Build a DIY fire pit area with seating for creating summer memories.
This is the very first project on our new property! I am so excited to put my stamp on it and so we were crazy enough to brave the Texas heat to build our own DIY fire pit.
It’s no surprise our first big project is a fire pit. Our property backs up to a large lake and I have had visions of us gathered around a fire in the evenings enjoying the view while the kids play. It’s just so picturesque!
But I knew I wanted our fire pit to be build into the landscape, including the seating. We definitely did not want the seating to walk away so it wasn’t there when we wanted it.
Lakeside Fire Pit Design
At first we considered a dug-in fire pit area. But since we are right on the lake, there is so much water in our ground. Digging down too far would just result in flooding.
So I took the idea of a dug in fire pit and brought it above ground! The bases are built strong and sturdy with cinder blocks. And because the ground slopes toward the lake, the back bases are slightly dug into the ground to make the entire fire pit level.
We also included a single opening toward the lake, similar to an opening you would have to walk through to enter a below ground fire pit.
The opening allows people to enter the DIY fire pit area, but also creates a focal point of everyone looking towards the lake. It really creates that picture I had in my mind.
And having the fire ring completely surrounded by benches, except for the one opening area, will make it safer to have kids running around when we have a fire going. It will be way easier to keep an eye on them getting close to the fire.
Part 1 of 2
We are not completely done with our fire pit just yet, as I am writing this we are finishing up the building of the bench tops that sit on top of the bases.
But since there are so many steps to building the bases, then the complete build process for the bench tops, I decided to split the fire pit into 2 posts. Today’s tutorial will cover:
- Leveling the area
- Building the cinder block bases
- Setting in the fire ring
How to Build the Fire Pit Bases
Tools & Materials
- Measuring tape
- Large caulk gun
- Optional: tiller
- We rented a large tiler to help break up the ground because it was so dry and hard.
- (20) 8″ x 8″ x 16″ cinder blocks
- (60) 4″ x 8″ x 16″ cinder block caps
- (4) 28 oz landscape construction adhesive tubes
- Stakes & twine
- Spray paint
- Weed barrier
- Landscape staples
- Fire ring
- We used crushed limestone because it was just slightly more expensive than the pebbles and has a sparkle to it in the sun.
Staking out the area
This was surprisingly the trickiest part of the hole process. Staking out a rectangle or square is easy. And to make sure it’s square, you just measure opposite corners and if those match you are good!
But to stake out a large hexagon, that is where I got stumped. The first try we tried to use a carpenters square and measure each line out with a 60 degree angle. The end result was the wonkiest hexagon ever.
Luckily my father-in-law gave us the idea to just start in the center and measure out from there to the six points of the rectangle. This was the start of what worked very well.
For the center stake, I used a scrap of dowel that was left over from another project. That way the center was not skewed by the 1×2 stake.
Our bench bases are 54 1/2″ wide and we needed to give space on each side for the bench tops to sit onto them, so we decided to make each edge of the hexagon 60″.
And come to find out, the length of the edges of the hexagon are equal to the length from the center to the corners! So we needed to measure 60″ out from our center point to each corner. I love easy math!
We tied a bit of twine to the center dowel stake, and the measured 60″ from the stake and tied a knot in the string. We hammered the dowel into the ground where we wanted the center area and set to work.
Drive the first stake 60″ away from the center dowel. This will be the starting point. Then using a measuring tape and your piece of string tied to the center dowel, rotate around until the knot meets the 60″ mark on the measuring tape and drive the second stake.
Take a minute to make sure these two stakes are facing the way you want the front of your first bench to face. We did the first bench as the back bench, directly across from the opening. If it is not facing right, pull them out and start over now (believe it is much better than waiting to restate the whole things after you finish).
Once these first two stakes are oriented right, it is just a matter of repeating the triangle with the string and the measuring tape to make sure they meet at the 60″ mark. Then drive another stake.
Do this all around until you have 6 stakes around the center dowel. Double check the final opening with a quick measurement. It should be 60″ as well. We gave ourselves a little tolerance on this and were within about an inch. With this large a project, it was not noticeable.
Wrap the twine around the stakes to create the hexagon shape.
If your final measurement is way off, double check all the other ones, sometimes stakes shift as you hammer them in. Also, makes sure you are not pulling tightly on the string to bend the dowel. Just give it a consistent amount of tension.
Believe me, getting it right was not easy. We re-staked our fire pit at least 3 times. But I am glad we took the time to get it right!
Leveling the ground
Once we got the staking done, it was time to see what leveling needed to happen. If we didn’t level the area, the people on the back of the fire pit would always feel like they were falling forward and the side seats would be leaning.
Also, we wanted all the bases, and therefore benches, to be level to give it that built in look. Almost as if one bench just blending right into the next.
We thought we could do some leveling with a few shovels. But since we are right in the heat of summer, our ground was hard and dry.
We used a flat topped shovel to scrape the top layer of soil with the grass/ground cover (aka, weeds) off. Then after a few too many minutes of struggling, we opted to rent a tiller.
Of course, this meant we needed to remove the stakes (yep, ironic after all that work). But it ended up being great.
I measured back from the stakes 24″ and marked the ground with spray paint. Now we knew exactly what area needed to be tilled up and leveled.
We used the tiller to over the entire area and a little past the line to break up the ground.
Then I used a left-over 2x4s and a level to get the ground pretty level. We also made sure to stomp all over the tilled area to help compact it back again.
The next day we got rained out from working with a massive rain storm! But the water worked in our favor to further compact down the area we just leveled.
This meant we did have to do some additional leveling when setting the cinder block bases. But we felt confident that the ground was pretty compact below us.
