The Essential Guide to Building a DIY Outdoor Fireplace : Save Money, Gain Ambiance

diy outdoor fireplace

Imagine cozying up on your patio on a cool evening, flames crackling in a beautiful outdoor fireplace you built yourself. A DIY outdoor fireplace is a fantastic way to extend your living space to the outdoors, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere for entertaining friends and family. Building your own outdoor fireplace is not only a rewarding experience, but it can also be significantly more cost-effective than hiring a professional. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know to create your dream DIY outdoor fireplace, from planning and permits to choosing materials and building it step-by-step.

Before diving into the project, it’s important to consider the aesthetic you’re going for and how you plan to use the fireplace. DIY outdoor fireplaces come in a variety of styles and materials to suit any taste and budget. Brick and stone fireplaces offer a classic and timeless look, while prefabricated kits can provide a more modern aesthetic with easier assembly. Fire pits with a surround are a great option if you’re looking for a more casual gathering space.

In the next section, we’ll delve into the planning stages of your DIY outdoor fireplace project, including safety considerations and design decisions.

Planning Your DIY Outdoor Fireplace

Building a safe and functional DIY outdoor fireplace requires careful planning before you break ground. Here are two key aspects to consider:

Safety First!

  • Local regulations and permits: Always check with your local building department to see if permits are required for constructing a DIY outdoor fireplace. They can also advise you on any specific regulations or codes you need to follow regarding setbacks from property lines, clearances from flammable materials, and fireplace height restrictions.
  • Clearances from flammables: Safety is paramount. Ensure your fireplace will be positioned at a safe distance from your house, fence, trees, and any other flammable objects. Minimum clearance requirements can vary depending on local regulations, but a general rule of thumb is to maintain at least 10 feet from your house and 6 feet from fences and trees.
  • Choosing a safe location: Select a level and stable location for your fireplace, away from overhanging structures or low-hanging branches. Avoid building on slopes or areas with poor drainage.

Deciding on Your Design

Once you’ve addressed safety considerations, it’s time to bring your vision to life! Here are some key factors to think about when designing your DIY outdoor fireplace:

  • Fireplace Style:
    • Brick or stone fireplaces: These classic options offer a timeless aesthetic and excellent heat retention. They require more skill and effort to build but can significantly increase your property value.
    • Prefabricated kits: Prefabricated metal fireplaces are a great choice for beginners. They are easier and faster to assemble compared to brick or stone fireplaces, and they come in a variety of styles and sizes.
    • Fire pit with a surround: Fire pits offer a more casual and rustic aesthetic. They are perfect for roasting marshmallows and enjoying a relaxed outdoor ambiance. Surrounding the fire pit with bricks, stones, or pavers creates a designated seating area and adds a touch of style.
  • Fireplace Size: Consider the available space on your patio and how you plan to use the fireplace. A small, intimate fireplace might be ideal for a cozy corner, while a larger fireplace can accommodate bigger gatherings and provide more heat.
  • Features: Decide on the functionalities you want your fireplace to have. Here are some popular options:
    • Fireplace with chimney: A chimney helps vent smoke and improves air circulation, creating a more comfortable experience.
    • Fire pit with cooking grate: A cooking grate allows you to enjoy the outdoors while grilling or preparing food over an open fire.
    • Storage space for firewood: Built-in firewood storage keeps your fireplace area organized and adds a touch of convenience.

In the next section, we’ll explore the essential considerations you need to make before you start building your DIY outdoor fireplace. This includes choosing the right foundation and materials for your project.

Essential Considerations Before You Build

Before you get down to the exciting building phase of your DIY outdoor fireplace project, there are some crucial groundwork elements to solidify.


A strong and stable foundation is essential for the safety and longevity of your fireplace. The type of foundation you need will depend on your soil conditions and the weight of your chosen fireplace design.

  • Soil Conditions:
    • Sandy soil: Sandy soil generally has good drainage but may require additional support for heavier fireplace structures. Consider laying down a thicker gravel base or using a concrete slab foundation.
    • Clay soil: Clay soil can retain water and may shift over time. It’s essential to ensure proper drainage and consider a crushed rock base or building a raised pad with gravel and compacted soil.
  • Building a Pad:
    • Gravel base: A gravel base is a common foundation option for DIY outdoor fireplaces. Excavate the area according to your fireplace size and desired height. Lay down a weed barrier to prevent weeds from growing through the gravel. Fill the excavated area with at least 4 inches of compacted crushed gravel.
    • Concrete slab foundation: For heavier fireplace structures or if your soil conditions are unstable, a concrete slab foundation is recommended. This is a more complex process, and you might consider hiring a professional to ensure proper pouring and leveling of the concrete.


