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Building a Fire Pit: The Basics

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Summer is finally here and with it comes longer days and barbeques with friends and family.  There’s nothing better than sitting around a nice fire and enjoying the cool summer breeze while you reminisce with your friends and family.  Fire pits are a great addition to any backyard, and building a fire pit can save you some money versus buying a smaller, flimsy one at the store while giving your backyard a personal touch. Make sure to visit Time Equipment Rental and Sales for all of your equipment rental needs.

There are tons of different designs you can choose when building a fire pit.  Instead of trying to cover every design, we’re simply going to cover building a circular fire pit because they’re the most popular.  Choose whatever design fits the style of your home and your own personal taste. 

Before building a fire pit, you need to choose the spot in your backyard.  There are a couple of things you should NOT DO.  DO NOT place your fire pit below power lines or low hanging branches.  DO NOT build your fire pit on top of a septic tank or drain field.  Avoid building a fire pit next to a wellhead or property line.  Most city codes require building a fire pit a certain distance away from your house and your neighbor’s property line.  Check with your city or with your fire department to learn about the code requirements in your area.  As with any project that requires digging, make sure you won’t be digging or building a fire pit over any buried utility lines. 

Choose a spot for your fire pit that’s relatively level.  If you’re already using some of our equipment rentals for your landscaping, make sure you’ve created a level surface.  It’s also a good idea to take a note of the wind a few times a day at your chosen spot, mostly to avoid smoke blowing into your home.  Once you’ve picked out a spot for building a fire pit, take a stake or piece of rebar and pound it into the ground.  Decide how big you want the total diameter of your fire pit to be and tie a piece of twine to the rebar.  While keeping the twine taut, walk around the circumference of the circle using the post as your center and use spray paint to draw an outline on the ground.  An equipment rental company can provide you with all the tools you need if you plan on building a fire pit that requires more excavation.  Dig out the circle to a depth of about 6 in.  Once you have the area dug out, you’ll want to make another circle.  This time, you’ll use half the distance of twine you used the first time (if your original length of twine was 5 ft, your new length of twine will measure 2.5 ft).  Use the spray paint to create another circle.  This inner circle will show you where your inner fire pit wall will be. 

Now, it’s time to pour a foundation.  Make sure you’ve got the proper tools to pour concrete.  Our concrete equipment rental tools include trowels, floats, mixers, and more.  Mix concrete with water until you reach the consistency of peanut butter.  Pour the concrete between the outer edge and the spray painted circle and make sure it’s level with the ground.  Leave the inner circle bare for drainage purposes.  Keep filling the space between the two circles with concrete until it’s about 1.5 in. below ground level.  To reinforce the concrete foundation, it’s a good idea to press some rebar into the wet cement.  Once that’s done, smooth the area over and let the concrete dry for 24 hours.

After you’ve let the concrete dry for 24 hours, it’s time to get back to work.  Some retailers sell stone blocks that are cut to fit other each other.  This stone will save you time because you won’t need mortar.  All of the pieces fit together and you’ll only need a bit of masonry adhesive for the blocks and capstones.  However, if you decide to go a more natural looking route, then you’re going to want to place your stones so that they’re staggered and mixed by color.  Choose faces that match the curvature of your outline and ones that you think are attractive.  You might need to use a chipping hammer to help shape some of the natural stones.  Place about 2 in. of mortar on the foundation and begin laying your first few stones.  Work your way around the perimeter, fitting stones together.  Secure them with mortar, and remove any excess from the seams.  Once you have the first few layers of stone in place, you can start building your inner wall.  Use fire brick and make sure each one is level as you fill the gaps in between with wet mortar.  Scrape away any excess mortar.  Measuring the inside and outside edges of the wall every now and then is a good way to make sure the wall is keeping a consistent thickness and circular shape.   

As you raise the bricks and the natural stones, be sure to fill in any gaps between the stones and brick with mortar. Staggering the seams of the stones and bricks makes the structure more stable and gives it a nicer look. Remove any excess mortar from between the stones.  Once finished, you’ll need to lay capstones.  Spread about an inch of mortar on top of the structure and lay some flat fieldstones that you’ve pre-selected.  Make sure the top layer is a flat, even surface and fill in any gaps between the stones with mortar.

Once you’ve finished building a fire pit, you can focus on some of the finishing touches.  Spray the interior of the pit with black, high-heat oven paint and fill the bottom of the fire pit with an inch or two of river rock. Clear away some of the loose debris on the exterior of the fire pit with a paint brush.  Lightly spray down the exterior of the fire pit to remove any excess mortar.

Building a fire pit can seem like a daunting process, but when you break down the steps, it’s fairly simple.  Make sure you have the right equipment for all of your summer projects by visiting Time Equipment Rental & Sales.  We’re located at 311 N. Cambell, Rapid City, SD 57701.  Visit our website to check out our complete line of equipment, give us a call at 605.348.2360 with any questions you might have, and like us on Facebook to stay up to date with everything Time Equipment related!


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