How to Make a Personal Fire Pit. For Cheap!

You probably don’t think you need a personal fire pit. And you’re right. Although come to think of it, fire is an essential element. I’m rethinking this – it’s possible you really DO need a personal fire pit. You just don’t need a massive expensive one. A little tabletop cheap fire pit? You could probably use one of those.

My name is Karen and I haven’t lit anything on fire in 5 months.  I’m sure I deserve some sort of a chip or something for that.

You see … I’m a bit of a pyromaniac.  Technically I’m not a *real* pyromaniac I guess.  I mean, I only light things on fire that should be lit on fire.  Like kindling and hardwood and pretty much anything with Hello Kitty on it.  And of course all of Rush’s 1980’s albums where they dabbled in “New Wave”.

I light fires in the fireplace every night here in the old Casa de Karen from October until April.  6 or 7 face cords go flying up that chimney every year.  But as deep and strong as my love of the log runs, I couldn’t bring myself to buy an outdoor firepit when they first came out.

They were hilariously expensive at the time and really in my climate not all that useful. In the last decade or so the weather in Canada has changed.

We used to get Spring. Spring is now a fleeting moment that takes place between the hours of 4 and 5 p.m. in late May. When we wake up the next morning our guts have liquified and the garbage cans have maggots crawling out of them.

Once the season for fire rolls around it happens almost as instantly. And by then I want to be inside laying on the sofa with a hot chocolate and a plate full of cinnamon toast on my chest.  Not outside being bitten by the limp stingers of aged mosquitos.

But still. There are 3 or 4 weeks when it makes sense to have a little personal fire pit outside.

So what was a pyromaniac girl like me to do when it’s cool out, but not cool enough to trap myself in the house all night with my cat, tv remote and fire tongs?

The Answer … The Personal Fire Pit.  (as designed by my sister … I saw hers and then immediately came home and made my own exactly like the one she made.) It’s easy and inexpensive to make. I used to say it’s a lot nicer than any fire pit you’ve seen for sale in stores, but now that 10 years has passed since I originally made this fire pit a lot of stores are carrying ones that look – how do I say this – completely identical.

Here we gooooooo …

How to Make a Personal Fire Pit

Materials you Need

  1. Marine Silicone
  2. Small rocks
  3. 4 pieces of glass (I bought 4 cheap picture frames from Dollarama and used the glass from those)
  4. Metal Mesh
  5. Gel Fuel (recommended) or 70%+ isopropyl alcohol
  6. Square planter (with a bit of a lip on it)

Step #1 – Making a Glass Box

You need to make a glass box.  To do that just run a bead of silicone around the edges of your glass, and place them together.

Do two sides first and hold them in place somehow until they dry.

Position them so your final side will be easy to silicone.

Run another bead of silicone and place your last piece of glass.

When you’re placing your glass, try to be a bit careful about it. You don’t want to smear the silicone around on the glass because it’s a HUGE pain to get off.  Just take your time.

Run a final bead of silicone all around the bottom edge of your newly created (because you’re kind of great) glass box.

Flip the box over then place the siliconed edge on top of the metal planter, making sure there’s enough edge in the middle left over for some metal mesh to rest on it.

Update:  Everyone seems to be in fits over the fact that the glass will EXPLODE from the heat.  It doesn’t. I’m not going to say it never will but 1) only tempered glass EXPLODES.  This isn’t tempered glass.  2) Glass breaks through stress either from dropping it or by extreme, fast temperature changes. Neither of which you should have with this project.  3) Thin glass is less likely to break from stress than thick glass. ** I know that seems counterintuitive.

Step 2: Making the pit.

Your box is made so now you move onto cutting your mesh that will fit inside. The only purpose of the mesh is to support some rocks, which in turn hide the fuel can beneath.

Once your piece of mesh is cut your structure is complete and you just have to “build” the fire.

Put an opened can of gel fuel into the centre of your fire pit. If you’re using Isopropyl Alcohol pour some into a leakproof metal container like an old, clean paint can.

Rest the mesh on the inside edge of the planter.

