Building a Cottage Campfire Pit – “How-To Tuesdays”

by Rachel Laurendeau on February 19, 2013

While there are innumerable beautiful stone fireplaces and fire pits to be bought or built, this particular DIY project focuses on the simplest of them all: the campfire pit. Knowing how to build a fire ring is particularly handy for camping or at the cottage when you want to build a big ol’ campfire and enjoy the warmth of the fire on a chilly evening.

  1. Safety. Always be aware of the current fire conditions in your area. Depending on the weather conditions or forest fire conditions, there may occasionally be fire bans. Also, find out if you need a permit or if the local fire department or county has regulations regarding fire pits and open fires.
  2. Choose a location. Your fire pit should be located away from any flammable objects including trees, overhanging branches, shrubs and shelters. Also, choose a location that is sheltered from the wind if possible.
  3. Clear the area. Clear any grass, twigs, dry moss, leaves or other flammable debris from the surrounding area.
  4. Dig the pit. Decide how big you want your fire pit to be, 24-36 inches is a nice size: big enough for a good-sized fire but easy enough to contain. Trace out the shape and then dig out about a 12-18 inches of dirt.
  5. Bring in the gravel. Now, here is the step that differentiates between a backcountry campfire pit and a more permanent cottage fire ring. Once you’ve finished digging the hole, fill it with 4 inches of gravel, tamp it down until it’s compacted and level then repeat with 4 inches of sand. (You obviously won’t have gravel and sand with you when you’re out camping so just skip this step.)
  6. Finish it off. Circle the pit with large rocks for extra fire containment and safety. You could also spread a layer of gravel or pea gravel around the exterior of the fire pit instead of grass, for extra safety, say the experts at Or, take it one step further and surround the fire pit with flagstone or limestone slabs for a more finished and permanent site.

There you have it, a simple campfire pit that you can cook a meal over or whisper ghost stories around. If you want to build a backyard fire circle that is a bit more elaborate than this one, you’ll want to read “How to Build a Backyard Fire Pit”.

Safety Tip: Never use river rock around fire pits. The heat from the fire can make them explode.


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