Setting the first row of cinder blocks
Now that the area was “mostly” level, we re-staked the hexagon and were ready to get to work. You need to have the hexagon staked out to lay the cinder blocks because you will use the string to line up the front of the blocks.
We started building the bases on the back center. That way when we leveled the other bases off the first one it would be easy to do two to each side of the first one and less error going around the hexagon leveling the 5 bases.
We placed the first block cinder block so the short side was up against the twine and it was square to the twine. Make sure it is 2-3 inches in from the stake (remember the hexagon edge is 60″ but the base is only around 54 1/2″).
Using the level, we made sure it was level front to back and side to side. If not, we used the flat headed shovel to carefully scrape off the ground until it was.
Then we placed a cinder block cap on it’s side next to it so the long side was up against the twine and the top was flush with the top of the cinder block. Make sure they are touching tightly. Check for level and adjust as needed.
Continue with the remaining cinder blocks, just dry setting the entire base so the two cinder blocks are in opposite corners with three caps in the front and 3 in the back.
Once the entire first row is level, carefully move them away from the area. Make sure to remember which block goes in which spot because they might not be exactly the same so you can mess up your level by subbing in a different block.
Roll out weed barrier from the back of the base area to the center of the fire pit and secure with landscaping staples. We overlapped the material in the center to make it fit between the stakes.
Glueing together the cinder blocks
Now it is time to put the first row of blocks back in the same manner as before, on top of the weed barrier. Start with the corner cinder block and make sure it’s level and lined up properly.
Then add landscaping construction adhesive to the side of the cap block that sits next to it. Press them together tightly. Make sure to keep them leveled and lined up (things will start to get harder to shift and adjust as you go).
We used a good amount of the adhesive, but tried to not get any squeeze out on the front of the blocks. If we did, I removed it quickly so it didn’t dry there.
Repeat for the rest of the first row of blocks. On the last one, you need to add adhesive to the edge and side to fit agains the first cinder block.
Then repeat for a second row, but this time off-set the first cinderblock. Start it so it is not touching the front (where the twine is) but flush with the back bottom cap stone.
Also, we added a good amount of adhesive on top of the first row of blocks as well as between them. Each one of the large tubs of adhesive glued together 1 whole base + just over 1/2 of the next one.
Once all the base pieces are together, double check that the edges are all flush and level and not moving around while the adhesive dries. Once it is dry, it is stuck for good!
Setting the first cinder block of the next base
The rest of the bases are assembled the same way, but it is important to level the first cinder block to the completed base before starting. I found the smaller level was great for this.
I held the top of the level next to the top of the bottom row of the completed base. In hindsight, it would have been easier to get the first row of all the bases done first, then add the second row.
But we were so excited to see one base completely done that we just went for it!
Place the first cinder block for the second base the same as the first. Make sure the short side is up agains the twine and it is perpendicular to the twine. Leave a 2-3 inch gap from the stake to the start of the base.
Make sure it is level front to back and side to side as well as to the first completed base. Scrape off the ground or build it up as needed to get there.
Then proceed by leveling off all the rest of the bottom layer blocks before moving them to add the weed barrier and glueing them together.
Repeat for the other bases till all 5 are done!
Setting the fire ring
We chose to use a metal fire ring to contain the fire in our fire pit. I will probably add some fun brick work around it in the future.
We centered the fire ring over the center dowel. Any weed barrier that was under the ring was cut away with a knife. This left a circle template for us to use to dig out the hole for the ring.
Dig out a hole inside the circle template about 2 inches down. Place the fire ring inside the hole.
Using the level, we made sure the ring was level front to back and side to side. If not, I put a little dirt back in the areas needed until it was. But the entire ring was set into the ground about 2 inches.
Adding the rocks
To finish off the area around the fire pit, cover up the weed barrier, and further secure the fire ring.
We got our crushed limestone from a local landscaping material supply place. Originally we thought we needed 2 yards, but luckily our trailer was only large enough for 1 yard at a time.
One yard was plenty to fill the entire floor of the fire pit area. We ended up with a covering of about 3 inches deep.
Also, we placed rock inside the holes of the cinder block so no creatures decided to make it their home (other than a few bugs). And a thin layer of rock inside the bases.
The area inside the bases is going to be used as storage (more to come with the next post about the bench tops). The rock in the bottom keeps the weed barrier down and helps with drainage from rain.
Now we are ready to get the bench tops built, sealed, and installed! Then it will be time to break out the mallows and enjoy some free time.
We are always very conscious of costs and budget when we create our DIYs. Even though we admire all those expensive homes on Pinterest, we are working with a much more moderate budget.
Our DIY fire pit is not a little project, but we are trying to keep it inexpensive. And of course, doing the work yourself saves so much $$$!
One of the best ways to save money was to build the bases with cinder blocks instead of more decorative brick. But I love the simple modern look it gives them too!
So as part of this project we are sharing the cost breakdown of everything we bought to help you in planning and budgeting your own project.
- Fire ring- $45.00
- Cinder blocks- $30.00
- Cinder block caps- $95.00
- Landscape construction adhesive- $32.00
- Weed barrier- $22.00
- Landscape staples- $4.00
- Crushed limestone- $68.00
- Tiller rental- $55.00
Total spent so far is $351. Not bad for a beautiful built in fire pit area.
For the bench tops we are using Douglas fir 2x4s, 2x6s, and whitewood 1x6s. Then we are sealing with a marine grade sealer to help them last for years. This is going to save us so much money!
And remember these prices are based on what I bought in my local stores today. Things will change based on region and when you do your own project. So use them as a good jumping off point for your own DIY fire pit.
Now off to finish up this project and work on another one to get our property summer ready!