How To Build a Fire Pit: 2018 Guide, Materials, & Instructions

Disclaimer: Exotic Pebbles and Glass has no expertise with regards to the build of a fire pit. We only have our own experience from which to share. The following is not expert advice. 

Everything TO Know About Building an Outdoor Fire Pit

Something that is able to add value to your home is a well thought out and executed fire place or fire pit in your yard.  These pieces can help accent the natural beauty of the outdoors. They are also able to be a focal point that is able to lighten up any atmosphere.

People are drawn to fire places and pits because they are cozy, intimate, and warm. There are great options for people looking to keep their yard looking sophisticated even when using a fire pit. There is a variety of different aspects that you are going to want to consider before building your own fire area.  The first and most important item is safety, then hardwa

re, fire materials, and the overall design of your fire place. 


Choose: Wood or Gas Fire Pit?

You are going to be faced with a couple choices when it comes to what materials you would like to burn. There are different fuel types available.  Some choices include propane gas, wood, alcohol, or natural gas.  With any of these types of materials there are aspects that are positive and aspects that are negative.

When you are burning wood there is something to consider if your fire pit is concrete.  When you burn wood it is going to create a lot of heat and this is going to make your concrete enlarge.  This fluctuation will eventually cause it to break as there will be small fissures where the concrete was unable to flex.  A good fire pit will have the burner placed higher in the pit so it does not come into contact with the concrete. 


Besides damaging your concrete it can also become very hot if too close to the burner.  Concrete that has been heated is not going to change in color or appearance so it is more likely to be accidentally touched.

You are able to use refractory concrete with fires. It is able to withstand the higher temperatures.  The problem lies with the fact that fire pits are often susceptible to the elements.  When your concrete gets wet from rain it is going to not be able to withstand direct contact with fire. 


Once it is burned it is going to become rough and split.  It is best to stop this by lining your pit with another material. You are going to insulate it with at least four inches of air or even a few inches of lava rock.  Your liner can be metal or fire brick depending on your preference.

Wood Burning Fire Pit

Wood burning is the more natural approach to fire pits, but it can also be the most unpredictable.  You will not be able to turn off a wood burning fire instantaneously.  It can also start to burn out of control if your weather conditions change suddenly.  There are debris that may escape from your pit and cause a wild fire.  This can be remedied by a fire screen.  Your specific area likely has its own laws about burning wood, I would recommend doing research before you invest. 

Propane or Gas Burning Fire Pit

Outdoor Fire Pit – Cobalt Blue Reflective Fire Glass (¼ inch)

You will also have the choice of using a propane based pit.  This type of fuel is a liquid petroleum gas.  When using propane you need to have a ventilated area.  You are going to need at least two different vent holes that are 180 inches away from each other to allow for adequate ventilation.  It needs to be under five inches from the ground and have at least eighteen square inches of space for each vent you have.

If you are going to pair your propane gas with fireglass you will want it to be about a fourth of an inch above your burner.  Using lava rock is recommended and you can have that about three inches deep above the burner.  If you have too much of your material above your burners you risk trapping the gas in your fire pit which could lead to a burst of flames.

When using propane you will need to mix it with air.  This should be done with an air-fuel mixer.  If you fail to use one of these mixers you are going to cause your fire to become very sooty.  The air makes your pit stay more clear of this blackening.  If you are using a fire glass it may begin to look darker as you use it. 

Propane fires are going to run a littler differently than other fires.  It is not ideal for cooking because it is not going to give you that higher temperature fire that is able to burn more cleanly.  Instead they are going to be best used for cosmetically pleasing fires that are going to glow yellow. 

Natural Gas Fire  

picture of Outdoor Fire Pit with Black Fire Glass

Outdoor Fire Pit – Black Fire Glass (Small ¼ inch – ½ inch)

An alternative to propane would be a natural gas.  These are going to give you a much less sooty fire.  Unlike propane natural gas is lighter than air so it is not going to have the dangerous of pooling in non-ventilated areas.  Ir is also cheaper than propane.  Unfortunately you will need to hire a contractor to hard-plumb your natural gas for you.  You are able to use fire glass and lava rock up to three inches above a natural gas burner. 

Alcohol Fuel

Alcohol fuels is another option.  They bring different characteristics to the table.  They are going to seem more like burning a candle when in use, typically you are not going to get a large flame.  The different variations of this fuel are usually more expensive.  These types include fireplace fuel, bioethanol, fire gel, biofuel, spirits, denatured alcohol, and ethanol.  You are able to use these without ventilation inside and out, but you always risk a smaller fire pit being knocked over.

Another aspect of building a fireplace or pit is what hardware goes into them.  There are going to be a variety of parts that you will need.  There are burners, burner pans, igniter, air mixer, valves and piping.  Some pit are lit with the use of a button spark igniter, some a match, and others with an automatic igniter.

A automatic igniter is typically more expensive.  This is because it is wired straight to your burning and you can have your control be further away from your source.  You are also able to buy timers or remote controls to be a further distance away.  There are also safety precautions in many versions called flame sensors.  If your flame does extinguish this sensor will turn off your fuel source.

When choosing a burner lean towards getting one made from stainless steel.  It is going to be better quality.  You can also choose from different sizes or shapes that will alter the heat distribution in your pit.  The burner should be put onto of a stainless steel pan that is going to reinforce it as it works.

The piping is what is going to link the burner to your valves.  There is a ball valve or a key valve which are more likely to be required for use in your area. 

The most important part of using fire places is to remember to be safe.  You are going to need to have a way to shut off your fuel source.  If you choose to use propane you are able to use a quick disconnect to pull the tank away.  If you have a hard-plumb installation you will need a key valve to turn the fuel off and lock it by removing the key.  This method is safer than using an automatic igniter.  These igniters are not able to be controlled by a person as well if there is an unexpected condition. 

One of the fun choices in making a fireplace is choosing what type of material you will burn.  You are able to choose from a variety of materials that are going to give you different colors, sizes, and shapes to create a more unique fire experience.  Make sure the materials you do choose are fire grade.  Materials that cannot be used are gravel, rocks, regular glass, stones, or ceramics.  These materials are more likely to explode when in contact with high heat.

Orient 48 x 70 inches – 90% Privacy

Most fireplace designs are going to be molded for outside use.  You should remember that you are going to have a lot of rain or snow that will collect in or on your pit and there needs to be adequate drainage to reduce damage of your components.  An item that can help this is a metal cover.  They are going to help your pit stay more dry and free of any free floating debris that could clog it. 

These are some basic components that are going to go into your fire place and backyard planning.  If you always keep in mind that safety should be the most important aspect of your fire place you are going to have a great new piece for your yard. You are able to customize these pieces to fit your specific look and design of your theme. Matching landscape glass colors with your fire glass and in turn to any outdoor privacy panels you may include will have your yard looking sophisticated and professionally designed.  There are many different choices in fuels and materials that can be used in fire pits each with their own unique characteristics.