Nothing can quite match the ambiance and beauty of a backyard fire pit. They perfect for gathering around with friends and family for great conversation. And, can also be used to create outstanding open-fire meals that are sure to leave your guests in awe!

backyard fire pit
The backyard fire pit in action

I don’t think we ever imagined how much our stone fire pit would add to our events at the farm.

Since building our pit a few years back, we’ve hosted countless gatherings around the fire. Roasting corn, grilling chicken and making s’mores. Or making everyone’s favorite, cooking big batches of homemade chili and vegetable soup straight from the garden over the open flames.

The best part of all, we used inexpensive quarry rock, gravel and a little mortar mix to create it. Total cost – just a little over $100! Not bad when you consider that is well below the price tag for simple stand alone units you find in the big box stores!

I love using rock and stone – not only is it fire-proof, it’s long-lasting, durable, and looks so much more natural than concrete blocks or metal pits that end up rusting and wearing out when left out in the elements.

We get a lot of questions about our backyard fire pit. Especially when it comes to the materials we used and how we created it. We thought for today we would walk you through the building process. We also have a list of our materials at the end of the post. 

Creating The Backyard Fire Pit On A Budget

The key to a safe and beautiful backyard fire pit is to keep it slightly below the soil line. Not only does it help to prevent the embers of a burning fire from jumping out – it also helps keep the wind from becoming too much of an issue when cooking.

backyard fire pit
We sprayed an outline using a rope tied to a round rebar stake in the center of the pit as a guide

Using a piece of string tied to a 3′ section of round rebar post, we marked out a perfect circle by spray painting a line on the ground as we walked with the string around the post. Next, using the same method with an 11′ piece of string tied to the rebar post, we created a second line 11′ from the center of the fire pit to create the sitting area space. By marking out to 11′, it created a wide 8′ area in front of the pit that is perfect for sitting chairs and benches around the fire at a safe distance.

Once the lines were marked, we removed 18″ of the soil inside the entire 3′ fire pit area. We dug down deeper about 12″ wide on the outer edge of the 3′ circle to create a footer for our stone. We used concrete in the footer area, but 4 to 6″ of limestone screenings or packing gravel in the “footer” area is more than enough to work perfectly. I have a tendency to overbuild – and now admit freely that the concrete footer was overkill!

Finishing The Backyard Fire Pit

Next, we sprayed the 8′ sitting area with high strength vinegar to kill off the grass – and then laid in a 2″ layer of limestone screenings to form a strong and hard packing base.  (see: How To Use Vinegar To Kill Grass and Weeds)

Once we layered in the limestone base, we followed with a 2″ top coat of #8 pea gravel.  We have used this combination of limestone screening base / pea gravel top coat with great results to inexpensively build all of our walkways to the garden, coop, and more around the farm.  The limestone screenings form a near concrete-like base, and can be applied right over the existing soil to level it out and create the walkway.

It’s fast, easy and long-lasting and easy to keep completely free of weeds with a few applications of vinegar spray a year.  In square footage cost – it runs right around .10 per square foot to build – and that’s hard to beat!  

Building The Stone Wall

With the sitting area complete – we began the process of the stone wall build. Although it would have been far more simple at this point to purchase flat rock or block – we really wanted the rustic look – and on top of that – rustic is about $500 cheaper!

We used a string level to make sure to keep the final level at the right hiegth.
We used a string level to make sure to keep the final rock course level. 

We used rip-rap mixed size rock found at a nearby quarry. It’s cheap to purchase (about $14 to $20 per ton). We pre-sorted through the rock – setting out the largest stones for the base – and building up from there with the remaining rocks. We set aside the flattest of the rocks to create the top of the pit. 

Setting one course at time – we mixed up a bag of mortar and stacked the wall in place – using only enough mortar to fill in the gaps.  The wall itself is extremely strong sitting on the base – so there is little need for a lot of mortar.  With a little time and patience – we created the pit quickly – and two and a half years later – it is still going on strong!

Total Materials / Cost:

backyard fire pit
We used pea gravel as an inexpensive and attractive top for the sitting area

1 load (1.2 ton) of limestone screenings for walkway bade $4.50
1 load (1.25 tons) of rip rap quarry stone mixed rock – $19.50
5 bags of mortar mix $4.18 ea. – $20.90
1 load of pea gravel (rounded #8) – $19.22
Cost : $64.12 *
We used concrete bags for our footer base which was added about $35 to the project – but you could use easily use a pick up load of sand ($20) or packed dirt (free) for the base.

So what are you waiting for – get busy on creating your own backyard fire pit and start enjoying the great outdoors!

Happy Gardening!  Jim and Mary

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backyard fire pit
The Completed Fire Pit
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