How to Make a Personal Fire Pit
For Cheap!

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”.

We light fires in the fireplace every night here in old Casa de Karen from October until March.  6 face cords every year go flying up that chimney.  But as deep and strong as my love of the log runs, I can’t bring myself to get an outdoor firepit. Once the season for fire rolls around I want to be inside laying on the couch 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.

So what’s a pretend pyromaniac girl like me to do in September?  When it’s cool out, but not cool enough to trap myself in the house all night with my cats, convertor 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 plus it’s wayyyyyyy nicer than any fire pit I’ve seen for sale in actual stores.

Here we gooooooo …

Materials you Need

cheap glass frames – $4

small rocks – $2

any kind of metal mesh – $2

any metal planter with a lip (edge) on it – $8 (on sale)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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

ANY CHARA CTER HERE

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P.S. This is a really old post and my photography is kind of horrifying.  If you’re still here with THIS crap photography you’ll really like the newer posts.  K.  No more sales job.

 

Update:  Everyone seems to be in fits over the fact that they 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.

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Step 2: Making the pit.

now that you have the structure, it’s just a matter of tweeking it a little so you can have fire.

Cut a piece of mesh (I used a cheapo grill grate from Dollar Store) to fit *exactly* inside your glass box. It will rest on the lip of the planter.

Place your opened can of gel fuel in the centre of the planter.

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place as much mesh as you need to cover the entire surface of the planter, resting mesh on the small edge of planter you’ve left inside the glass box.

It’ll look something like this.

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cover mesh loosely with rocks (you need some space in between the rocks to allow for oxygen so the fire will stay lit). 

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.

ANY CHARA CTER HERE

You’re almost done

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Firsty … admire what you’ve done for $25.

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Step 3 – Light your fire

Clear the rocks away from above the gel fuel can and carefully light the gel fuel. I use an advanced technique. I light the end of a piece of spaghetti. Whole wheat of course.

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I would rule on Survivor, provided I’m allowed to bring a piece of spaghetti. Push the rocks away from the flame a bit (even a bit further than I show here) because some rocks can shatter when they get too hot. Or buy the fire pit rocks that are now available.

ANY CHARA CTER HERE

There you have your fire pit! $25. Plus as an added bonus, depending on what type of fuel you use, you can also use this fire pit *indoors*!!!

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 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.

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

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


536 Comments

  1. If you want a cheap round fire pit, may I suggest another cheap alternative: the inside metal basket of your washing machine! This is my hubby’s trick. You can find them at places that sell used appliances. We got our for free (the washing machine it belonged to was broken). We placed it in position in the center of our backyard patio, stacked bricks around it, and it was done. Instant wood-burning fire pit!

  2. Karen says:

    Another Karen as smart and resourceful as me!!! I even have blonde hair too, but you got the pretty genes, probably bedazzled too!
    Looking forward to your emails and I am also trying to think of some glass tube that I dont have to glue over my mostly round planters. Hmmmm????!!! Keep using that noodle, so it doesnt dry out. : )

  3. So amazing! Thanks so much for sharing, it’s gorgeous!!

  4. Schafblick says:

    Thank you so much for the inspiration. We made ours this weekend:
    http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/PJLM3WovqoUnU27PFBGa1FX5ByJcCuE0r0KJHVGCF2I?feat=directlink

    The hardest thing is indeed to find a suitable container at the end of november. We got lucky at the third store, but we had to overlap the glass panes a little bit.

    • Karen says:

      I’m so impressed!!! Not only that you a good job, but that you did it at all! I’m impressed that a lot of the people who read this website, actually take the initiative to go out and do the “stuff” I show. Thanks for linking the picture. I love it when people send photos of their completed projects. You made my day! ~ karen!

  5. fierrry says:

    This is PERFECT! I just got a brand new loft with a beautiful deck and it’s the middle of winter (snow)! Aaahhhhhh! Soo perfect. I love you!!!!

    😀

  6. Steph says:

    Hey Karen, this is by far the best DIY project I’ve ever seen. Thanks for coming up with it.