Finally, start putting down your rocks to cover the hideous mesh. If you’re using rocks that you aren’t sure about don’t put them directly over the flame. Rocks with moisture in them can explode as can shaley rocks.

Update: since writing this post originally, fire pit rocks have become available.  They’re 100% safe so you don’t need to worry about keeping the rocks away from the flame.

Step 3 – Light your fire

What makes this fire pit so amazing is the glass. The flames reflect against it creating dancing flames all over the place! Before I get to the final pictures with the fire pit in it’s rightful home in my back yard I wanted to let you in on a few tips.

1.  Make sure you buy gel fuel that’s meant for gel fireplaces.  Gel cooking fuel will not work because it usually only creates heat, not an actual visible flame.

2. Like I said, if you use a proper gel fuel (Real Flame for example) you can actually use this fire pit indoors. Be careful to place it on heat resistant fabric so it doesn’t scorch your furniture. The metal conducts the flame heat a lot!

3. Make sure your rocks are heavy for their size. Rocks that are light are full of air and may explode!

4. You can use any metal planter for this. This was on sale, so this is the one I got for this little fire pit experiment. Black metal square planters that are probably on sale at garden centres right now would look fantastic with white rocks.

5.  The gel cans last for about 3 hours, if you’d like to stop the flame earlier, just place something non flammable over the glass box to snuff out the flame.  Cans can be relit at a later date or time.


Use common sense. Don’t wander off, leaving this burning and never EVER try to refill it when it’s still burning. Snuff out the fire and make sure that it isn’t hot or burning before refuelling. Otherwise you can create a firebomb. You can see that here.

That’s it! That’s all it takes to make your own personal fire pit. $25, about an hour, and a piece of spaghetti.

Update: A lot of people are having trouble finding a metal planter similar to mine. Remember you can also use terra cotta or ceramic.

How to Make a Personal Fire Pit. For Cheap!


  1. so…i came across your project on design sponge and fell in love. I live in an apartment with a small balcony and cant wait to try this one out. My question is…. do you think the temperature difference when it starts to get around 40 degrees outside is gonna have an effect on the glass and the heat when I turn it on? I recently experienced exploding glass when I tried to make some brownies and put the hot pan on my cold sink. I would love to avoid it as much as I can.

    • Karen says:

      Oh dear. Exploding glass is such a bad way to end a batch of brownies. Oddly enough it’s really only things that are made for heat like Pyrex that explode like that with temperature change. Regular glass will usually just crack and break as opposed to explode. You should be fine with lighting your pit if it’s in 40 degree weather. The glass will gradually warm up from the flame. As long as your fire pit is as large as mine, which keeps the glass quite a ways away from the actual flame you won’t have another brownie incident. My glass gets warm but it isn’t so hot that you can’t touch it. Give it a go! I should say that if you bring the fire pit inside (which is totally doable) the Real Flame does stink a tiny bit. They say it doesn’t … but it does. The BEST part about Real Flame gel cans is they actually crackle like a fire! So try and get that brand if you can. Good luck! ~ karen

  2. Seul says:

    Update on the firepit: (I was the one who said I wanted to make on for the boyfriend’s b-day.) Went looking for a base, discovered NO ONE sells flower pots in October, particularly rectangle pots with a rim. Also, apparently the fire gel is semi-seasonal as well. Five stores later, amazoned the fire gel. Sixty dollars worth of it. Ok, now I’m committed to this project. Six more stores looking for square flower pots. Complete no go. Fire bowl, maybe? Back to same stores, looking for metal or clay bowl. From Tuesday Morning: large metal planter/cauldren/bowl thing. From the hardware store: can of spray paint so that bowl didn’t look like it wandered out of the 80’s. From the dollar store: multiple oven racks to use as screening. Total fail again. Square racks don’t fit into round bowls so well, even with wiresnips. But need something to hold the can in place. Several hours later: D’oh moment: filled metal bowl with dirt, hollowed out a space to hold the can. Placed a layer of river rocks around the can, they’re fairly large, so a few of the cover the edges of the can, and it doesn’t look quite so round. Fired it up, (yes, without him!) and works beautifully. Looks similar to this one:
    but at a nineth of the price. Thank you so much for the idea and the lovely tutorial … still hoping to make the square one with glass next summer. –S

