Designing an outdoor fire pit can include many different factors. Are you building a fire pit above ground or actually digging a hole and building a traditional fire pit? Are you planning to build it out of metal or use some sort of stone or brick? Do you want a wood-burning fire pit are one that uses natural gas or propane? You should answer all these questions and others before you ever begin building a fire pit.
Above-Ground Fire Pits
Traditionally an outdoor fire pit was built within a hole or depression. Modern fire pits, however, tend to sit above ground. These versions look more akin to the pot-bellied stoves of a century ago than to traditional fire pits.
As long as you maintain a safety perimeter which is free of combustible materials and tripping hazards, an above-ground fire pit is a safe alternative to building a fire in a hole.
Cinder Block Construction
You should not use cinder blocks, also called concrete blocks. Cinder blocks are not fire-tempered the way brick is. As a result, they have very little tolerance to extreme heat. Repeatedly burning a fire too close to cinder blocks will cause them to crack. When you overheat blocks too many times, they may even start to crumble.
Access and Safety
Keep an open space of at least 5 feet all the way around the fire pit. A surprisingly high number of accidental burns happen when people trip and accidentally fall into a fire, or burn their hands trying to stop a fall. Children in the vicinity of a fire pit need to be well-supervised and should be taught fire safety tips.
Bricks are one of the most versatile building materials for your fire pit. You can place bricks in the ground or around the pit. You can even use them to build a box-like container above ground that keeps the fire controlled.
Many brick fire pits also offer an easy-to-use outside cooking area. A combined fire pit and BBQ grill keeps all outdoor fires in the same location, thereby reducing the hazards to a central location you can supervise more easily.
Table Fire Pits
Some of the safest fire pits are not really pits at all, but raised platforms or tables with holes in the centers. This type of fire pit reduces the tripping hazards considerably. It also makesthe area safer for small children; table fire pits make it more difficult for children to reach the hottest and most dangerous areas.