    I found a metal planter that measures 9.75L x 7W x 4.75H inches. In your opinion, is that too small? Would the flames be too close to the glass? For comparison, what are the dimensions of your planter? Would love to avoid making the glass too hot.

    Thank you!!

  7. Jen says:

    Just the other day I was talking about how much I’d like to have the Iittala indoor fireplace that goes for a whopping $1300 — so happy I found this even better and cheaper version. And it totally fits my bargain-hunting and DIY personality. I blogged about it here — thanks for the great idea!

    http://www.palavering.com/brilliant-diy-personal-fireplace/

  8. rb says:

    looks great/easy/cheap – BUT
    what the post doesn’t tell you is that:
    1) the glass you’re going to get in most inexpensive picture frames is going to be super-thin and impossible to glue w/o breaking
    2) You can’t buy Real Flame in lots of less than 12, making a purchase of the $4 canisters $48 – oh, and you can’t find them in any store
    3) nobody seems to carry square planters (or any planters for that matter) off-season.

    • Karen says:

      rb – Sorry to hear you’ve had trouble with this but as the person who wrote this post I feel I need to defend it.

      I’ve made several of these and so have other people I’ve known. Thus far I don’t know anyone who has broken the glass while siliconing it. I’m not even sure how that’s possible w/out dropping it.
      As I stated in the post and the comment section I bought the Real Flame in single cans at my local hardware store (Rona). Obviously I can’t guarantee they are sold this way around the entire world, but it definitely is possible to buy Real Flame in single cans.
      I just left my local garden centre from getting a Christmas tree and they still had rows of metal planters for sale (at 75% off). They also had square terra cotta ones.

      So, as I said, I’m truly am sorry if you’re having trouble with this, but I felt I had to set the record straight. I do not under any circumstances post anything that is misleading or untrue.

      – karen

  9. Eve says:

    Amazing now added your site to my favs!!! Thank you for helping me fill up some of my free time! Ha well I’ll now find some for your awesome shared talent!

  10. Shauna says:

    I am an avid blog reader as well as a blogger. You are hands-down, my favorite! Great DIY projects that I would actually want in my home, funny and witty instructions/dialogue and everything laid out so nicely. I have wasted a lot of time this Friday afternoon at work – because Fridays aren’t for working, they’re just for looking pretty – at least that’s what I like to tell my bosses;) So far, they believe me.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Shauna! That’s quite a compliment. I just went and took a look at your blog. Very cute! I love the printable stuff. Well, I should let you get back to not doing work … ~ karen

  11. Soraya says:

    Hi! thanks for that idea, i was earning for a little gel fireplace, but now I will have a nicer and cheaper fireplace. Thanks for your post!!

  12. John C says:

    great idea, thanks for sharing. I like the idea of an indoor fire.

  13. Jane says:

    Hi Karen, I love this and am planning to copy it a.s.a.p – so thank you:) Do you know if it’s possible to burn alcohol in a metal container inside, rather than use the real flame gel? I would like a cheap substitute and don’t think that RF is all that different from isopropyl alcohol – though, I can’t find squat about it on the net, so I am probably way off. Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      Jane – I did all kinds of research on what else you could burn if you couldn’t find Real Flame and I do remember something about isopropyl alcohol. However, I also remember it wasn’t a good idea to burn it for some reason. In fact … now that I think back on it … I tried it. It burned a little as I recall, but for some reason it was “bad”. Can’t recall exactly why other than … it was bad. Sorry! LOL. If you can find it the Real Flame is worth the $2 or $3 a can. It isn’t like isopropyl alcohol. It’s a gel. It doesn’t smell too bad, plus it crackles! ~ karen!

      • Jane says:

        Thanks for your sage advice:) I will very likely follow it even though I am am sorely tempted* by this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJ8qb38brtE

        *No idea why, since chemistry was never my thing!

