How to build a backyard fire pit


Something felt different on Sunday. The air was heavy and warm. The breeze tamed, missing the bite it had just days earlier. The scent of fresh-cut grass and spring flowers filled the air. Daffodils smiled in full bloom, adorning the flowerbeds they call home.

Clearly, spring is here!

The weather finally broke this weekend. While I was enjoying the sights, smells, and warmth, I couldn’t help thinking about the summer nights that are quickly approaching. Before long, it will be nice enough to roast marshmallows around a fire.

Scanning my yard, I couldn’t help noticing I’m in need of a fire pit.

Selecting a site

Installing a fire pit doesn’t have to be incredibly complicated or expensive. But before you get started, reach out to your local fire department and get information on your city or township ordinances related to recreational fires. More than likely, you will have to comply with the Ohio Fire Code, which is adopted as a statewide law by the Ohio Division of State Fire Marshal.

Understanding your restrictions makes choosing a location easier and saves you from having to relocate a noncompliant pit later.

A contained fire, such as and outdoor fireplace or barbecue pit, must be at least 15 feet from any structure or combustible material.

An open fire must be at least 25 feet from a structure, wood fence, neighboring structure or combustible materials. Additionally, any conditions that could cause a fire to spread within 25 feet of the fire must be eliminated prior to ignition.

Aside from making sure your fire pit is away from located buildings, you want to make sure it’s clear of low-hanging tree branches above and utility lines below.

Once you’ve targeted a location that meets all of the above requirements, you’re ready to prepare the site.

Clearing the area

Before you start constructing the site, it’s important to make sure the area is clear of any unnecessary debris. Your fire needs to be at least 10 feet from any combustible material, including logs, stumps trees or forest debris.

You can start clearing the area by scraping away a 3-foot space for your campfire right down to the soil. Then remove all pine needles, dead grass, leaves twigs and any other combustible material, creating a 10-foot bubble around its location.

Digging a base

The Ohio Fire Code defines a recreational fire as having a total fuel area of three feet or less in diameter and two feet or less in height. That’s why when you’re digging your base, there’s no reason to make it any larger.

Once you have your circle scraped off, you want to dig down about 12 inches. Next, pour sand into the bottom of your hole so that it’s evenly covered.

Installing a fire ring

After you’re finished digging your pit and you’ve layered the bottom with sand, you can install a fire ring around its perimeter.

One option is simply buying a metal fire ring with the correct diameter to fit around the hole. Or, a more common choice is to encircle the pit with stones. Be sure to stack the stones so they are 12 inches above ground level. Depending on how thick your stones are, you’ll probably end up with two to four layers. You can purchase retaining wall stones at your local hardware store.

After your stone ring is completed or your metal ring is installed around the outside of your pit, pour a 4-inch layer of sand into the ring, covering the first layer.

Additional equipment

Even after you’ve taken precautions and built a safe fire pit, it’s important keep a few tools and something to extinguish the fire on hand. You’ll need a shovel or a rake to condense the fire as it burns. Additionally, you’ll want to keep a fire extinguisher with a minimum of a 4A rating, a garden hose or bucket of sand close.


Lastly, you’ll want to remember to follow your city or township ordinances when burning recreational fires.

Purpose. A recreational fire is defined as an outdoor fire burning materials other than rubbish where the fuel being burned is not contained in an incinerator, outdoor fireplace, barbecue grill or barbecue pit and has a total fuel area of three feet or less in diameter and two feet or less in height for pleasure, religious, ceremonial, cooking, warmth or similar purposes.

Materials to burn. The only material that can be burned is clean dry wood.

Environmental conditions. Your fire may not create hazardous conditions or create an offensive condition that interferes with the neighboring residents’ use and enjoyment of their property.

Supervision. The fire must be constantly attended while burning and extinguished if it is not attended.

Duration. Many city ordinances permit fires to burn for no more than three hours.

The guidelines in your local city or township may vary, so be sure to check with your fire department to make sure you’re in compliance before lighting a fire.


Get our Top Stories in Your Inbox

Next step: Check your inbox to confirm your subscription.



We are glad you have chosen to leave a comment. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated according to our comment policy.

Receive emails as this discussion progresses.