Gravel Patio Fire Pit Areas: What You Should Know (2024)

A fire pit area is one of the best places to spend a relaxed evening with family or friends. There’s nothing quite like gathering around a campfire for conversation with people you love. And roasting a few marshmallows is never a bad idea either!

In this article, we’ll cover one of the best ways to install a patio fire pit area on a budget: a gravel pad.

Before we jump into how to install a gravel patio fire pit area, let’s cover a few questions about why gravel pads should even be an option for fire pit areas.

Gravel Patio Fire Pit Areas: What You Should Know (1)

Table of Contents

Gravel Fire Pit Area FAQs

Here are some of the most common questions we hear about gravel fire pit areas…

What can I put on the ground around my fire pit?

Gravel or crushed stone is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to create a backyard fire pit area! Putting gravel on the ground around your fire pit creates a nice, level base for seating. Plus, it protects the ground and surrounding area with a non-flammable material in case any embers make their way out of the fire pit.

Other options for covering the ground in fire pit patio areas include:

  • Concrete
  • Pavers
  • Flagstones
  • Bricks

Each of these options have their own pros and cons. In general, they all require a pre-leveled area and are rather detailed to install. Plus, the cost of materials can put them outside many budgets.

Based on our experience installing gravel shed pads, we’ve found them to be a great option for a variety of other uses, including fire pit areas!

Gravel Patio Fire Pit Areas: What You Should Know (2)

Can you put a fire pit on gravel?

This is a common question. As mentioned above you can use gravel to create a patio area around your fire pit.

However, there are really two versions of this question: “Should I put gravel in my fire pit?” and “Should I put gravel around my fire pit?”

Should I put gravel IN my fire pit?

Gravel may not be the best option to place in your fire pit, due to the risk of it exploding under high heat. When certain kinds of rock get wet (including many gravel and crushed stone types) they can trap moisture in the small crevices or pores of the rock. When directly exposed to fire, this moisture can turn to steam, creating pressure and a risk of the rock shattering dangerously.

Some better alternatives for inside the fire pit are:

  • Lava rocks
  • Lava glass
  • Fire-grade brick
  • Concrete
  • Marble
  • Slate
  • Granite
  • Sand
  • Bare dirt

Should I put gravel AROUND my fire pit?

Gravel is an excellent option for creating a patio or seating area around your fire pit. A gravel fire pit pad is fireproof, drains well, provides a level area for seating, suppresses weed growth, and is one of the most affordable options available!

Gravel Patio Fire Pit Areas: What You Should Know (3)

Does a fire pit need a gravel base?

While gravel is not required, it is one of the most affordable materials to put around your fire pit and is certainly worth considering, particularly if you are on a budget.

Planning for your gravel patio fire pit

Construction of your gravel fire pit area will go much more smoothly if you have a solid plan in place before starting. Here are a few common questions and considerations for the planning stage…

How big should I make my gravel fire pit area?

Your gravel patio should be 5’ to 6’ larger than your fire pit in each direction. A 14×14 or 16×16 gravel pad is usually the minimum size for a fire pit area since most fire pits are 3’ to 5’ in diameter.

You may want to make your gravel fire pit patio a bit larger if you need space for additional seating or other items such as a grill, a wood rack, coolers, etc.

It can be helpful to list out all the items that will be included in your fire pit area and sketch a layout to make sure you’ll have adequate space.

Gravel Patio Fire Pit Areas: What You Should Know (4)

What kind of gravel do you use for a fire pit?

We typically use ¾” clean crushed limestone for the gravel fire pit patios we build. We recommend crushed limestone around fire pits because of its excellent drainage. Plus, it compacts well, giving a solid base for seating and other heavy items.

As mentioned above, you should choose a different type of stone for inside the fire pit itself to avoid the potential of rock explosions.

Gravel Patio Fire Pit Areas: What You Should Know (5)

Can I use pea gravel around a fire pit?

Yes, you can use pea gravel for a fire pit area. Many people like pea gravel for its aesthetics and its comfort when walking barefoot. On the downside, it doesn’t compact very tightly and requires regular raking to keep it smooth. Over time, you may need to add more pea gravel to the patio as it gets kicked around and possibly escapes the patio border.