    • Karen says:

      Hah! Well that sounds like quite an adventure. If you’re doing this again you can also go to the hardware store and ask for “hardware cloth”. It’s like a heavy duty version of chicken wire, that you’ll need tin snips or wire cutters to cut to size. Really cheap. You won’t need more than $1-$2’s worth. If you manage to take a picture of your creation send it along. Sounds like it was a struggle but turned out well! Congrats … hope your boyfriends loves it (and appreciates all the pain in the butt running around!) ~ karen

  3. HonestNiceWoman says:

    I LOVE this project!!! This will make a romantic Christmas Gift for My Guy. Thank you for posting!! (I found the link to this on Design Sponge.)

  4. Phoebe says:

    I love it, love it, love it! I found the glass at a dollar store and one square metal planter at Lowes. It was the last one in stock. I cannot wait to make it. I only hope to find more planters.

    Thanks, Karen, for your brilliant ideas!

  5. Seul says:

    Want to thank you– my BF has been bemoaning the lack of fireplace in our little starter apt, and regulations don’t allow a firepit … gonna make this for him for his b’day *smiles*

  6. I will have to say… I have built and re-built my ourside fire pit. (That I love) But this mite just be what the screen house (its large) Needs! As we are coming into the colder months and I am sure this puts off a little heat as well. Great job! I will also share a link to you on my blog.

  7. DzynByJules says:

    A=MAZING!!!!!! I just stumbled upon your blog, and am in total AWE! This project gives me a great idea on how to use the firepit/cooler patio table that I’ve had for years and NEVER had a fire in (let alone, cold drinks). I didn’t really want to burn wood in it, as it’s on the walk-out patio under my deck and was in fear of burning it down. Now all I have to do is head to the dollar store and get a grate and glass panes and make my own. I have the rocks from there already, saving them for just the right project, and HERE IT IS!!! I already have a cover to put out the flame and mesh dome from the pit (maybe I don’t even need to build the glass frame then, but it sure does make the fire DANCE) (slight pyro tendencies here too), so once I assemble the rest and find the gel fuel, GAME ON! I’d love to send a picture of the finished product when I’m done… thanks a million for the inspiration! You ROCK!!!!! (major girl-crush going on here too) Jules

  8. Chase says:

    How hot does the air above the fireplace get? I’m thinking of building something like this to make use of one of Chicago’s many no-longer-functional fake fireplaces in my living room, but I’m not sure if it would be too hot. It would be about a foot away from the painted, bricked-over flue of the old fireplace, so probably not a huge deal.

  9. Cathi says:

    On a recent road trip, somewhere between Texas and California, I saw a sign that said “Mom and Pop’s Pyro Shop”! That’s what you and I can do when we retire! Open our own pyro shops!

  10. Jayfa says:

    Great Idea! I absolutely love it.

    It looks like it may be a bit tricky to get the old can of fuel out and put another one in. Do you think it would be possible (with a little extra time and money) to make the bottom hinged somehow?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jayfa. It really isn’t much of a pain to change the can out. You just have to remove the rocks and then remove the screen. Put a new can in, and refill it with the screen and rocks. If you were to put a hinged trap door on this planter bottom, you’d have to lift the planter over your head to open it, at which point the gel can would fall on your head. Presumably. LOL. Plus the rocks would be smashing against the glass as you held it over your head. Posing yet another problem. :) If I were you I’d just keep it simple, and remove the rocks and screen. I think it’ll be easier in the long run! Good luck.

  11. Jenny says:

    Totally brilliant! I am going to make this for our first anniversary. One question though? Did you get the glass and the metal planter at the same place? How do you make sure that they will fit? and can you share where you got them for cheap?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jenny! I think all of that info is in the post, but I will assume you were so excited over the fire pit you just missed it. LOL. The metal container was on the discount table from a small store around my house. Metal planters are on sale everywhere right now because it’s the end of the gardening season. Try your local garden centre. I bought the glass frames at Dollarama, but you could get thicker (but more expensive) glass custom cut at a glass cutting shop. I bought my planter knowing it was small enough that I’d be able to find glass to fit it. Just keep in mind that most frames come with glass that’s 5 X 7, 4 X 6 or 8 X 10. As long as your planter has an opening that’s somewhere in those measurements you’re good. You can adjust by overlapping the glass a little or extending it a bit and filling with silicone. Good luck! – karen.

