A fire pit makes a useful, versatile, and visually appealing addition to any backyard or residential outdoor space.
Installing a fire pit in your yard will provide you with a source of warmth and light for nights spent relaxing outdoors or a place to toast marshmallows and cook over in the summer months.
Fire pits can be bought fully constructed from home and garden decor retailers, or you can choose to build your own.
Regardless of which method of installation you choose, you’ll need to know a few basics about fire pits, their legality, spatial restrictions, and the best fire pit paving materials.
Read on for more information on how to set up a fire pit in your backyard, what kind of bricks to use, and more!
Can I Put a Fire Pit in my Backyard?
First and foremost, let’s get the legal aspect out of the way. While a fire pit is, of course, a potential fire hazard, it is completely legal to have a fire pit in your backyard across the United States.
However, there are certain legal restrictions and requirements that need to be adhered to, and these vary between States.
For instance, the Unified Fire Authority in Utah states that homeowners can install fire pits in their backyards as long as the pit’s fuel area does not surpass 2 feet in height and has a diameter of under 3 feet.
Before starting to set up a fire pit in your backyard, you should verify the legal size restrictions in place in your State of residence.
Regardless of where you live, though, one thing you will always need to make sure of is that your fire pit is far enough away from your home and other structures to mitigate the risk of dangerous and destructive situations.
Your fire pit should also be 10 feet or more away from your home. The same distance should be observed between any other potentially flammable structure, such as sheds or fences.
Do I Need to Dig a Hole for a Fire Pit?
If you are building an in-ground fire pit yourself, you will need to dig a hole in your yard.
The size of the hole you will need to dig may depend on the size regulations for fire pits in your area. However, the ground hole for the average fire pit should be between 6 and 10 inches deep.
For an above-ground fire pit, digging a hole is not necessary. However, when preparing your yard for an above-ground pit, you may need to cut any grass growing in the designated area and, if necessary, level the ground so that your pit has an even surface as its foundation.
Preparing the ground in your backyard for a fire pit doesn’t end at simply deciding whether or not to dig, however. Depending on what kind of fire pit you’re building, you may need to take a couple of extra steps to ensure long-lasting and aesthetically pleasing results.
For instance, once you’ve dug your pit, you may wish to layer the inside of the hole with concrete for extra stability and longevity.
Do I Have to Use Fire Bricks for a Fire Pit?
Using fire bricks for a fire pit is usually recommended, but it’s not strictly necessary.
The reason why fire bricks are such a popular choice for building fire pits is that, as their name implies, they are fire-resistant.
The flame-resistant properties of fire brick are due to the use of fire clay in their construction. Fire clay is a refractory clay consisting of hydrous aluminum silicates and, in some cases, silica.
Because fire clay is a refractory clay type, fire bricks are often referred to as refractory bricks.
Fire or refractory bricks are able to hold their own against extreme temperatures and also have a low thermal conductivity rating, which means that the actual structure of your fire pit won’t get too hot, and the heat generated by the fire will be used efficiently rather than being absorbed into the bricks.
If you can get your hands on fire bricks for your fire pit, we would highly recommend that you do so. Using fire bricks to construct your pit will extend its longevity and reduce the amount of maintenance you’ll need to conduct in the long term, which is always a good thing.
However, it’s true that fire bricks are typically much more expensive than other brick types, so it’s understandable that not everybody will want to use them as a first choice.
Luckily, there are other materials you can use to build your fire pit that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
Generally speaking, you will want to use non-porous brick or stone materials for your fire pit. The fewer pores a material has, the less water and other substances it will absorb, which makes it less likely to react chemically with fire.
Granite, for example, is a safe choice, as is slate - although the latter isn’t as physically strong as some of the other fire-pit-friendly stone materials on the market, so while it’s unlikely to be damaged by heat, it’s susceptible to other forms of wear.
In short, you can use regular pavers to build your fire pit as long as they are heat-resistant and non-porous.
Is Concrete OK for a Fire Pit?
We’ve listed a couple of materials above that can be used for fire pits. So, hopefully, you’ll now have an idea of which direction you want to go in when it comes to your pit construction.
However, you may be wondering why we didn’t include concrete as a potential fire brick substitute.
The reason we haven’t recommended concrete as a good material to use when building a fire pit is that concrete is not a completely fireproof material.
This may come as a surprise to some of our readers since concrete is usually considered to be a highly durable and wear-resistant material - and in most cases, it is.
Concrete won’t burst into flames when exposed to fire, but as the aggregates used in concrete heat up over time, they can explode, damaging the structure of your pit.
That’s why, even though concrete has a good level of flame resistance in general, we still wouldn’t recommend making it the main material in your fire pit.
What is a Good Size for a Fire Pit Patio?
If you’re thinking about installing a fire pit into your patio, you’ll need to think carefully about sizes.
Because fire pits need to be kept at least 10 feet away from houses and other structures, and because patios are typically laid out in close proximity to their homes, you should take careful measurements of your patio before deciding on the placement of your fire pit.
The average fire pit usually isn’t larger than 5 feet in diameter, so this is roughly the maximum space you’ll need to allow for the fire pit itself.
Then, once the pit has been accounted for, you should also make sure that there is enough room to leave 10 feet of space between the pit any other garden structure or furniture.
It’s all very well having your fire pit 15 feet away from your house, but if it’s only 5 feet away from your garden shed, you’ll have a potentially very dangerous situation on your hands at the first gust of wind.
So, if your patio makes up the entirety of your outdoor space, the patio size we would recommend for building a fire pit is roughly 25 x 25 feet (perhaps a little less if your fire pit is on the smaller side).
On the other hand, if your patio only represents some of your backyard space (for example, you might have a patio connected to your home, surrounded by an extra area of grass), you might not need to adhere to these measurements.
The bottom line is, as long as there is always at least 10 feet between your fire pit and anything that might catch on fire, you’re probably good to go.
What is the Best Base for a Fire Pit?
From our research, we can conclude that the best base for a fire pit is fire brick. It’s the most heat-resistant and the least thermally conductive. So, overall, it’s the safest, most durable, and most effective option.
As long as it won’t come into direct contact with the flame, you could use concrete as a base, if not in the construction of the pit itself.
However, in many cases, homeowners don’t have the luxury of overhauling their garden or patio for a surface made entirely of fire brick or another heat-resistant material.
That’s why home and garden improvement manufacturers have started to manufacture fire pit bases that you can put underneath your above-ground fire pit to protect the grass or paving underneath.
This fire pit mat from FcrenHuang is a great budget-friendly option. It’s made of aluminum foil, reflects 95% of heat, and can withstand temperatures up to 1800°F!
Alternatively, this more expensive heat shield from Titan Great Outdoors combines diamond-plated aluminum with a steel frame for maximum durability and heat resistance. It’s elevated off the ground, providing additional protection for anything underneath.
Based on everything that we’ve talked about in today’s article, we would recommend using fire brick as a construction material or base for your fire pit where possible.
If fire brick isn’t an option for you, some regular paving materials such as granite (as a construction material) or concrete (as a base) can be used. Any material you choose should be non-porous, water-resistant, and have a good level of fire resistance.
Always remember to keep your fire pit at least 10 feet from any housing or flammable structures, including trees, and be sure to conduct measurements of your yard or patio prior to installation.