Design a fire pit into your landscape

You can have your fire pit built for you, build your own or just buy a fun portable fire pit to use like this one.Credit: Photo by Jane Gates

One of the best parts of having a backyard is that you can make your outdoor space into whatever you want. You can build a swimming pool, an outdoor room, a planter to grow flowers or vegetables or you can design an area for sports, children or pets. Some aspects of building a landscape can be very costly, some labor-intensive, while others can be easily built as a do-it-yourself projects.

One of the more fun elements you can add to your landscape is a fire pit. It can function like a barbecue for cooking or simply be a fun or romantic place for gathering around a fire. You can build an elaborate construction with cement, stone or specially fabricated metal. Or you can buy a small portable fire pit that can be supported on a balcony or outdoor patio. You can also build your own fire pit using natural stone stacked as walls around layers of gravel and sand, styled on the simple structure of a camp fire.

To build a stone, do-it-yourself fire pit, you can dig a hole a couple of feet deep. At the bottom of the pit you can pour a layer of stones that are roughtly two to three inches big. Then follow the base layer with one of gravel. Make your layers at least two to three inches deep. Ideally a third layer can be added of builder's sand. Continue layering right up to the top, keeping the upper layer even with the soil level. Sand is the best layer to finish with, especially if you want to cover the surface with a decorative material. Then stack your outer ring of rocks in tiers around the edges. You can line the inside of the stone that walls your fire pit with metal sheeting for extra heat retention and safety. Be careful if you decide to fill the spaces between your stones with cement. The cement will stand up better if it is applied on the outside of the rock rather than on the inside where heat and flames can burn and chip the concrete lose.

Whether you build your own fire pit, have one built for you or buy a decorative portable fire pit, make sure it is placed where it will be comfortable and convenient to use yet in an area where fire, flames, heat or even potential flying sparks or ash will be kept safely away from structures like your home.

The surface material you use for the interior of your fire pit can be decorative as well as practical. You can use lava rock, decorative stone or even fire glass as a material to coat the sand and gravel beneath. The glass can be tumbled glass or smoothed, chipped glass and can glow in any color or assortment of colors to make your fire pit colorful. Any of these surface coatings will support heat yet look ornamental even when the fire pit remains unlit.