  12. Donna says:

    BRILLIANT! Seriously, this is an amazing idea and so inexpensive and modern-looking too, which is a bonus! Definitely going to make one of these.

    Off to browse the rest of your site to see what other genius ideas you came up with! :)

  13. holly says:

    Can I just say WOW? How the heck did you think of that?!
    I love it!

  14. Patricia says:

    Where do you buy Gel Fuel!?

    • Karen says:

      Patricia. You can get gel fuel over the internet, at Costco sometimes and at hardware stores. Just remember, you wan’t fireplace gel fuel, not cooking fuel! I’m in Canada and I got my Real Flame Gel Fuel at Rona. – karen

  15. Debbie says:

    What a great idea…saw this on design*sponge. Here in the Netherlands, everyone uses chimneas or small wood pits, and burn treated wood that stinks up the entire neighborhood. This is SO MUCH BETTER..I cannot wait to get started. Thanks!

  16. ¡me ha encantado!! y espero que no te moleste que lo comente en mi blog y te haga referencia. Es una idea perfecta, práctica y sencilla, como decimos por aquí un BBB (bueno, bonito y barato) que en inglés sería GPC (good, pretty and cheap) ;-)

    (I loved it! and I hope you do not mind that comment on my blog and you refer. It’s a perfect idea, practical and simple, as we say around here a BBB (good, nice and cheap) that English would be GPC (good, pretty and cheap) ;-))

  17. sue says:

    Do you think you could use shells instead of the rocks?
    Which do you find first – the glass and then find a planter to fit the glass size or the planter and then find the glass to match!?
    This is a whole lot cheaper than to have the jel fireplace built in:)

  18. Alyssa has Pink Antlers says:

    This is AH-MAZ-ING!

  19. This is absolutely AWESOME!

  20. emily li says:

    does it provide any heat?
    i’ve been thinking about doing this myself!

  21. Jen says:

    Do you think that you can have this indoors? Or would that not work because there’s no proper ventilation??

    I really want to do this indoors, but would worry about my apt catching on fire :)

    • Karen says:

      Jen, As long as you use the proper fuel (the one I’ve used for example) you can use it indoors. This particular gel fuel is meant for indoor gel fireplaces! Good luck. – karen

  22. Penny says:

    I love this idea! I’m just moving into my first place and can’t wait to make it! I’ll definitely be blogging about that journey and will be sharing this post (assuming you don’t mind!) ;)


  23. lori says:

    OH MAN!! what a great idea. I was thinking along the same lines as GF. get the sand bags out. I love your idea!!!!!or I should say our sisters idea!! couple of question…. do you have to put the glass in?
    and what if I wanted to use wood? couldn’t i put sand in first then the wood and light it???

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lori! No you don’t have to put the glass on it. It just finishes it off and helps to reflect the flame so it seems even bigger than it is. The glass really does add to it, but you can do it w/out if you want! – karen

  24. Dane Caldwell says:


    Another clever, stylish Canadian…oh yeah!

  25. Tracy says:

    What a great project!! Where did you find the planter?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Tracy – I found the planter at a little shop in a strip mall near where I live. You’ll probably never find the exact same one, but just keep your eyes open. Something will pop up somewhere. Discount/junk stores for example, or a lot of planters will be on sale at garden centres right now. (in North America anyway)

  26. Vila says:

    You are my (and everyone else’s) idol :))) am completely in aw with this one!

    As I have a history of pyromaniacal behavior I am not worried about flames, but isnt’s boat silicone suceptable to heat? Wont it just desolve near heat at one point and the whole thing end up in some gaudi-like sculpture with broken glass all over the floor? Will ask around what would be the heat resistant alternative and let you guys know if I find something out :)
    Anyhow, thanks a bunch, you are fabulous!

