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Don’t Even Think About Building a Backyard Fire Pit Without Doing These Things First

Ready to make a fire pit a part of your backyard entertainment scene? Here's what you need to know before you start.

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Find the Best (and Safest) Location

One of the first things you should do when considering adding a fire pit to your yard is where you’re going to put it. It’s important you choose a space that makes sense for entertaining while also ensuring it’s at least 10 feet away from your house and any tall trees or fences. The area above where the fire will be lit should be completely clear—no low-hanging vegetation. Nothing around the fire pit area should be flammable, so don’t locate it near any tall grass. And, make sure the area is level. Don’t build a fire pit on a slope. Be sure to check out these fire pit safety tips.

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sign Stefan Malloch/Shutterstock

Know Your City Codes

Before you dig in to your fire pit project, it’s important you learn your city’s requirements in order to ensure you comply with fire safety codes. So long as your city ordinance doesn’t have a ban on flames, you should go ahead and speak with the local fire department to get their approval, as well. Be sure to remember these 10 things you should never burn in your backyard fire pit.

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fireDebra Anderson/Shutterstock

Gas or Wood?

The type of fire pit you choose is another big decision. If you’re looking for the most leisurely option, you might like a propane fire pit, since they have easy, instant fires (shown). If you want something that burns brightly, smells delightful and is used for more than just decor, you might want an authentic wood-burning fire pit. This decision can also impact your location choice. Want to install a gas fireplace inside your home? Here’s how.

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kidsMonkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Choose Permanent or Portable

If you’re choosing a gas fire pit, the chances are it’s an aesthetic fixture for your backyard, so you’ll want it to be permanent. However, a portable fire pit is also an option, and while it’s less of a “look,” it’s a more flexible option, whether you want to move the pit to a different part of your yard, take it on the go, or store it for next season. Make a quick fire starter log in a pinch—all you need is an empty toilet paper roll and some lint!

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woodCPCollins Photography/Shutterstock

Choose Your Materials

Going for a permanent pit? Then you might like the look of a stone, brick or concrete fire pit. Prefer something portable? Then you have several metals to choose from. Copper is popular and iron is another great option. You should also consider a fire table, which can be permanent or portable. Consider filling your gas-fueled pit with lava rocks or special fire pit glass. This fire table is a fun build because it entails a variety of skills: woodworking, masonry, metal work and a little mechanical.

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outsideNeil Podoll/Shutterstock

Choose the Right Size

Choosing the right size fire pit is important for many reasons. You want to ensure it makes enough of a statement without interrupting the flow of your yard. However, if it’s too small it may not be ideal for a big group gathering, that will ultimately cause some people to quite literally feel left out in the cold. Fire pits come in all shapes and sizes. Check out some of the best available fire pits to get some ideas for your own fire pit.

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chairs randy andy/Shutterstock

Select Furniture

So you know where you want it, what size it should be, and the materials you’ll use, but what about furniture? Once you know the big stuff, you can coordinate your furniture. Surely a bigger fire pit needs more seating. A more elegant pit needs more refined decor. A portable, rustic fire pit will do just fine with some basic but comfortable pieces — or even eclectic backyard furnishings for a casual setting. Build this simple, attractive stone fire pit ring with retaining wall stone surrounded by flagstone, creating the perfect spot for family gatherings.

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night Artazum/Shutterstock

Choose the Right Outdoor Lighting

While a fire will provide plenty of light once you’re around it, stepping outside of its halo makes for dark and uncertain surroundings for your guests. Be sure you have enough lighting throughout your backyard that doesn’t take away from the coziness of the flames of the fire, but allows everyone to make their way to other parts of the yard or inside. Light posts, overhead stringed lights or torches are all great options. A fire pit can be the centerpiece of a backyard landscape. Check out this collection of fire pits to get more inspiration.

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flame photocrazed_jls/Shutterstock

Always Keep Safety in Mind

When it comes to fires, safety is always of the utmost importance. Be sure you have a checklist on hand that keeps you aware of the wind direction before you light a fire, reminds you and others not to use flammable fluids to light or relight fires, helps you avoid flammable clothing or any loose-fitting clothing, tells you to avoid using soft woods like pine or cedar, and reminds everyone to ensure children and pets are at least three feet away from the fire. Here’s how to prevent home fires.

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The last thing you can focus on is gathering your fire pit accessories. Along with a spark screen and metal log poker it’s a good idea to have long leather gloves (if you have to grab a log that topples), a garden hose you can turn on quickly and a supply of fuel (wood or gas).

Once you’ve got the safety accessories you can move on to the fun stuff like hot dog roasting skewers, s’mores and popcorn makers!

Build a DIY fire pit for not much more than a store-bought fire ring. With tips from a veteran bricklayer. Here’s how to make a DIY fire pit.

Photo: Courtesy of Coleman

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Alexa Erickson
Alexa is an experienced lifestyle and news writer, currently working with Reader's Digest, Shape Magazine and various other publications. She loves writing about her travels, health, wellness, home decor, food and drink, fashion, beauty and scientific news. Follow her traveling adventures on Instagram: @living_by_lex, send her a message: [email protected] and check out her website:

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