Choosing the right materials is crucial for the durability and functionality of your DIY outdoor fireplace. Here are some key materials to consider:

  • Firebrick: Firebricks are essential for lining the firebox of your fireplace. They can withstand high temperatures and provide excellent heat insulation.
  • Mortar: Use high-temperature mortar specifically designed for outdoor fireplaces. Regular mortar will not withstand the high heat and can crack over time.
  • Other Materials: The choice of additional materials depends on your design. Here are some common options:
    • Bricks or stones: For a classic fireplace surround.
    • Pavers: For creating a patio area around the fireplace.
    • Lintels or corbels: For supporting the firebox opening, especially in a brick or stone fireplace.

Table: Firebrick Options

Firebrick TypeDescriptionHeat Rating
High alumina firebrickThe most common type, offering excellent heat resistance.Up to 3000°F
Insulating firebrickProvides superior insulation but may not withstand the highest temperatures.Up to 2300°F
Fireclay firebrickA traditional option, good for lower heat applications.Up to 2000°F

By carefully considering your foundation options, material choices and local building codes, you’ll be well on your way to building a safe and stunning DIY outdoor fireplace that you can enjoy for years to come. In the next section, we’ll delve into the step-by-step process of building your fireplace!

Building Your DIY Outdoor Fireplace (Step-by-Step Guide)

Now that you’ve planned your design and chosen the right materials, it’s time to get your hands dirty and start building your DIY outdoor fireplace ! This detailed, step-by-step guide will walk you through the process of constructing your very own DIY outdoor fireplace:

Required Tools:

Before you begin, gather the necessary tools for the job. Here’s a basic list to get you started:

  • Shovel
  • Level
  • Trowel
  • Masonry hammer and chisel (for brick or stone fireplaces)
  • Tape measure
  • Safety glasses
  • Work gloves
  • Wheelbarrow (for transporting materials)
  • Safety mask (for dusty work)
  • Depending on your design, you might also need a concrete mixer or additional tools for cutting and shaping materials.

Step 1: Excavating the Foundation

  1. Refer to your design plans and mark the outline of your fireplace on the ground.
  2. Using a shovel, carefully excavate the soil according to the dimensions of your foundation. Consider the depth needed for your chosen base (gravel or concrete slab) and the thickness of your firebrick walls.
  3. Ensure the bottom of the excavated area is level. Use a level to check for any uneven spots and adjust accordingly.
  4. Once you’ve achieved a level base, compact the soil firmly to create a stable foundation.

Step 2: Building the Base

  1. For a gravel base:
    • Lay down a weed barrier over the compacted soil to prevent weed growth.
    • Fill the excavated area with at least 4 inches of compacted crushed gravel. You can use a tamper to ensure the gravel is evenly packed.
  2. For a concrete slab foundation:
    • Important: If you’re not comfortable working with concrete, consider hiring a professional to ensure proper pouring and leveling.
    • Following the manufacturer’s instructions, mix the concrete according to the recommended ratio.
    • Pour the concrete into the excavated area, ensuring it fills the space evenly. Use a level to check for a flat surface and screed the concrete to achieve a smooth finish.
    • Allow the concrete to cure completely according to the manufacturer’s recommended curing time (usually several days).

Step 3: Building the Firebox

This step is specific to brick or stone fireplaces. Prefabricated fireboxes will have their own assembly instructions.

  1. Lay the firebricks in a running bond pattern (each brick overlaps the one below it by half) using high-temperature mortar.
  2. Start by laying the firebricks along the perimeter of the firebox floor.
  3. Continue building the firebox walls, ensuring the bricks are plumb (perfectly vertical) and the courses (rows of bricks) are level.
  4. Cut firebricks as needed to fit around the firebox opening and any curves or arches in your design.
  5. Use lintels or corbels made of steel or concrete to support the firebox opening, especially if the opening is wide.

Step 4: Building the Chimney

  1. Continue laying the firebricks upwards to create the chimney flue. Maintain a consistent flue size throughout the chimney.
  2. As you build the chimney, remember to leave space for smoke to flow freely. Consult your local building codes for specific flue size requirements.
  3. Once you’ve reached the desired chimney height, cap it off with a chimney cap made of metal or precast concrete. The chimney cap helps prevent rain, debris, and small animals from entering the flue.

Step 5: Creating the Surround

  1. Depending on your design, you can use bricks, stones, or pavers to create the fireplace surround.
  2. Lay the chosen material in a pattern that complements your fireplace design. Use mortar to secure the surround elements in place.
  3. You can add a decorative mantel or hearth to your fireplace surround for a more finished look.