One option is to build a gravel patio fire pit with a crushed limestone base, then add a layer of pea gravel over the top for aesthetics. (Some folks take a similar approach with their gravel hot tub pads. Installing artificial grass on top of the crushed stone would be another option.)

Like crushed stone, pea gravel can be an explosion hazard if used inside the fire pit area.

Gravel Patio Fire Pit Areas: What You Should Know (6)

How much gravel do I need for a fire pit area?

You will need about 4.5 tons of crushed stone for a 16×16 gravel fire pit area on level ground.

Here are the formulas to determine how much gravel your fire pit area needs, both in cubic yards and in tons. (This assumes all measurements are taken in feet.)

(length x width x depth)/27 = cubic yards of gravel needed

cubic yards x 1.4 = tons of gravel needed

For a 16×16 gravel patio with gravel 4” deep (0.33’), the formulas would look like this:

(16’ x 16’ x 0.33’)/27 = 3.13 cubic yards of gravel needed

3.13 cubic yards x 1.4 = 4.38 tons of gravel needed

Note: If your site is on a slope, measure the depth of gravel needed at the high side (minimum of 4”) and the depth of gravel needed at the low side. Add those numbers and divide by 2 to find the average gravel depth for the entire pad. (For example, if the high side needs 4” and the low side needs 12”, (4+12)/2 = 8” of gravel on average across the pad. You can use this number in the formula to calculate how much total gravel is needed.

Gravel Patio Fire Pit Areas: What You Should Know (7)

How deep should a gravel patio area be?

Your gravel fire pit patio area should be at least 4” deep. 4” of crushed stone will lock together tightly and provide good support for anything that’s placed on top, from seating to firewood racks.

Do I need a permit for a gravel patio fire pit?

In most cases, no. Permits are typically not required for building either fire pits or gravel patio areas around fire pits. However, be sure to check with your local municipality to see what the regulations are in your area.

Gravel pads are typically considered “impermanent”, meaning they can be easily removed. As such, they are generally not subject to the same permitting requirements as concrete pads and other “permanent” property upgrades.

As for the fire pit itself, a permit is usually not required for construction. However, be sure to check if there are any other regulations governing the use of fire pits in your area, especially if you live in an urban or semi-urban area. Additionally, some areas require burn permits for fires, though fire pits are typically exempted from these requirements due to their small size.

Gravel Patio Fire Pit Areas: What You Should Know (8)

How do you build a fire pit with gravel?

Following are the basic steps to build your gravel patio fire pit. For even more in-depth instructions, follow our guide to build a shed foundation, which is essentially the same process.

1. Measure the slope

You’ll want your finished gravel fire pit area to be perfectly level. To achieve that result, it’s important to know the slope of the site before you start excavating.

At its simplest, finding the slope of the site simply requires measuring the highest and lowest points and determining the difference. This is most easily accomplished with a laser level or transit. If you don’t have a laser level, you can also use a string level or a straightedge with a stick level. This section of our shed foundation guide gives more detailed instructions. This video is also helpful.

If your intended gravel fire pit area does have a slope, you can either:

  • Build up the low end.
  • Dig out the high end.

Building up is the simplest and most common solution but digging out can be better in certain site layouts.

Gravel Patio Fire Pit Areas: What You Should Know (9)

2. Clear the topsoil

On a mostly level site, you’ll want to clear at least 4”-6” of topsoil away. This will keep the finished gravel patio area at the same height as the surrounding area. It’s a good idea to tamp down the remaining soil after the topsoil is cleared. We typically use a mini skid-steer, but you can also use a flat shovel for the job (although it will be a workout).

Gravel Patio Fire Pit Areas: What You Should Know (10)

3. Install a perimeter

We typically use 4×6 pressure-treated lumber for the perimeters of our gravel pads. It’s important to make sure the lumber perimeter is level when installed, since it will be the guide to keep your gravel level when you install it.

