Answer: No you do not need retaining blocks to build a fire pit! Fire pits can be built out of hundreds of materials
Having a fire pit in your backyard is one of the best ways to entertain your guests. It’s also a place you can sit and relax as you watch the sunset or catch up with family. On the cold nights of summer, you can watch the stars as you prepare hot dogs in the fire pit.
While you can buy a ready-made fire pit, there’s more excitement in creating one from scratch. It can be a simple hole in the ground, or it can be more sophisticated with retaining blocks around it. Whether you use retaining blocks when making your fire pit or not depends on the type of fire pit.
Types of Fire Pits
The type of fire pit you build is mostly determined by the materials you use. Some common fire pit ideas include these.
Fire Pit Ring
You can purchase a predesigned fire ring for a DIY project. The rings come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and stone patterns.
Custom Fire Pit
A custom fire pit requires a few basic skills and some creativity. Designing and building a DIY fire pit usually involves the use of retaining wall blocks. How high you stack the retaining blocks depends on the desired depth of the fire pit.
In-Ground Fire Pit
An in-ground fire pit is an ultimate way to gather around an outdoor fire. However, such fire pits are riskier as someone may slip and fall inside. You also need to find a way to keep children and pets away from the blazing fire.
How to Make a Retaining Blocks Fire Pit
Before making a fire pit in your backyard, check with the local authorities if the structures are allowed. You don’t want to install a fire pit only to be slapped with a fine from the government. Only carry on with the construction when you have all the necessary permits.
Another great fire pit guide is here: How to Build a Fire Pit (lowes.com)
Choose a Safe Site
Locate the best place to have your fire pit. It should be on relatively flat ground and a safe distance from anything flammable. Clear any bushes or trees hanging close nearby. Take note of the movement of wind around the location you choose to avoid smoke billowing to your home’s interior.
Required Tools and Process
Collect the tools you need for building your fire pit. These include:
- Measuring tape
- Marking paint
- Concrete retaining wall blocks
- Rubber mallet
- Masonry adhesive
Once you have the tools ready, decide how big you want the pit to be, and measure this using the measuring tape. Most DIY pits are in the range of 36 and 44 inches. Use the marking paint to outline the desired dimensions on the ground.
Drive a stake into the ground, in the middle of the area where you want to have the fire pit. Tie a length of string to the fixed stake that is equal to half the diameter of the cavity. Walk around the stake with the cord extended, marking the perimeter.
The next step is to dig out a shallow trench inside the marked perimeter. It should be about eight inches deep but deeper if the yard is sloppy. The raised side should be deeper than the opposite end to ensure that the installation is well leveled.
Pour a fine layer of sand in the excavated area, about two inches thick. Tamp it down to compact and level it. Bring the concrete retaining wall blocks and lay one course around the edges of the fire pit.
Layering the Blocks
Check to see that the blocks are well placed and in a level position. If any adjustments are required, use the rubber mallet to tap them to the correct height.
Place another layer of the retaining blocks above the initial layer. Apply the masonry adhesive to attach the bricks. Leave small intermittent gaps between the blocks for enhanced airflow.
Inside the fire pit, you want to ensure that the surface is accommodative of your wood fuel. You can add about four inches of crushed stone to raise the surface a little higher. If you like, you can add another ring of blocks and apply the adhesive.
Leave the pit and the walls to set and dry for about two days before the first fire. If all goes well, your fire pit should last a long while and give you the service you want. Use it not just for warmth but also for barbeque parties.
Tips for Building Your Fire Pit
Earlier, it was mentioned that a fire pit with retaining walls is a type on its own. Another type that was highlighted is the fire pit with a ring. However, these two types can be combined into one.
Consider inserting a steel fire ring to reinforce the blocks. This will help them last longer, avoid breaking, and drying out prematurely.
It might be tempting to use river stones when building your fire pit. This is a temptation you should avoid at all costs. River stones carry the risk of exploding when heated.
Building a fire pit in your backyard is a simple DIY task if you have the right materials. Choose your materials depending on the type of pit you want. An open fire pit dug into the ground may not require much effort.
If you want to build a wall around the fire pit, you can use some retaining blocks. They come in various shapes, and the overall look of the pit will depend on your creativity. The height of the pit is determined by how protective you want the fire pit to be.
You don’t need any special retaining blocks for the walls. Concrete blocks will work just fine as long as you ensure they’re well fixed. Resist the urge to use river stones to avoid fire hazards.