Admit it – you like fire. It appeals to your more primitive side, the part of you that is proud to claim the caveman as your relative. But it also appeals to your more social side, as a fire sets the perfect mood for relaxing with friends and family. Well, I’ve got good news: if you build a fire ring, you’ll make both sides of your personality happy.
A fire ring is an easy project that you can build in a weekend. While there are endless types and designs ranging from exposed steel rings to complex brick-and-mortar monsters, you can build a great fire ring using basic landscape blocks and capstones found at most home improvement stores. And with a shovel, a level, some adhesive and a little sweat on your part, you can create the perfect backyard bonfire area by following these steps:
Step 1 - Measure and Strip
Use landscaping spray paint to create a circle the same diameter of the ring you want to build. To do this accurately, drive a stake at the center of the proposed ring and tie to it a length of string equal to half of the circle’s planned diameter – for example, if your fire ring will be 48 inches in diameter, make sure your string is 24 inches long. Grab the end of the string and, while pulling it tight, walk around the stake and use the string’s end as a guide for the landscape paint. Once you’ve marked the circle, use a sod cutter or a shovel to remove the turf to a depth of 6 inches; then fill and compact the area with gravel so that it’s level with the surrounding sod.
Step 2 - Create a Base
Lay the first tier of block on the gravel at the perimeter of the circle. Make sure each block is level and aligned with the previous block as you set it in place. Once you’ve laid the first tier, fill any voids within the blocks with gravel. (Not all landscape blocks are hollow, so skip this step if the ones you use are solid.)
Step 3 - Add the Second Tier
Stack the blocks for the second tier so that their ends are staggered in comparison with the blocks beneath them. If the blocks you purchased have a cast lip on their bottom back edges – needed to create a setback when building a retaining wall – use a maul and a cold chisel to break the lip off of the blocks before setting them in place. Again, check for level and alignment as you work around the circle.
Step 4 - Set Capstones and Finish
Use construction adhesive that’s specifically made for landscape block to glue capstones to the top of the second tier. If you need to cut the last capstone to fit – not uncommon when fitting stones in custom installations – use either a maul and a cold chisel or an angle grinder outfitted with a stone cutting wheel to cut the capstone to length.
Fill the center of the pit with 2 inches of gravel. Then once the adhesive has set, build your fire and enjoy its warmth just like your prehistoric relatives.
- Always check with your local building code office to learn the rules for your area. Codes vary greatly from location to location, and you may need a building or zoning permit to install a fire ring.
- Keep your fire ring reasonable in size both in diameter and height. I’ve found that a 42-inch diameter ring that's two tiers tall is a good size for most installations, but again, build yours to match local codes.
- Take your time shopping for block. Some stores may stock curved block that’s specifically built for fire rings, so shop around.
- Don’t use stones from lakes or rivers. While they may look rustic, they can explode when heated.