Outdoor-fire season is here. And while diehards are sure to be seen dusting off their chiminea and oiling up their Weber, a number of Canadians will be looking to break out their tools to create their own firepit this season for a more old-school, back-to-the-land feel. Whether you plan to roast marshmallows or are gearing up for the ultimate grilling experience, here’s how to build it right.
Step 1: Location, location, location
Before doing anything else, check with your city for local regulations and bylaws concerning outdoor fires. In some areas, a permit is required or outdoor burning is prohibited.
Once you’ve got the OK, look for a safe, convenient location for your firepit, though guidelines might also exist for this in your community. Your firepit should be set in an open area away from houses, low tree limbs and anything else that can catch fire.
Next, decide where the centre of your pit will be and note the radius by placing a stake in the middle and attaching a string marked with measurements to the stake. Trace the circumference of the circle with paint, chalk or flour. Aim for a diameter between one and two metres (three and six feet)—large enough for the fire yet small enough to keep the gathering intimate.
Step 2: Find your footing
Excavate the area inside the circle to a depth of 15 to 20 cm (six to eight inches), so the top of the base row of firepit bricks reaches the surface level. That will create a strong base, so the wall won’t sink into the soil.
Install the first row of bricks according to manufacturer’s instructions. For stability, make sure that the first row is level from front to back and side to side, then install the second row, staggering the bricks so the vertical joints are offset, which will strengthen the wall. Continue in this fashion until the firepit has reached your desired height.
For a permanent pit, you may choose to pour cement and submerge rebar in the wet cement, instead of using the first row of bricks as a footing. For an elaborate pit, install face stones along the outside and heat-resistant firebrick along the inside, creating a more secure structure by using mortar between the face stones and the firebrick. You can also line the firepit with a thick steel ring such as those used for park campfires, to protect the bricks from heat, which can cause the bricks to break down prematurely.
Step 3: Finishing touches
Capstones can be placed on top of the firepit wall for a sophisticated look. Use mortar or construction adhesive to attach the stones to the wall and fill in the joints. When the walls are in place, add gravel to the centre floor. Wait a couple of days before lighting a fire.
What you’ll need
- Permit, if necessary
- Paint, chalk or flour
- Steel ring
- Mortar, industrial adhesive or both
An editor with 15-plus years in the publishing business, Catalina Margulis’ byline spans travel, food, decor, parenting, fashion, beauty, health and business. When she’s not chasing after her three young children, she can be found painting her home, taming her garden and baking muffins.