  27. kristen says:

    In order to extinguish and re-use at a later date/time would you have to dump rocks, lift grate and cover fuel? I don’t know too much about gel fuel. And by not much I mean nothing.


    • Rachael says:

      Hi Kristen,

      I found the answer in her post:

      5. The gel cans last for about 3 hours, if you’d like to stop the flame earlier, just place something non flammable over the glass box to snuff out the flame. Cans can be relit at a later date or time.

  28. Tickled Red says:

    That is absolutely bloody brilliant!! You are my D.I.Y Queen. Oh…thanks for the rock tip btw, I could just see the Leprechauns having a field day with that one ;)

  29. Liz says:

    Veeerrry pretty.

    Can i get a yard to place it in for $25 please?

    • Karen says:

      Well … $25 will probably buy you about 5 bags of dirt. Maybe you wanna slice those open in an unused spot of your living room. Instant backyard. Yes?

  30. Zina says:

    Whoa. Way cool, Karen! Am going to have to start looking for the parts.

    Here in the UK, I will add a step, tho, and make sure there’s holes in the bottom of the planter, so the innards don’t float away on the rainwater collected…which would def lead to exploding rocks!

  31. Kate says:

    Hey Karen – Love this project, thinking I will make one as a gift for my dad, he’d just adore it!

    Are you worried about the center of the grate burning away and creating a big hole? It looks pretty molten already…

    Great blog! I stop by often :)

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kate! The grate goes red *instantly*. But then it’s fine. Doesn’t burn away. However, if after many uses it *does* burn away, it’s no big whoop to remove the rocks and replace the grate. – karen

  32. Linda says:

    Where could I get my hands on the same planter as yours?
    All I could find online is
    and it’s a bit too modern than what I want

    • Tamiko Lagerwaard says:

      I’d really like to know this as well…Hope you let us know!

      • Karen says:

        Hi Linda and Tamiko! I’m afraid you probably won’t be able to find a planter exactly like mine. I got mine at a small local store that sells all kinds of things. If you keep looking you’ll be able to find something similar at a garden centre though. Or even Homesense (Homegoods). I recently found a planter the same colour as my original one, but in clay. Don’t forget you can use clay as opposed to metal. Good luck! ~ karen

  33. Evalyn says:

    I love this idea because I’m part pyro myself, but I anticipate all kinds of problems. Like off-gasing from the metal (esp. if it’s painted) and the glass and the silicone (which are not meant to be used around heat)as well as the previously mentioned shattering glass. I definately would not use this indoors.

    My alternative? A wire mesh bowl of orange salt crystals with the little light bulb glowing through. Very cozy.

  34. mykidzmomnow says:

    This is SO cool, I cannot stand it. I want one. But I doubt Husband would appreciate it wen I only have a million other projects to complete. I blogged about it anyways! :)


    • Karen says:

      Thanks so much! PLUS … you linked to my site the right way!! You didn’t post my whole post and then say “Oh … by the way … this whole thing came from “here”.” When people do that … well … no one goes to the original site to see the content. Good job! You’re an excellent webmaster! Feel free to come and roast marshamallows over my pit anytime. – karen!

  35. gf says:

    silly me I was all ready with a shovel and a bag of sand

  36. Sera says:

    This is incredible!!!! Thanks so much for sharing!!!

    Love it!!!

  37. Christina S. says:

    Beautiful! I love it… it’s so classy and expensive looking. You’re just SOOO handy!

  38. terru clarkson farrell says:

    oh I too love all things flaming this is a great idea.Thinking it would be lovely house present for friends with summer places.

  39. Erin says:

    This is fabulous!! We live in a condo and have a balcony and I’ve been going crazy trying to figure out how we can have a bit of a fire going out there!

  40. Amanda says:

    Wow, this is fantastic!!!

  41. Holly says:

    Perfect Timing! I have been wanting a firepit but have putting off buying one because 1) the style was off and 2) why pay all that money if you don’t actually like it. Now I can make an awesome one for cheaper than buying an ugly one!!! The hubby will be thrilled.

