How to build your own firepit
Enjoy your garden in all seasons with a stylish DIY firepit you can put together in one weekend
There’s nothing nicer than watching the sun go down in the evening while sitting around a real fire with a drink and some good company. Not only does a firepit keep you warm, but you can cook on it too. Follow these simple steps to make this fire pit in a weekend.
You will need:
- Bricklaying trowel
- Mixing bucket
- Plastering trowel
- Galvanised wire mesh
- Spirit Level
- Coarse-grade sandpaper
- Masonry paint
- Tin snips or pliers
Measure and plan
First decide where the fire pit needs to be, making sure it’s not too close to any fences, trees or other flammable materials in the garden. You can make the fire pit any size or shape you like, but as this one will be doubling up as a barbecue, we constructed it to be a 44 x 78cm rectangle.
It’s important to do a ‘dry fit’ – arranging the bricks in position without mortar – to make sure you have enough bricks to complete the project and to see if it looks right. If you’re building on to soil, you’ll need to lay some concrete foundations first. So dig a 30cm-deep trench in the dimensions of your firepit and fill it with hardcore to a depth of 20cm, with a 10cm layer of concrete or Postcrete on top.
Laying the bricks
First mix up some mortar. Bagged mortar to which you just add water is the easiest. Using your bricklaying trowel, lay a bed of mortar onto the foundations and press the first brick into place. Some of the mortar will squeeze out slightly.
For the second brick, you’ll need to add mortar to either end of the brick before placing it next to the one you’ve already laid. Use your trowel to tap the brick up against the one you just laid. Any excess mortar that squeezes out should be removed with the trowel, then put it back into the bucket to be re-used. Don’t worry if it looks messy at this stage.
Add ventilation gaps
It’s important to leave spaces between some of the bricks to allow the fire to breathe and burn well. The easiest way to do this is to leave two gaps either side of one brick in your bottom layer, where you would normally put the mortar.
Apply the render
We rendered the fire pit to give it a modern look. This is a bit like plastering, but using cement, and it’s a great way to cover up uneven brickwork. Start by cleaning the brickwork with a brush to remove any dust or debris.
Then use bagged render and water. Mix it in a bucket and use the plastering trowel to spread the render over the brickwork, try to get it as smooth as possible. Work on one side at a time, allowing it to set slightly before moving onto the next side.
Smooth the render
Once the render is firm but not completely dry, take a damp sponge and rub in circular motions over the whole surface. This will remove any trowel lines and blend out any imperfections. Keep re-dampening your sponge as you go. Once the render is completely dry, use coarse-grade sandpaper to get a smoother finish.
Paint the fire pit
You’ll need to use exterior masonry paint for this step. Apply two coats for the best coverage. Tester-sized paint pots are perfect for small jobs like this and less expensive. Leave the first coat to dry fully before applying the second.
Add a gravel base
Before you use your fire pit for the first time, you’ll need to add some gravel to the base. This will give a decent bed for burning logs or charcoal on. Any gravel will do and should be laid about 2cm deep, so the bottom of the pit is completely covered.
Cut the mesh
If you want to use your fire pit as a barbecue as well, then you’ll need a rack for the food to sit on. We used galvanised wire mesh, which is cheap to buy and easy to replace. Measure the inner dimensions of your fire pit and cut the mesh 4cm bigger on all sides. You can use tin snips or pliers for this.
Fold all four sides of the mesh inwards and upwards, like an upturned box lid, so there’s a 2cm edge around the outside. This will stop food from resting against the brickwork or rolling off the mesh. Then place a brick on the gravel at either end for the mesh to sit on. This will keep it off the coals, but low enough for the food to cook.
Add a cover
The last step, if you want to use it as a table, is to add a cover. This has the added benefit of keeping the fire pit dry on rainy days. Simply cut treated timber to size and lay across the top.