        • Karen says:

          Jane – I watched the video! Now I wanna try it! However … like he said, it ends up being around $2 a can so it’ll end up costing around the same amount of money as buying a can of the real stuff. Looks like fun to try though! ~ karen

  14. Jacqueline says:

    I absolutely love your idea Karen and can’t wait to try it!! I’m such a pyro too! I didn’t know it was so simple to create a glass box. Now you’ve got my wheels turning with all the possibilities of what could be put inside of a glass box. Very creative!

  15. Jennifer says:

    Wow! That is so much better than the expensive ideas/pre-made ones I’ve seen! Genius!!!!! Definitely making this when we will hopefully start renting a house this summer 😀

  16. Rob says:

    Hi Karen, greetings from Ireland. I was wondering if these planters would give off much heat? Say you had one in the garden on the ground with 5 people sitting round it comfortably, without crouding it, do you think there would be much warmth?

    thanks Rob

    • Karen says:

      Hi Rob! Um, no. I’m afraid these things wouldn’t give off much heat, especially outdoors. If you want something to give heat, you’d have to have a “real” wood burning firepit. This is more of a *pretty* firepit, as opposed to a roast some marshmallows firepit. Great. Now I’m thinking about roasted marshmallows. ~ karen

  17. Jules says:

    Hi Karen- I am finally attacking this- took me a while to find a container I liked! Question for you- do you think I could use the gel fuel that comes in a bottle and just fill up an empty sterno container to burn it in? just wanted to get your take..thank you for ALL your inspiration!
    Jules

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jules – Yay! Glad you found a container! Chances are the gel fuel that comes in a bottle is meant for heating food. It probably won’t have any flame. If it is designed specifically for fireplaces, I don’t see any reason you couldn’t put it in a sterno container though! ~ karen

  18. Julie Cucinotta says:

    thank you for the input! Nope its not for food and does make a flame so Im going with it..hopefully i do not burn anything down..Im a but of a pyro myself!

    🙂

  19. Jessica says:

    Uh…this is AMAZING! I’m SO going to do this! Thanks for the awesome tutorial.

    • Karen says:

      You’re very welcome Jessica! It is fun thing to have around! I plan on doing a variation on it this summer! Watch for it. 🙂 ~ karen

  20. Kim Tucker says:

    Love this idea. I’m thinking i may make these for Christmas Presents this year….. shhhhh don’t tell anyone.

  21. Sanjay says:

    I am a bit of a pyro myself – I WANT ONE!!!

    (also forwarded it to my brother – he is going to love this as a cheap fire safe option)

  22. Bill Grigg says:

    Hey, they featured this article on Lifehacker!

    http://ca.lifehacker.com/5810805/make-an-awesome-diy-firepit-on-the-cheap

    You’ve been Lifehacked. Well done!

  23. Jaime says:

    Hey Karen…I’m wondering if you could use recycled glass instead of the rocks. Any thoughts?
    Thanks, Jaime

    • Karen says:

      Jaime – I’m gonna have to be honest with you here. I have no idea! Regardless of whether you use rocks or not, you have to be careful with whatever you use. With the rocks I make sure to keep them away from direct flame. I leave a rock free circle in the centre of the grate. I really have no idea about the properties of recycled glass. Normal glass only breaks with a change in temperature, I’m not sure about recycled glass. Sorry! ~ karen

  24. Carol-Anne says:

    Great job Karen! Do you leave yours outside all the time? If so, what do you put over it to keep all the rain we’ve been having out of it? I made one yesterday. I made a complete mess of the silicone and I’m not thrilled with my container; I think it’s a bit too high 🙁 This one will be my practice piece until I find a better planter.

