How to Build a Fieldstone Fire Pit
This Backyard Fire Pit Was an Easy DIY Project
Situated in the backyard and surrounded by mature woodlands, our fieldstone fire pit is made of stones collected from the rocky outcroppings found around our property. The cleared site for our new fieldstone fire pit was once the location of a large cedar play set and is the perfect location for building a fire pit. The area measures approximately 20 feet across and the ground is covered with a layer of pea gravel for protection from wayward sparks and embers. The pathways through the woodland gardens leading to the fire pit area are also covered with pea gravel for a safe and leisurely stroll to reach the fire pit.
Backyard fire pits are popular elements in landscape design, ranging from a simple campfire, to a decorative metal fire ring, to lavish outdoor stone fireplaces. Fueled by firewood or propane gas, a backyard fire pit creates a destination spot in the garden for comfortable gatherings of friends and family.
How to Build a Fieldstone Fire Pit
Location, Location, Location
Select a site on the open ground and away from buildings, trees, brush piles or other flammable materials. A fourteen to sixteen foot diameter area is about the minimum space needed for a fire pit and the adjoining seating area.
Find the center of the selected area, and drive a small stake into the ground. Attach an 8' foot long string to the stake, and use the string to mark a 16' diameter circle around the stake (or larger, if space allows). This will mark the outside edge of the gravel area surrounding the fire pit.
Create the Inner Circle
Now attach a two foot long string to the stake, and use the string to make out a 4' diameter circle around the stake. This will mark the outside edge of the fire pit.
With a shovel, dig out the 4' circle to at least a depth of 12 inches (18 inches is even better). Scrape the insides and bottom of the circle flat and smooth to create the pit.
Spread a layer of gravel over the bottom of the pit to help the rainwater to drain away and prevent puddles of wood ash.
Haul Some Rock
Now comes the fun part—and the heavy lifting. If you have access to a rocky woodlands area, you may be able to collect your own fieldstone for building the outer ring of the fire pit. ALWAYS make sure that you have the owner's permission before removing any rocks -- it is illegal and unethical to remove rocks from stone walls or other property that does not belong to you.
The fieldstone used for this fire pit was collected from a rocky outcropping on our property, and we only selected rocks that we could easily move and carry. When searching for fieldstone, look for rocks that roughly the same size and shape, and have similar color patterns. Flatter and roughly rectangular shaped rocks are easiest to stack, but rounded rock can be used to build the low stone walls of the fire pit. If you do not have access to fieldstone, many garden and landscape design centers sell rocks which are perfectly suited for lining the perimeter of a fire pit.
Stack 'Em Up
Temporarily lay out the fieldstone around the outside of the fire pit so you can select the size, shape and 'face' of the rocks as you need them to build the ring. Beginning with the larger rocks, position the stones at the base and against the earthen wall of the pit. As you place and stack the stones next to and on top of each other, only the front facing surface of the rock will show. Work around the circle of the pit, staggering the placement of the stones to create a small stone wall all of the way around the ring. Take care when placing the rocks to stabilize each one against the pit wall and against the surrounding stones to build a sturdy and good looking stone wall.
Continue placing the stones and building up your wall until the field stone ring is at least 24" high. Save some of the flatter stones to use as "cap" stones to top off the walls of the fieldstone fire pit.
Create a Buffer Zone
Spread a layer of gravel around the outside of the fire pit to cover the ground within the 16 foot outer circle, raking the gravel level and smooth. The gravel acts as a barrier to help stop any wayward embers from igniting the grass, leaves or other ground cover.
Position benches, chair and other outdoor furniture around the fieldstone fire pit to create a comfortable seating area to enjoy the warmth of the fire. We made our benches by recycling portions of the cedar play set into comfortable and sturdy seating, and the patina from the weathered wood blends nicely with the country feeling of the fieldstone fire pit area.
Adding a fire screen over the pit will also help to stop any embers from spreading, and add to your safety.
Need Fieldstone for Your Fire Pit?
Many garden and landscape design centers sell rocks which are perfectly suited for lining the perimeter of a fire pit.
ALWAYS make sure that you have the owner's permission before removing any rocks -- it is illegal and unethical to remove rocks from stone walls or other property that is not yours. Those historic old stone walls have stood guard for a century or more, and should not be disturbed. We have lots of broken ledge and loose fieldstone on our property, so no stones walls were harmed to make our backyard fire fit.
Our Fieldstone Fire Pit Gets a Lot of Use!
How Often Do You Use Your Fire Pit?
Backyard Fire Rings
Even if you don't want to build a fieldstone fire pit, you can still create a safe area for a campfire in the backyard with a metal fire ring.
Fire Pit Safety Tips
Use caution and common sense! Safety is always the number one priority.
- Check with your local zoning department for any regulations or permits required for building a fire pit and for burning in an open pit.
- Be careful in selecting rock for building your fire pit. Rock can be porous, and some river rock can retain moisture that will crack and explode when heated by the fire.
- Use good common sense when building camp fires. Do not create a raging bonfire that is too large for your small backyard fire pit.
- Never leave a fire unattended.
- Keep a bucket of water or garden hose near the fire pit area to quench any wayward embers.
The Fieldstone Fire Pit Is Ready! Bring on the S'mores!!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
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© 2011 Anthony Altorenna