • Mixing tool
  • Iron rake
  • 1/2 inch jointer
  • Chipping hammer
  • Safety glasses
  • Level
  • Wheelbarrow to mix concrete in
  • Wall stone or heat-resistant brick
  • You need stones for the sides of the fire pit as well as "capstones" which are flat to make up the top of the fire pit.
  • Gravel mix concrete
  • 1/4-inch rebar cut into 2-foot pieces
  • Pre-mixed mortar mix
  • Fire bricks
  • Landscaping mesh and crushed stone or gravel or bricks and additional mortar

You will build your fire pit with an inside layer of fire brick to provide a flame retardant wall, and then surround this with face stones or brick for decorative purposes. After the walls are built, the flat capstones will be used to make the top look finished and even. The wall should be no more than 18 inches high.

Take all of your measurements when you go to buy your supplies because the sales people at the home improvement store or quarry will be able to help you figure the amount of stone you will need.

Mix your premix concrete with water in the wheelbarrow, according to instructions on the concrete, until it is a soft, spreadable consistency. Spread it where the base of your wall is going to be, in the area between the two circles. Spread the concrete and tamp it down with the rake until it is within an inch or so of ground level. Smooth it carefully with a trowel.

Place the rebar in the wet concrete and tap them in until they are completely covered with concrete. Allow the concrete to set completely.

In the wheelbarrow, mix the premix mortar, one bag at a time. You do not want it to dry out as you set your stones. Spread the mortar on the outer portion of the concrete base and begin setting the stones. Set the face stones first, on the outer edge, and then come back in and set the fire brick. Continue in this way on each course, setting the facing materials first, and then setting the firebrick.

If you have never done masonry work before, you will need to refer to a guide to setting bricks. After you have set the final course, top it with the flat capstones.

A fire pit is a simple outdoor fireplace design.
A fire pit is a simple outdoor fireplace design. | Source

For a Traditional Firebox

A traditional outdoor firebox fireplace looks very much like an indoor fireplace. It may have a mantle, hearth, chimney, and other elements of a fireplace, except it is outside.

Build a Platform

The first thing you need to do is to build a platform with concrete. Make a wooden form the same size as the base of the fireplace that you are planning on building. Prepare the base area with cushioning sand (as in the directions for the fire pit above), and then pour the concrete until the platform is the same level as the deck. Allow it to set according to the directions on the concrete mix.

Frame It

Once the concrete has set, go back in and frame in the fireplace area and chimney. Double check to see that you have followed any height requirements that the city has specified. Use 2x4s to outline the shape of the chimney and the fireplace and cover carefully with plywood. Add the firebox and flue according the manufacturer's instructions.


Complete your fireplace according to your plan by covering it with stucco, a masonry veneer, or your material of choice. While there are many metal fireplaces by various companies, masonry should be the first choice for its durability and easy installation. Metal tends to rust and weaken after a few years exposed to the weather.

Make sure that there is at least one inch of non-combustible material between flammable materials and the fire.

Building with Brick

If the fireplace is to be brick, then no framing is needed. Use firebrick, a heatproof brick, and refractory mortar. Both of these materials are made to withstand the heat from a fire. Regular brick can explode when exposed to high heat, and while regular mortar will work with firebrick, it is not made to withstand the heat and is, therefore, less durable than the refractory mortar.

Using a template with a 90-degree angle, lay the first course of brick along it on the surface of the platform. Keep the brick squared up and work carefully. Build up the sides, stopping often to check the walls with a level.

Fireplace Kits

There are many companies that carry outdoor fireplace boxes and flu inserts. Some companies have the whole fireplace available in kit form, which makes it much simpler to build since your materials are already there. A little research, a bit of note-taking, and a weekend or two could give you the outdoor room of your dreams. Once the fireplace is in, then you will be able to design the area around it, bringing in furniture and other items to make it truly an extension of your home.

Knowing how to build an outdoor fireplace is a great skill, and building one is a great way to improve the value of your home and increase its living space.