    • Karen says:

      Carol-Anne – Water is a pain. For now my pit is under a covered porch. You have to take it in like you would cushions outside. I actually don’t leave mine outside all the time, I bring it in and out. ~ karen

  25. John says:

    I really want to make this, it looks amazing

  26. Sharon says:

    OMG! Thank you so very much for sharing such a cool and unexpensive idea to create a small fire pit that can decorate both indoor/ outdoor home. I can’t wait to start, and I’m sure that when my friends see it they’re gonna want one too! LUV IT 🙂

  27. mark says:

    This is well cool, bet its not that easy to build… i wish i had that in my house. so cool

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Mark. And no. It’s not that easy to build. Considering it’s just a series of boxes, really. Plus, well … I’ve never built something to “structure”-like. Planter beds and decks are one thing. A building is something else entirely! ~ k

  28. Cynthia says:

    I’m in total love with this idea and your site! Where the heck have I been? I have a built in area in my living room that is meant for one of those large screen tv’s that were popular several years ago. I’ve been dreaming of turning the space into a faux fireplace. Not sure how to pull it off, but this post is great inspiration.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Cynthia! I have no idea where you’ve been, but I’m glad you found the blog. I can use all the readers I can get. Thanks for stopping by! ~ karen

  29. Erika says:

    This would look so amazing on the patio in the backyard that I will eventually get around to building. Someday. After the upper lawn is leveled away from the house. And after I collect enough stepping stones/bricks/pavers. Meanwhile, I also thought it would look really good on the patio of one of my clients, so forwared the link to her. She’s much more likely to get to it relatively immediately. Thanks!

  30. niki says:

    what are the measurements of the glass/container? this looks AWESOME! Thanks Karen!

  31. mark says:

    Grest fire place i must say

  32. Stuart says:

    Awesome fire pit, this looks amazing!

    …It makes my £100 steel one look terrible!

    The next sunny weekend I will be making one of these 🙂

    Thanks for the superb tutorial 😀

  33. Sandy says:

    Greetings, Karen, from a fellow Canuck! This idea is superb! I was hankering for a firepit like the one from solus decor (see old link): http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=8859620&id=16374935530&fbid=258033470530 — They are from British Columbia. Pricey, of course, and then there is shipping…

    My sister is moving into her 1st house mid October… This would make an awesome housewarming present (pun intended, but true!)

    One more thought: This would add a little bit to the price, but stained glass / slumped glass places also have some very nice clear (uncoloured) glasses that come in different textures, such as waves. You could easily cut out rectangular glass with a glass cutter, or maybe they will cut out your four pieces if you ask them nicely. The textured glass on 1, or all 4 sides, might add an interesting effect.

  34. Jae8888 says:

    Love this idea. It will be assembled next weekend. Love your site and the ideas within it.

  35. Jessica says:

    Can you use it inside or will it set of the smoke detector? Or is that just dangerous anyways?

    • Karen says:

      Jessica – You can absolutely use it inside but obviously you have to be careful around it. It’s more dangerous than a candle not as dangerous as a drunk person smoking on your couch. Also the gel fuel can have a bit of an odour. ~ karen!

  36. Lisa Aurora says:

    Absolutely LOVE this. Me & my husband are definitely planning on making this. So cheap to make but it looks expensive/modern! Congrats, awesome awesome awesome!

  37. Dana says:

    That is a GREAT idea!!! I want a fire pit, but hate the smoke! Don’t really need something that gives out heat since I live in coastal Florida/ So “fire pit conflicted”. This is perfect!!

    • Karen says:

      Dana – Excellent! The other great thing about the “Real Flame” if you can find it is it crackles like a fire. I love that! ~ karen

  38. shelby says:

    Man, I tell ya, finding a square planter that is just right has been a task! The other day, I went on a “quest” to find said planter. After 5 stores with 3 kids under 4, I was waving my white flag. I ended up finding a planter that was 8X8, but that made me a little nervous. So, I got a different one that measures 12X12. And its going to be super tall because there are no planters I could find here or across the internet that were short like the one you used. 🙁 And the people at home depot and Lowes looked at me like I was from another planet when I inquired where their gel fuel in a can was. I ended up getting some off of the internet. But I am so very excited to finish this 🙂 Despite my whining. Thank you for the great idea!

  39. Jae8888 says:

    Someone asked me if you can glue flooring tile together[(5-12″X 12″) one on bottom and 4 for the sides], then add the glass panes to the top to make the tabletop firepit. I said, “Let me ask the expert and I’ll get back with you”. So,what do you think?