To keep the perimeter fastened in place, fasten the corners with 4” galvanized screws. We also recommend drilling through the lumber at 6’ to 8’ intervals and using rebar stakes to fasten the perimeter to the ground.

You can find a more detailed guide here, including instructions for installing the perimeter on sloped sites.

Gravel Patio Fire Pit Areas: What You Should Know (11)

4. Add weed barrier

A good weed barrier will keep pesky plants from sprouting up through your gravel fire pit patio area. For the most durable result, use a heavy-duty stabilization fabric that will not only stop weeds but will also provide extra support for the gravel fire pit area. We use a woven stabilization fabric under every gravel pad we install. More details on installing stabilization fabric here.

Gravel Patio Fire Pit Areas: What You Should Know (12)

5. Add gravel

For best results, your gravel patio fire pit area should be constructed with at least 4” gravel. We recommend ¾” clean crushed limestone based on both the drainage and support it provides. If you succeeded in leveling your perimeter properly, it should be easy to level the gravel to match!

Once the gravel (or crushed stone, technically) is in place, we recommend tamping it to keep it locked in place. This section of our gravel pad installation guide give more details.

If you want to finish your gravel patio fire pit area with pea gravel, keep the crushed stone a few inches below the edge of the perimeter and fill the rest of the space with the pea gravel.

Note that this method will also work to create a simple gravel patio without a fire pit. Depending on the layout of your property, you can even add gravel under a deck to create a simple patio area, though you obviously can’t add a fire pit there!

Gravel Patio Fire Pit Areas: What You Should Know (13)

Of course, you can always hire a site preparation company to install your gravel fire pit area if it’s more than you want to tackle yourself (we also do residential and commercial excavation services). We’ll give you a free quote ourselves if you’re in our service area. You can also review some of our completed work to get inspiration for your own project.

Let’s get that fire pit cooking!

Request A Quote

Gravel Patio Fire Pit Areas: What You Should Know (14)

Gravel Patio Fire Pit Areas: What You Should Know (15)

Gravel Patio Fire Pit Areas: What You Should Know (2024)


Gravel Patio Fire Pit Areas: What You Should Know? ›

Pea Gravel

While pea gravel doesn't compact as tightly as crushed limestone, it can still be used effectively around the fire pit area. Regular raking is necessary to keep the surface smooth and even, as the gravel may shift over time.

What kind of gravel should I use for a fire pit area? ›

Pea Gravel

While pea gravel doesn't compact as tightly as crushed limestone, it can still be used effectively around the fire pit area. Regular raking is necessary to keep the surface smooth and even, as the gravel may shift over time.

What is the best surface for a fire pit area? ›

rocks, gravel, and bricks would all be excellent floor materials as well. avoid using concrete in areas exposed to high heat, there is still water trapped in the pores and enough heat can create a steam explosion inside the concrete. What is the best base for a fire pit? Sand.

What rocks should you not use in a fire pit? ›

What rocks to avoid? To mitigate this risk, it's crucial to know which rocks to avoid. Porous rocks, including limestone, sandstone, pumice, and shale, are notorious for absorbing water and should be avoided in your campfire. River rocks, often rounded from years of water erosion, are remarkably deceptive.

Where should a fire pit be placed on a patio? ›

To use a fire pit on a deck, start by placing it at least 10 feet away from anything flammable, including furniture, cushions, roof overhangs and deck rails. Next, create a fire pit safety base, an area for the fire pit to sit on that's not flammable.

Should I put gravel in the bottom of my fire pit? ›

The best materials to put in the bottom of your fire pit are gravel, paver base or fire bricks.

What is the best stone for a fire pit patio? ›

Limestone Fire Pits

Limestone is strong enough to withstand years of exposure to fire and absorbs heat moderately, making a comfortable fire pit to sit around for extended periods of time.

What is the best thing to put under a fire pit? ›

An inch of sand at the bottom of a metal fire pit can help to protect the bowl from the intense heat of the fire. Whether your fire pit is portable or permanent, having sand at the bottom is a handy precaution. If you ever need to smother the fire in a hurry, you can grab a nearby shovel to use the sand.