Build a Fire Pit

An outdoor fireplace can look much like a traditional fireplace.
An outdoor fireplace can look much like a traditional fireplace. | Source
A fire pit can mimic a camp fire.
A fire pit can mimic a camp fire. | Source

Questions & Answers


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      • profile image


        3 months ago

        Is it politically correct to be burning wood? Using oxygen? Heating up the outdoors? Good grief!

      • profile image

        michael lemley 

        12 months ago

        give me price list on firebox for wooddburning fireplace with chimmney

      • profile image

        Dan Heston 

        20 months ago

        Marye Audet, great post. Very informative and a lot of really good tips and guidance in building. Thanks for sharing and definitely check out Backyard Flare if you want to build the structure yourself.

      • toptenhome profile image

        Brandon Hart 

        4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia, USA

        Thanks for the DIY. I need to do this out in the backyard.

      • Letitialicious profile image


        6 years ago from Paris via San Diego

        It's nice to run into this hub again. It was through this article that I discovered HubPages over a year ago and began writing for it (I'm writing here from a newly created second account, so you see, I'm thriving here). Thanks a million.

      • profile image


        7 years ago

        I bought plans from Backyard Flare, who designs and provides row by row plans for building fireplaces. Mine turned out great. I haven't found any other places to get plans, so this may be good to pass on to those who are looking. Good hub. Good useful information.

      • carcro profile image

        Paul Cronin 

        7 years ago from Winnipeg

        This is a great hub, all the info I will need. This is definitely high on my list of projects for next year. Really good instructions, and thanks for the reminder about the permit required. Voted Up and useful!

      • profile image

        Patios WA 

        7 years ago

        Great Information. I am looking forward for more ideas, thanks.

      • profile image

        Building An Outdoor Fireplace 

        7 years ago

        This page is a great resource. You have covered all the basics, from safety to design and construction. Nice overview and look forward to seeing more.

      • profile image


        7 years ago


        Very good article, you gave me a good idea.


      • profile image

        Metal Detector Reviews 

        7 years ago

        Great information...

        Any more videos about this?

      • profile image

        eddie s 

        7 years ago

        Totall useless information for someone who is actually going to build a firebrick fireplace..This is nice for today's "Metro boys" but not for us who are actually going to build it and not spend $3000 on ready made parts....

      • profile image

        Landscape Nut 

        8 years ago

        I found some fireplace plans on Ebay from a company named JDW Design Systems. They sell DIY fireplace plans that are explained step-by-step. My friend used one of their plans and his fireplace turned out beautiful. It's a lot cheaper than having someone else build it for you. Very true on the cost "Custom Gates"! I plan on building a fireplace myself too.

      • profile image

        Lou g.  

        8 years ago

        That guy is a stone magician!! Bravo!!

      • profile image


        8 years ago

        Just the info I was looking for. Many thanks.

      • MomCrafting4Fun profile image


        8 years ago from Sunny Califronia

        We just bought our first home and one of the things we want is an outdoor firepit. We priced them and the acceseories we wanted and it was pretty expensive. I am excited to sit down and design, price supplies and build our own.

      • DaisyExpress profile image


        8 years ago

        what a great hub....I have a pile of old red bricks that I have been wanting to use for an outdoor I have the motivation back again to go forward with my project...will let you know how it goes....Sheryl

      • profile image

        Home Design 

        8 years ago

        Great Tutorial, thanks for sharing

      • profile image


        8 years ago

        im so happy i can dance, im so happy i can get up and dance

      • profile image

        Custom Gates 

        8 years ago

        Thanks for sharing.. Me and my husband was the one who build our outdoor fireplace its more convenient and much cheaper then hiring somebody to make it for you. If you would like to build your outdoor fireplace on your own, check your needs and if you think you could need some accessories, it would be easier to build a fireplace around them than to find someone to build them for your fireplace.

      • profile image

        Joe and Dawn 

        8 years ago

        My wife and I wanted an outdoor fireplace and found a great alternative. We found on old Franklin Stove on craigslist. We painted it with black stove paint set it on paver bricks and added an 8' chimney. It works great.