    • Karen says:

      Jae888 – I’m not positive, but I’m not sure you could get the tiles to be sturdy enough so that you could move it from place to place. Depends on what you use to adhere it I suppose. Other than that I can’t see any reason why floor tiles technically wouldn’t work! ~ karen

  40. Nick says:

    I could not find a square planter anywhere! I had to use my imagination and find something else that could work. I went with a 8x8x8 concrete square block. I paid $1.75 for it! I picked up 4(8×10) picture frames, The grate and the rocks at the dollar store. I used the wood frames to build a lip around the top of the block to give it a better look. I have A LOT of beer caps saved up and i’m going to stick them all around the sides of my concrete block. I also couldn’t find the gel fuel so I am using a Tiki torch flame can. It’s cheaper, burns longer, and fits perfect! Thanks for the idea Karen! I’m actually working on it now. Spent UNDER $20!

  41. Kayce says:

    hey, where the heck did you find a metal planter?

    • Karen says:

      Kayce – I found the planter at a local store. Most garden centres have metal planters now. Don’t forget you can also use terra cotta! Anything that won’t burst into flames, basically. ~ karen

  42. Jennifer says:

    We just build an enclosed porch and we need to warm it up. Does you think this will emit enough heat to warm a small room? Say 15 x 12 feet??? Its beautiful either way! I love it

    • Karen says:

      Hi jennifer! I’m afraid the pit won’t warm things up that much. 🙁 If need be however, I’ve used a very small electric fan heater in my kitchen for the past few years and those babies *really* work. Good luck! ~ karen

  43. Brittany Duncan says:

    This is so totally awesome! If I ever get a lil extra money, I am so doing this! It looks so easy and I really want a Fire Pit for the front porch. What do you think, isn’t it beautiful!?

  44. Kaitlin says:

    Do they still sell the planters around you? I have looked almost everywhere and am now currently doing everything to find one online. Just wanted to see if there was a website to the store that you found yours at.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kaitlin – No, I got the last planter like it. It was just from a small local store. Don’t forget you can use a terra cotta planter. Anything that won’t burst into flames actually. Base the size of your planter around the size of the glass you find. Good luck! ~ karen!

  45. Kaitlin says:

    Also, do you know the deminsions of your planter?

  46. Nathalie says:

    Hey Karen where did you buy your real gel? I can only find similar gels in Green Earth stores. Thanks.

  47. Kelly says:

    Hello! Do you think a very large or standard fish tank would do. I have three sitting around here and since we are NOT getting any more fish…for now.. thought I could use one of the tanks.

    You may have already answered this question in your comments. If you don’t mind will you please answer again. I’m worried about the glass breaking. But with fish tanks having tempered glass I should be okay, right?

    Thanks a bunch,

    Kelly, Raleigh, NC

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kelly! Tempered glass is actually more dangerous than regular glass in terms of it “exploding”. However, having said that, as long as the tank is large enough that the flame doesn’t get close to it or touch it, it should be fine. The only problem is, doesn’t the fish tank have a bottom on it? For this to work, you need something that has only glass sides, and no bottom. ~ karen!

  48. Becky says:

    So I was thinking, if you got a metal planter deep enough you could us the little fuel you put in tiki torches. Don’t those things burn forever? They are refillable too!

    • Karen says:

      Becky – You could use paraffin oil but you do have to use it with a wick. You can’t just light it on fire. ~ karen!

      • Cheryl says:

        Idea if you cant find gel fuel: You can buy an empty one quart paint can at a local paint or home improvement store. Then take one roll of toilet paper and remove the cardboard. Squeeze the tp roll into the new clean paint can and pour rubbing alcohol over the tp till it is completely saturated. All you have to do when it burns out is add more alcohol (*The tp acts as your wick and will not burn as long as it is saturated, *do not pour more alcohol on while it’s burning already, * if you blow out the fire before all the alcohol is burned off you may need to find a way to get the paint can lid back on so the alcohol does not totally evaporate). Works great for an emergency camp stove also.

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