What do you put in the bottom of an outdoor fire pit? ›

Sand or gravel is often the go-to choice. These materials help to dissipate the heat evenly and prevent damage to the bottom of your fire pit. Lava rocks are another excellent choice due to their heat-resistant properties. They also enhance the aesthetic appeal of the fire pit, especially when the fire is burning.

How much clearance do you need around a fire pit? ›

A good guideline is to have about 7 feet of space around the fire pit. But that number may change depending on the type of seating you have. For example, will there be a sitting wall around the fire pit?

Can you use patio stones for fire pit? ›

Make sure to choose pavers that are rated for outdoor use and can stand up to the elements. 3. Sand: A layer of sand should be spread at the bottom of your fire pit before you lay down the pavers. This will make them adhere better and prevent them from shifting around over time with the heat from your fire.

Why not to use river rocks for fire pit? ›

Crucially, don't ever use river rocks. There are several reasons why you should never use river rocks for a campfire, with one of the most obvious being that they are often more porous and can contain water. When this water gets hot it creates steam and the rapid expansion can cause the rock to explode.

Can I use landscape stones for a fire pit? ›

There are many ways landscaping stones can be used in outside spaces. If you have a fire pit on your property, these attractive hardscaping materials can certainly make an appealing and functional addition to this particular spot.

How far should an outdoor fire pit be from the house? ›

Fire must be a minimum of 25' away from a structure or other combustible materials. The distance to structures or combustibles may be reduced to 15' when confined to a permanent fire ring and fueled solely by LPG/Propane or natural gas. Fuels may only be clean, dry wood or charcoal.

Will a fire pit damage my patio? ›

The short answer is yes. It might take some time, but a wood burning fire pit may damage your concrete surface over time. The intense heat from a fire pit can cause the surface of the concrete in your concrete patio or outdoor area to crack and flake.

Can you have a fire pit on a patio? ›

Finally, you need to consider the type of flooring you have on your patio. Stone, brick, and concrete flooring are the safest options for your fire pit. If you have wooden, composite, or vinyl flooring, you'll need to place your fire pit on top of noncombustible material, such as a concrete slab.

How to make a stone firepit area? ›

With that being said, please see our brand new fire pit and seating area:
  1. Step 1: Gather Fire Pit Materials. ...
  2. Step 2: Determine Location. ...
  3. Step 3: Arrange Layer of Stones and Outline Fire Pit Footprint. ...
  4. Step 4: Outline Seating Area. ...
  5. Step 5: Dig Out the Outlined Area for the Firepit. ...
  6. Step 6: Fill the Hole.

What is the best gravel for a patio area? ›

What type of gravel is best for patios? Pea gravel is one of the best choices for patios because its small stones are easy to work with and can fit into most areas. Plus, pea gravel pieces can withstand the elements, aren't prone to cracking, and allow for drainage.

How do you install pea gravel around a fire pit? ›

Lay landscaping fabric (or a tarp) and make it tight, securing with metal landscaping stakes every 1-2 feet (less of a chance of rock going under it). Finally, bring in your pea gravel and start spreading it across the patio. Add your fire pit, seating, and of course, your favorite string lights. Relax and enjoy!

Can you use landscape lava rock for fire pits? ›

Lava rocks, on the other hand, are known for being very porous and light. Due to the porous texture, they contain no moisture – and do not hold any heat in. If you're considering strictly decorating your fire pit, lava rocks are the way to go.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Horacio Brakus JD

Last Updated:

Views: 5854

Rating: 4 / 5 (51 voted)

Reviews: 82% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Horacio Brakus JD

Birthday: 1999-08-21

Address: Apt. 524 43384 Minnie Prairie, South Edda, MA 62804

Phone: +5931039998219

Job: Sales Strategist

Hobby: Sculling, Kitesurfing, Orienteering, Painting, Computer programming, Creative writing, Scuba diving

Introduction: My name is Horacio Brakus JD, I am a lively, splendid, jolly, vivacious, vast, cheerful, agreeable person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.