Remember: Allow the mortar to cure completely before using your fireplace for the first time. Curing times can vary depending on the mortar type and weather conditions, so refer to the manufacturer’s instructions.

In the next section, we’ll cover the finishing touches and important safety tips for using your DIY outdoor fireplace responsibly.

Finishing Touches and Safety Tips

The final steps in creating your DIY outdoor fireplace involve adding some finishing touches and ensuring you prioritize safety when using your new outdoor centerpiece.

Letting the Fireplace Cure:

  • Patience is key! Before you get too excited and light your first fire, it’s crucial to allow the mortar time to cure completely. Curing allows the mortar to harden and reach its full strength, ensuring the structural integrity of your fireplace.
  • Curing times can vary depending on the mortar type and weather conditions. Generally, high-temperature mortar takes 24-48 hours to cure in dry weather, but it’s always best to refer to the manufacturer’s specific recommendations.

Choosing Firewood:

  • Not all firewood is created equal. For optimal fire performance and minimal smoke, it’s important to use seasoned hardwood. Seasoned firewood has been dried for at least 6 months, allowing the moisture content to decrease. This results in a cleaner burn with less smoke and more heat.

Fire Safety Tips:

  • Fireplace Safety is Paramount:
    • Always keep a fire extinguisher nearby and readily accessible in case of emergencies.
    • Never leave a burning fire unattended. Even if you plan to step away for a short while, extinguish the fire completely before leaving the area.
    • Properly dispose of ashes. Ashes can stay hot for embers for days, so ensure they are cool to the touch before discarding them in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid. Place the container away from flammable objects.

By following these safety precautions, you can ensure enjoyable and safe evenings spent cozying up next to your DIY outdoor fireplace.

Enjoying Your DIY Outdoor Fireplace

Congratulations! You’ve successfully built your very own DIY outdoor fireplace. Now it’s time to reap the rewards and enjoy the ambiance and functionality it brings to your outdoor space.

  • Increased Property Value: A well-built outdoor fireplace can add significant value to your property, especially if it’s constructed with high-quality materials and complements your home’s overall aesthetic.
  • Creating Memories: Your DIY outdoor fireplace can become the focal point of countless gatherings and memories with friends and family. Imagine roasting marshmallows on a cool autumn night or enjoying a pizza night under the stars with the warmth of your fireplace crackling in the background.

Here are some creative ideas for using your outdoor fireplace:

  • Host outdoor movie nights: Project your favorite movie onto a screen outdoors and create a cozy atmosphere with your fireplace.
  • S’mores nights: Gather your friends and family for a classic fireside activity – roasting marshmallows and making delicious s’mores.
  • Outdoor cooking: If your fireplace has a cooking grate, you can use it for grilling burgers, roasting vegetables, or preparing other outdoor feasts.

The possibilities are endless! Let your imagination run wild and transform your DIY outdoor fireplace into the heart of your outdoor entertaining space.


Building a DIY outdoor fireplace is a rewarding project that can significantly enhance your outdoor living experience. By carefully planning your design, choosing the right materials, and following the step-by-step guide, you can create a beautiful and functional fireplace that will add value to your property and provide countless hours of enjoyment.

So, what are you waiting for? Gather your tools, unleash your creativity, and embark on the journey of building your dream DIY outdoor fireplace!

Bonus Section: Troubleshooting Common DIY Outdoor Fireplace Problems

Even the most meticulously planned DIY projects can encounter minor hiccups. Here are some common challenges you might face with your outdoor fireplace and how to address them:

  • Cracks in the mortar: Hairline cracks in the mortar are fairly common and usually don’t affect the functionality of your fireplace. However, large cracks can indicate structural issues. If you notice large cracks, consult a professional to assess the damage and recommend repairs.
  • Smoking issues: Excessive smoke can be caused by several factors, including improper firewood selection (using wet or unseasoned wood) or airflow problems within the chimney. Ensure you’re using seasoned hardwood and check your chimney flue for any obstructions.
  • Challenges with maintaining the fire: If you find it difficult to maintain a steady fire, it might be due to inadequate air intake. Check the damper on your fireplace (if it has one) and ensure it’s open enough to allow proper airflow.

Feeling inspired to create your own DIY outdoor fireplace ? We hope this comprehensive guide has equipped you with the knowledge and confidence to embark on this rewarding project.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog for more DIY outdoor project ideas and helpful tips! We’d also love to see your DIY outdoor fireplace creations – share them in the comments below!

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Written by Ava Whitmore

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