Before you grab your measuring tape and start taking measurements for your new fire pit, check to see if you'll need a special permit to build one in your area. With the growing popularity of fire pits and equally widespread problems with protracted drought conditions, you may have to wait to build. Even if you do get a permit, there will probably be a number of restrictions and guidelines you should be aware of before you begin work. Check with your local building inspector for additional details, hints and tips.
Working with masonry can be very satisfying, but it can be challenging, too. Masons are craftsmen, and constructing that perfect curve for your round fire pit or aligning the bricks evenly for stability can take time and patience. Don't underestimate the challenges involved in just moving stones and bricks from place to place, either. They get heavy and can be unwieldy.
The purpose of stone and brick construction is to create a solid wall surrounding your pit that will contain the heat and flames and protect the fire from windy conditions. Beyond that, your budget, ease of use and finished appearance will be important considerations in choosing a fire pit style and material. Although natural stone is beautiful, it can be difficult to work with because no two stones are exactly alike. For both brick and stone, you'll also have to learn a few masonry tricks. When working with stone in particular, you'll need to learn how to use a chipping hammer to reform stones and also how to create filler stones.
Another option is to use a molded concrete block-type product that mimics the look of stone without some of the inconvenience of working with the real thing. Because faux stone is flat on two sides, it is easier to stack, shape and handle than stone. Think of it as a cross between stone and brick. It also comes in a variety of shapes, some interlocking, which make it easy to use in different pit configurations, and they lay together quickly.
Even though it looks as though a thick layer of stone should be enough protection from the heat of a crackling fire, it's a good idea to line the interior of your stone fire pit with a protective metal liner or ring, or a layer of fire brick. When exposed to extreme heat, some materials can react to the very drying conditions in the pit and begin to lose cohesion, breaking down faster than they would otherwise.