  42. Beth says:

    Hey Karen – another fabulous post!! Love the idea, love the spagetti hint!!

    Just a question – any worries about the glas exploding from the heat. Should one use tempered glass? Of course, it’s not likely to be lying around in the rright size…..

    • Karen says:

      Heck yeah, that worries me. :) But not so much that I’d go out and get tempered glass which would be incredibly expensive. As long as the planter is big enough so the canned flame set in the centre has a fair amount of space around it you should be fine. But I wouldn’t want to use a can of flame in a tiny planter where your glass is right close to the flame. – karen!

      • Elanor says:

        Pretty sure that aquariums are tempered glass. You can get a small one from Walmart for under $15. *shrug*

        • klobster says:

          Not true: link

        • Gary says:

          I don’t think an aquarium would work well they are made of glass and plastic and the glass is super thin.

        • Karen says:

          Gary – Thin glass is actually better. It’s less prone to breaking than thick glass (in terms of hot/cold temperature shocks). But you’re right, an aquarium isn’t the right choice. Glass from picture frames is best glued together with silicone. ~ karen

        • Denise says:

          I want to use my 60gal aquarium for a base for a fire pit . My aquarium I
          Has no plastic and the glass is very thick, much thicker than picture frame glass. I was thinking of putting a metal planter inside of the aquarium and filling area around the planter with rock. Putting the gel heat in the metal planter and filling with more rock. What do you think.

  43. Sherry (BTLover2) says:

    I’d like to throw my hat in the ring for having Kare Kare! I won’t make you move away from the guy and mom, but I’d like to hang out with you. I’ll bring the chips. You inspire me every day! You’re extraordinary!

  44. Every time you post, it’s like God has spoken to me and I must run out and purchase materials to make your wonderful projects.
    Hubby wants to know where I’m putting the glowing orbs, considering we don’t have a porch, or flowerbeds, or an extension cord, or even an electric outlet in the front of the house….
    I just tell him “Be patient young one… if you build it, they will come” and he gives me a strange look and backs away slowly. I think it has something to do with the bloodshot eyes and 14 cups of tea…

  45. Kerry says:

    Wowzers…that’s pure genius! Just my luck it’s spring here now and not much call for fire pits. Hope I can remember this in six months time :)

  46. Amie says:

    Genius! Do you think you could use a ceramic planter box instead of the metal one? xx

    • Karen says:

      Hi Amie. I think it depends on the ceramic planter. Something that won’t explode from the heat would be fine, like terra cotta or something made of clay. Personally, I’d buy whatever was on sale! – karen

      • Suzanne Phillips says:

        wow love this and would like to leave comments. How do I do that without replying to someone else comment. Thank you

  47. Jenn A says:

    Annnd… my girl crush continues.

    Will you move in with me?

    • Karen says:

      Sure thing, but you might have to fight Connor for me. Oh … and my fella. And I’m pretty sure Betty would be upset if I up and left. Maybe this isn’t such a good idea. You know what … I’ve been feeling a little unsure about us lately. I … I think we need to break up.

    • donna says:

      I was thinking the same thing! I have found a new source of entertainment when things get crazy around here, every 20 minutes actually….she cooks, is handy, funny as hell and I thank all that I have found her site!!

  48. Connor says:

    I LOVE this. LOVE. Fire gooooooood. Love.

    Aaanyway, why marine silicone? More heat resistant, orrr? Cause I have some clear shower caulk lying around that I’d like to use up…

    • Karen says:

      Hey Connor. I say to use marine silicone because it was cheap and is perfect for something you might be leaving out in the rain. It also comes in a small tube, so it’s easy to just squeeze it out by hand. You don’t have to use a big caulking gun which would be messy. And messy is bad. Punishable in fact. If you’re shower caulking is in a small tube, go for it. Otherwise, for the $5 or so, get the marine silicone. – karen!

    • KD says:

      Any reason a glass aquarium tank couldn’t be used? With, say, a gel candle holder intended for these? I’m thinking of one of these holders which is made of something like wood and has holes for 3 candles. Something to keep the candles’ heat from conducting to the glass. Seems easier than having to build your own glass box.

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