You probably heard all the horror stories. A family would be lounging in their backyard one evening, when suddenly their fire pit explodes, launching them into the air and pieces of their backyard scattered about.
That’s why you’re probably wondering: are pavers safe? Can they be used to build a fire pit?
The answer is yes. Only, you should still use them with caution. We’ll elaborate in a bit, but first, let’s talk about the legal aspects of fire pits because what’s the point of diving deeper if you’re not allowed to build one!
Are Fire Pits Legal?
Most jurisdictions stipulate some sort of law regarding open fires. They will state specific rules like: you can only burn wood that’s unpainted, or you can only have fires that are less than a number of feet tall. They can also implement fire bans or not allow open fires at all.
You should be able to find these rules at the city or state level. Sometimes, though, cities and states have differing rules.
For instance, according to state laws in New York, open fires are legal provided they are less than 3 feet in height and 4 feet in diameter. But if you live in New York City, you’re out of luck. Fire pits are strictly prohibited and illegal in New York City.
As another example, fire pits and open fires are not permitted in the City of Boston. But in Massachusetts, open burning is allowed from midwinter to early spring, as long as you contact your local fire department to obtain an open burning permit ahead of time.
So definitely check the rules in your local area before building your fire pit.
What Pavers to Use for Fire Pit
To build a safe fire pit, you need to understand what materials you should and shouldn’t use.
A typical fire pit has three parts: an inner wall, an outer wall, and the pit area. The inner wall is the part that will make direct contact with fire. That’s why it should be made of a material able to withstand high temperatures, such as fire brick or steel.
The outer wall doesn’t make direct contact with fire, so you don’t need materials that are fireproof, but what you use should still be able to resist heat. You can use almost any paver material for the outer wall, including brick, concrete, stone, as long as they are heat-resistant.
To build the base for the pit area, go with compactable gravel. It will give you a sturdy base on which to lay your pavers. You can finish your installation by filling the inner pit area with 3/4” crushed stone if you’d like to hide the gravel, and make it all pretty and whatnot.
But…Will My Pavers Explode Like Popcorn?
Now for the materials you shouldn’t use. Your pavers may explode if you use the wrong materials. Do not, we repeat, do not use concrete blocks, pea gravel, or river rocks to build any part of your pit.
The problem with these materials is that they hold water and when subjected to heat, steam gets trapped inside them with nowhere to go. And then boom! They may explode like popcorn.
Okay…What About Cracks?
While your pavers may not explode, they may crack, and that’s not good either right? Here, we want to emphasize the importance of having an inner wall.
The main purpose of having an inner wall is to protect the outer wall from cracking. Cracks occur when hot pavers get cooled abruptly. If you don’t have the inner wall, and you dump a bucket of water onto your fire, we can guarantee that your pavers will eventually crack.
If building an inner wall seems like too much work, an easy way to “build” an inner wall is to simply use a steel campfire ring. As a matter of fact, this is our preferred method, because it’s so easy. This ring will protect your pavers just fine, and you don’t actually have to install anything. Some campfire rings even come with a swivel grate to cook on – yum!
Pavers to Make a Circle
Here’s one more thing about pavers for fire pits: choosing the shape.
If you want to build a fire pit ring, you should choose trapezoid pavers, also known as wall blocks. These can be placed snuggly against each other in a circle without any gaps between them.
For rectangular or square fire pits, pavers with square sides will work just fine. But they’re not suitable for ring pits because there will be gaps if you try to line them in a circle.
Don’t Get Burned
Let’s recap. Before you do anything, study up the rules in your area on fire pits and open fires. The worst thing that can happen – besides an explosion – is having to remove your fire pit after spending all that time and effort building one!
You can use heat-resistant pavers to build a fire pit. But to prevent cracking, you need to build an inner wall that will protect the pavers from direct contact to the fire. You can use a fireproof material like fire brick, or simply purchase a steel campfire ring to shield your pavers from the fire.
Remember to steer clear of concrete blocks, pea gravel, and river rocks as these materials may explode when put under high heat.
And that…is how you build a fire pit!
Have Fun Out There!