A group of friends gathers around a backyard fire pit for s'mores.

Fire pits instantly transform any yard into a space for family and friends, or a spot to contemplate the starry skies on a summer night. The best news? Building a great backyard fire pit doesn’t require exotic tools or extensive experience. What’s more, a backyard fire pit can be built in almost any environment, and helps homeowners to city-dwellers to suburbanites get outdoors for the summer months, including cooking over the fire. In winter, they are also a great way to warm up with friends.

To help you avoid your pit-building panic, we’ve put together this easy-to-follow guide with four basic steps, from sourcing your materials to finishing the project. When it comes down to it, building a backyard fire pit can be a quick, low-cost project that can be done solo or with minor assistance.

The Process

Landscape photo of a backyard with a fire pit.

Time: Three to four hours, including purchasing materials and tools.

Skill Level: Beginner.

Cost: $15 to $100. Cost varies depending on types of bricks and how many tools are necessary. Expenses will range from $10 with donated or found materials and all tools handy (since you’ll only need to buy gravel) to approximately $120 if all tools and bricks need to be purchased new. On average, most people will spend $75 or less.

Materials: In essence, a backyard fire pit is basically a gussied up campfires, but getting good quality rock or brick is important. It’s far easier to build a backyard fire pit with brick that stacks easily, so we recommend buying large bricks from a home repair and maintenance supplier.

Since all natural rocks will insulate against flame, you can also use found rock (like river rock) or recycled rock (like urbanite, or old sidewalk) as an alternative to brick. That said, for the best looking addition to your yard we recommend you use neutral colored bricks. In addition to the brick or rock you choose, you’ll need a level (there’s an app for that!), shovel, trowel, tamp, stakes and string, and gravel. If you choose to go with donated or found materials, consider how you will arrange or stack them.

Design: The first step is to create a circle of the size you desire. Do this by sinking a stake in the center of where you want your pit and attaching a string. An ideal backyard fire pit is four to five feet in diameter, so make your string long enough to manage half that distance. Tie one end of string to the stake in the middle (sink it into the ground) and the other side of the string to a trowel (string should stretch between two and two and a half feet from stake to trowel). Trace a circle around the stake with trowel.

Construction: Find a level patch in your yard. Dig from six inches to one foot down, removing grass, surface leaves or sand as you go. This is makes room for your foundation. Ensure the dug-out circle is level, then add one to two inches of gravel (large of small) and spread evenly.

After the gravel is spread, stack bricks, one layer at a time, around the circle, leaving a couple of inches of gravel showing outside them. Depending on how high you’d like your backyard fire pit to reach, stack the bricks between two and four feet high. Mortar is optional, depending on how well your bricks fit together; if you do mortar, go with a fire-resistant variety.

The Result

Group of friends sits around a backyard fire pit.

Finishing: You can layer river rock or other decorative rock around the outside base, chisel your initials on a brick, or add a fire-resistant stucco to the exterior of your backyard fire pit to personalize it and seal it completely. Any fire-resistant material, including glass, can be used to illuminate your backyard creation. If you’ve chosen to stack river rock or urbanite, glass medallions or bottles can be inserted into the spaces for a colorful look. Fire grates or covers can also be purchased to enhance the look and safety of your backyard fire pit.

Done with your custom backyard fire pit? Don’t forget the chairs! GCI’s  campfire chairs were made for all of your fire pit dreams.