How to build an easy to clean fire pit — and then make Italian style s’mores on it

Guest post by Alessandra

It happened. DIY is officially our drug of choice. On our recent outdoor DIY kick, we decided it was time to build a firepit. Not just any firepit, of course — my husband’s brain couldn’t possibly build something without thinking of the potential mess it would create, and this meant weeks worth of deliberation on how we could build a filth-free firepit.

He was determined to have the best of both worlds. For two straight weeks it was a one-man tug of war between “Me want fire!” and “Oh, dear, but we can’t have a mess!” It was like watching a UFC fight between Martha Stewart and a Caveman. It wasn’t easy. But his research paid off, and it finally happened – the Firepit for All Neat Freaks was born!

This firepit doesn’t involve cement and it’s very easy to build. And it’s neat because you can clean it in a matter of two minutes — just lift the bowl out and dump the ashes in the woods, or use them as fertilizer for your garden.

To build this firepit you’ll need:

  • stones — Ours are from Lowe’s. We went 4 layers high, and each layer took sixteen stones, which means 64 stones total.
  • pick axe or shovel
  • pea gravel or other stones for seating area around firepit (optional)
  • a few bags of sand, for base of firepit
  • firepit — from Lowe’s, ours was on sale for $80
  • 1 stake (or stick) and 1 piece of string, to mark your space
  • A level
  1. Pick a spot for your pit. The beauty of a firepit is that you do not need a huge yard to enjoy one. All you need is a space a good distance from your home and without low-hanging branches or trees that can catch fire. You want to also think about the diameter of how big your pit will be, and also leave some space to pull some chairs up to enjoy it.
  2. Do some quick measuring. We decided our firepit should be about four feet in diameter, with an additional three feet past that to allow some space for seating. We put a stake in the center of where we wanted the pit to go, then tied the string to it and circled ’round with a can of marking paint. Do the same with your outer circle, so that as you work you can have a good visual of your space.
  3. Dig. Now that you’ve got your space marked out, it’s time to get the grass up. One of the best tools you can use to quickly get the grass up is a pick axe. You can get them cheap at any garden store (between $10 and $20). If you don’t have one, just grab a shovel. You just want to get the top layer up and make sure the ground is level.
  4. Optional step: lay a weed-barrier down. We did not do this, and will have to pull up any weeds that sprout.
  5. Add sand. Pour sand in the inner circle where your firepit is going. This will keep the base of your stones secure as you build, and will help you level your base easily as you go.
  6. Get your firepit ready. Grab the firepit that you bought and follow the instructions to put it together, but leave off the legs. You just need the rim, bowl, and the screen that will go on top.
  7. Lay your base. It’s time to put down your base layer of stones. First, take the screen and put it in the center so that you have a visual to work off of. For a firepit that will be 4 ft in diameter, it took sixteen stones for each layer. Use your level as you go. This is important, because if you base layer is not level, then your firepit is going to look like a leaning tower of screw-up by the time you get to the top layer.
  8. Stack your layers. We wanted our firepit to be four layers high. Make sure when you add the second, third and fourth layers, you stagger them. This adds strength, and also is more visually appealing.
  9. Add your firebowl. Once your layers are stacked, you can drop your rim and steel fire bowl onto the top layer, and add the grate that comes with it and the screen.
  10. Add rocks around your seating area (optional, of course). This step just defines the space and gives it a more finished look.
  11. Now, enjoy your firepit! Pull up some chairs, invite some friends over, start a fire, and make some smores. Speaking of smores…

Here’s what you’ll need for delicious smores:

  • set of cheap skewers (ours were $3, from Target)
  • Box of graham crackers
  • bag of campfire marshmallows (these things look like they are on steroids)
  • Nutella

Skewer a campfire marshmallow and roast it over the flame. Once It’s browned to your liking, spread some Nutella on your graham cracker and sandwich that sucker in between. This is an Italian version of the traditional American campfire treat. Not only does the Nutella spread and melt better than the Hershey’s, but it’s absolutely delicious! One bite and you’ll never go back to the classic recipe. Pull it off the skewer, and enjoy!

Comments on How to build an easy to clean fire pit — and then make Italian style s’mores on it

  1. Quick question: How is this less messy than any other fire pit? I know you can just lift up the bowl and pour it out, but can’t you do that with any commercial fire-pit available? What am I missing?

  2. This is a great DIY tutorial! I’m jonesing for a firepit in the backyard so we can have s’mores and snuggle under the stars. Maybe next year we’ll have the bit of extra monies to do this. Thanks for this post!

  3. Um, I don’t think that there’s technically any such thing as “Italian-style s’mores”. I’m pretty sure they’re an definitively American thing.

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