      • profile image

        Electric radient Heating 

        8 years ago

        Very good information, I will bookmark this and will use. I might be planning to make this So i will use your information

      • Michael Shane profile image

        Michael Shane 

        8 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama

        I have been considering a project you have mentioned in this hub. Very imformative & helpful! Great Hub!

      • profile image

        Kathy Shepherd 

        8 years ago

        My next home improvement project is to create an outdoor room. I would love to include an outdoor fireplace now. Nice hub.

      • profile image

        Premiere Fire Pits 

        8 years ago

        Great guide on building your own outdoor heating area. Any of these would be a wonderful addition to a backyard.

      • profile image


        9 years ago

        What a great idea to have an outdoor fireplace by the pool for those cooler evenings... thanks for the Hub and the info on how to DIY...

      • SamSurvivor profile image


        9 years ago

        Wow, the best Hub I've seen on outdoor fireplaces. Heck, it's by far the best article I've read on the subject. Great work! Thanks for sharing.

      • steveBaxter63 profile image


        9 years ago from Northern California

        I couldn't agree with you more on checking with local city and county ordinances, codes, permits, and licenses first..

        Nice, informative hub - thanks for sharing.

      • rugsforall profile image


        9 years ago

        I love the idea of an outdoor fireplace.

        Friends of ours have one they cook pizza on - it is superb.

      • Dolores Monet profile image

        Dolores Monet 

        9 years ago from East Coast, United States

        i've always wanted to build a simple firepit for spring and fall - summer's too durn hot - this great hub is giving me motivation

      • Wyatt Fleming profile image

        Wyatt Fleming 

        9 years ago from Colorado

        Quite an undertaking. Seems like there is a sense of pride that goes along with renovating a home with the addition of a fireplace. That first fire must warm the heart as well as the feet. The people out there that can't handle the process may find some value in my main interest, portable fireplaces. They may not have the same feel as a natural fireplace but are portable and can be used in rentals. needless to say great hub. thanks

      • JennifersJumpers profile image


        9 years ago

        Great hub. Maybe I'll get the guts to try it. Right after I get the guts to install the water fountain that I want.

      • Clara Ghomes profile image

        Clara Ghomes 

        9 years ago

        Great hub. Nice tips to create an outdoor fireplace.

      • johnr54 profile image

        Joanie Ruppel 

        9 years ago from Texas

        We've been talking about doing this. I like the look of the built in ones better than the freestanding ones. Good overview.

      • Roger Renwick profile image

        Roger Renwick 

        9 years ago from Florence, Alabama

        hi Marye, that is a great hub, i am a jack of all trades (master of none) and got a lot of great ideas for my own outdoor play area. thanks,


      • Angela Harris profile image

        Angela Harris 

        10 years ago from Around the USA

        I have wanted to build one for years. The photos have really inspired me. I'm bookmarking this one for future reference. Thanks!

      • stephhicks68 profile image

        Stephanie Hicks 

        10 years ago from Bend, Oregon

        Beautiful! I just skimmed the hub now, but this one is off to my husband as well. Thank you!

      • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

        Patty Inglish MS 

        10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

        I wouild LOVE to do this. I may do a small one. Thanks for the directions. :)

      • mroconnell profile image


        10 years ago from France

        Thanks for compiling all this!

      • Eileen Hughes profile image

        Eileen Hughes 

        10 years ago from Northam Western Australia

        Great hub, where's the spit to go with the pizza one. Great ideas in there for all of us. thanks.

      • Marye Audet profile imageAUTHOR

        Marye Audet 

        10 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

        zSuzy- What I really want is an outdoor wood burnign bread oven, and I am researching that now.. :)

      • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

        Zsuzsy Bee 

        10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

        Marye! You must be able to read my mind. I want to build an outside oven and BBQ. You've given me some great ideas. Back to the drawing board.

        great hub

        regards Zsuzsy

      • Marye Audet profile imageAUTHOR

        Marye Audet 

        10 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

        J- WHat I want is an outdoor kitchen to go with it!

      • jonixk profile image


        10 years ago from Lisbon

        great hub this one. I've one outdoor fireplace in my garden and i love it. In summer it's very cool for parties, and in winter it's excellent for warming the garden and we can use the garden that way.


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