How to Build the Perfect Backyard Fire Pit

 Doug Bennett / Getty Images

Massachusetts-based stonemason Dean Marsico shares tips on how to build your own fire pit.

The Right Stone
Unless you're a stonemason, stick with flat rocks like ledge stone or fieldstone, which have a more uniform thickness. Protect them by lining the inside with a wall of firebricks, which are baked at a high heat and can take the abuse.

Do the Math
Most codes require a fire pit to be at least 10 feet from a house or wood structure such as a deck. Your pit should be about 18 inches tall — comfortable enough to sit on yet high enough to prevent kids from getting too close — and 3 feet in diameter for a decent fire.

Go for Gas
Consider spending a little extra to have gas run to the fire pit. The fire can be controlled by a remote; there is no smoke and less chance the flame is going to blow around and create hot spots. With wood, a gust of wind will force someone to move his chair because it gets too smoky. Also, remember you want a small, intimate fire — you're not burning leaves in this thing.

Consider a Kit
In a hurry or want to save money? Use a home center kit. The walls are made from uniform cast-concrete pavers and start at less than $300. You can be roasting marshmallows a few hours after you start building.