Weekend Project: DIY Fire Pit with Grill

Find your summer recipe for backyard fun in these simple plans for a DIY fire pit. You can take this weekend project to an even higher level by installing an optional grill to hone your outdoor cooking skills.

| June/July 2015

Enjoy the great outdoors in the comfort of your own backyard by rustling up this weekend project for a DIY fire pit with optional grill. A backyard fire pit can be your family’s favorite spot for conversation, relaxation and cooking — and you don’t have to limit the menu to marshmallows and hot dogs, because the pivoting, adjustable grate will make your outdoor cooking options endless. Or, if you’d prefer to create an evening gathering spot, you can build only the fire ring without the cooking grate.

DIY Fire Pit

1. Go shopping. Follow the Meat Smoker Materials List. Buy a metal fire-ring insert at a home center, farm supply store or garden center, or create your own by cutting down a culvert or a 55-gallon drum. Select trapezoid-shaped retaining-wall blocks for the surround. To make certain they’ll create a tight circle around your fire-ring insert, check the manufacturer’s literature or lay out some blocks in the store. If you’re building the metal cooking grate assembly, note that fittings and pipe sections with pre-threaded ends are available in a range of sizes. Use the “black iron” variety, because galvanized pipe can emit harmful fumes when heated.

2. Lay out the site. First, determine the overall dimensions of the fire pit by adding the diameter of the fire-ring insert and the width of the retaining-wall blocks. Pound a stake into the ground to indicate the center of the ring. Hook one end of a tape measure on a nail driven into the stake, and use it as a gigantic compass to scratch two circles into the ground: one to inscribe the circumference of the metal fire-ring insert, and the other to inscribe the outside circumference of the blocks. You can also mark the perimeters with stakes. The area between the circles is where you’ll need to excavate in Step 3. If you prefer, you can dig out a much larger area to create a firebreak between your fire pit blocks and surrounding vegetation, and to give you space to create an easy-to-level gravel surface on which to set benches and chairs.

3. Excavate the area between the circles to a depth of 6 inches. Add 4 inches of gravel. Even out the gravel using a level taped to a long, straight 2-by-4. If you don’t intend to build a cooking grate, skip ahead to Step 7.

4. Dig a hole. Use a posthole digger to dig a 6- to 8-inch-diameter hole that’s 18 to 24 inches deep for the iron pipe sleeve that will support the cooking grate assembly. The ideal position for the pipe sleeve is just kissing the inner surface of the metal fire-ring insert. Insert the pipe sleeve so it’s level with the top of the metal fire ring (or slightly taller) and stands perfectly plumb. Mix and pour the concrete to fill the hole around the pipe; keep the top of the concrete just below the soil surface so it won’t interfere with the metal fire ring and blocks when you install them.

5. Build the pivoting cooking grate assembly. Use standard iron pipe and fittings, as shown in the cooking grate assembly drawing above. Thread the parts together and tighten all the joints firmly with pipe wrenches. (You can fiddle with the size and design to match your site and cooking needs.)

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