Cheap and easy firepit ideas

Warm-up for the ‘rule of six’

With some lockdown restrictions about to be lifted, we will soon be able to get outside and socialize with family and friends.  Yipeee, from the 29th March, people will be allowed to meet outside, either with one other household or within the “rule of six”, including in private gardens. I can’t wait.  But unlike last year when the restrictions were lifted, we were heading out of Spring and into Summer. Plus, it was unseasonably warm last year, which did make life a lot more bearable. 

Hopefully, we will have another beautiful Spring to enjoy as the days lengthen.  But as night falls and the temperature drops, a firepit could be just the thing to keep the chat going. Firepits can be quite sophisticated built structures if you have the space.  But equally, they can be little more than an upturned metal dustbin lid, or you can employ as much DIY as you want to match your ambition. Here are some simple and cheap ideas for portable firepits.   

The basics 

First of all, think safety.  Far be it from me to nanny you, but you won’t be too pleased if you set fire to things you would rather not, especially yourselves.  So first, think about where you are positioning your firepit.  It should be at least 15 feet from your house and 10 feet from your garden boundary.  And you need to be several feet from it, especially if your exuberance at lockdown end has itself enjoyed some refueling.   

Think about your neighbours, and whether smoke might prevent them from enjoying their gardens, opening windows or hanging washing out.  There are no bylaws preventing you from having a firepit, but only if it is not causing a nuisance. 

Think about what you are burning.  Wood is generally OK, but don’t use your firepit for waste disposal or as a bonfire. And some tanalized wood can give off some unpleasant fumes, including arsenic, so be careful what you throw on.  Equally, firelighters are easy to get hold of from any service station, so don’t be using petrol or some other ferocious combustible.   

Finally, don’t put it on a wood deck (d’uh), avoid lighting the pit during extremely windy weather, as the embers might go somewhere you don’t want them, and make sure you have a bucket of water or hose handy. 

Metal firepits 

There are a variety of metal containers that you can upcycle into firepits that can sit directly on a surface to avoid any digging.  Vehicle wheel rims are good, especially if you can get hold of a tractor rim that will give you the size to keep at least six people toasty.  If sitting on the grass, it is best to line the base with sand and cover it with a little gravel to insulate the ground beneath.  To make it safer (the metal can get pretty hot) and to look nicer, you could put some stone blocks or bricks around the outside. 


Old washing machine drums are also ideal.  They can look almost purpose-built and the holes provide excellent ventilation to keep the fire roaring.  In both cases, the structures provide a good platform to extend a grill across if you are feeling hungry.  If you can get hold of an old washing machine and want to remove the drum yourself, here’s how.  We recommend that you remove the spike at the bottom to give it better stability. 

Another idea is that old charcoal BBQ you replaced with the fancy gas burner one and never got round to throwing out.  Sink it in the ground or encase it with some decorative stone.  The lid will be handy to cover over when you’ve finished for the evening. 


Bricks or breeze blocks 

A really simple option is to use breeze blocks or reclaimed bricks. You can assemble these in any shape, though a square or oblong is easiest.  You don’t need to cement these unless you want a permanent structure.  You can site these on the lawn, but a base of bricks or sand and gravel will protect the ground beneath.  You can use half blocks at the base to provide air vents If the pit will be there for a bit, we’d recommend you cut away the turf first and leave the turf blocks on an earth surface out of the way, to keep them fresh until you can replace them later.  

Photo credit: Karen Loewen

Permanent pits 

There are innumerable options to create a rather more permanent and attractive firepit.  The internet as usual offers catalogue of options for making decorative stone constructions, and those with the right equipment and a bent for metalwork can find guidance to cut, weld, and otherwise sculpt your bespoke brazier. 

Tabletop fire bowl

You can create a cozy and comfortable space to relax with friends with crackling flames and a warm atmosphere without having to invest in a ground-level firepit. The alternative is to create a DIY tabletop bowl. Here’s a videos demonstrating exactly what you need here: It’s a nice lockdown project. 

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Dawn Giesler, is the founder of scuseme Cambridge, an online community that helps your family run smoothly. She has lived in Cambridge for over 20 years and offers advice based on her own experiences. For more information about all the services and tradespeople they recommend, visit scuseme.  To talk to one of our experts call 01223 520373 or find a local tradesperson here.

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