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How to Build a Stone Fire Ring

Build this simple, attractive fire ring with retaining wall stone surrounded by flagstone, creating the perfect spot for cookouts, family gatherings and casual conversation. We'll show you how to build the fire ring so it's safe and durable, so you can enjoy relaxing fires year after year.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Site planning

Begin your planning with a call to your local building department to learn about local fire restrictions. Many regions require burning permits and restrict the size of a fire ring.

Choose an area that's about 18 ft. in diameter and relatively flat. Be sure to locate the fire ring away from trees, bushes and buildings. Remember that burning wood snaps and pops, sending sparks into the air.

Drive a pipe at the center and mark out a 9-ft. radius circle (Photo 1). Remove the sod or plant material and enough dirt so the paving stones you've chosen are flush with the surrounding grass when set in 1 in. of sand (Photos 2 and 3). The sod cutter we show operates with a firm stomp on the crossbar. It takes a little practice and strength to cut the sod smoothly. Wear heavy boots and gloves when using it. A good shovel is easier to use but quite a bit slower.

While you want your fire ring to sit level, the surrounding flagstone sitting area can follow the contours of the yard, its edges blending with the sod (Photo 3). However, if you have from 1 to 3 ft. of rise over the 18-ft. diameter of the sitting area, consider excavating the high side to keep the sitting area reasonably level. Then build a small retaining wall to hold back the soil. This actually makes for a nice design. The retaining wall becomes a sitting area as well as a shelf and serving counter.

Listen to a crackling fire on a cool evening.

Listen to a crackling fire on a cool evening.

The Beauty of a Fire Ring

An outdoor fire is a natural gathering spot for family and friends, whether for a cookout or casual conversation on a cool evening.

You can make those gatherings more comfortable and safe by building a simple fire ring with retaining wall stone. To complete the setting, we'll show you how to surround the ring with flagstone. It more comfortably accommodates chairs and benches and eliminates the inevitable mud pit that comes with wet weather. This project requires no special tools or skills. In fact, the primary tool for this project is a strong back! You’ll be lifting and moving heavy stone, both for the fire ring and for the surround. Rent or borrow a two-wheel dolly to ease the load if you have to move the stone far. A manual sod cutter ($15 per day rental; Photo 2) simplifies the digging, but it also takes some strength to operate. A good shovel is easier to use but quite a bit slower.

Assemble the ring

Lay the stones in a circle to determine how large to make the ring. There's no exact rule here. A 42-in. inner diameter works well, but you can adjust the size according to preference and code. Measure the radius of the circle and then mark this circle at the center of your fire ring (Photo 5).

To avoid pinched toes or fingers, limit the height of the ring to about 12 in., or two rows of stone. If you go higher, keep in mind that the stones can slip off and fall, especially if you use smaller, less stable stones.

It's important to set the stones on a level bed of sand to keep the base stones stable and the joints tight. Stretch a string tightly across the circle to establish the height of the sod, and follow Photo 4 to create the sand bed. Use a carpenter's level to accurately align the tops of the first row of stones (Photo 4). Minimize the gaps between stones. The second row goes up fast—you simply set it on top of the first.

Lay the sitting area

Many types of materials will make a nice sitting area: various gravels; stone, brick or concrete pavers; flagstones; or even poured concrete. Irregular flagstones with grass planted between them gave us an attractive, informal look. A flagstone sitting area is easy to lay and easy to maintain. Just run the lawn mower over the stones to trim the grass.

Set the flagstones in a bed of sand, letting them follow the contour of the ground (Photos 7 and 8). To minimize tripping, make a special effort to keep the edges flush.

Because we wanted a finished look right away, we meticulously cut and fitted sod between the stones. In truth, it's a whole lot easier to completely fill the gaps with topsoil and sow grass seed. Or, instead of grass, you might consider ground covers suitable for your climate.

Finally, add about 4 in. of sand or gravel to the inside of the fire ring to raise the level of the fire. This will make it easier to tend. Then build a fire on the next cool evening and see how many neighbors it attracts.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • Tape measure
    • Level
    • Garden rake
    • Wheelbarrow
    • Safety glasses
    • Sledgehammer
    • Spade

Dolly, Sod cutter

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • 24 granite retaining wall stones (6-1/2 x 8 x 14 in.)
    • 200 sq.ft. of flagstone
    • 1-1/2 yards of sand
    • Marking spray paint

Comments from DIY Community Members

Share what's on your mind and see what other DIYers are thinking about.

1 - 5 of 5 comments
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August 25, 8:25 PM [GMT -5]

Hard to beat the top ring of a 55 gal drum. You can move it, put a grill on it, and do what you want. Easy to move and clean out the ashes.

April 21, 8:40 PM [GMT -5]


Is it the fire pit from May 2011 issue?


April 25, 10:21 PM [GMT -5]

Can't wait to do it this weekend! "Thanks F-Handyman"

August 15, 9:00 PM [GMT -5]

I would like to build the fire pit featured in the Sept 14, 2011 issue of Dream Backyards. I could not find it on your site, yet that is where the magazine tells you where to look????
Could you possible email where I might find the instruction on that particular fire Pit?

July 21, 3:25 PM [GMT -5]

As much as I want to do this project, I have to wonder if it would survive an Alaskan winter. We can get down to 30 below here in Anchorage and the ground will heave as well and I really don't want to have to re-level the stones in the springtime.

Is there anything that I can do up here?

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How to Build a Stone Fire Ring

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