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Building a rustic fire pit: DIY guide for beginners

Updated: Jan 18

A crackling fire pit has the remarkable ability to transform any outdoor space into a cozy haven, perfect for gatherings with family and friends.

That's why we decided to build one on my in-law's blueberry farm. They have an old Cracker house that we've all helped renovate and bring back to life (you can see that process here). That house is not on AirBnB... but it wasn't complete without a fire pit to roast marshmallows and enjoy the cool winter nights and long summer evenings of South Georgia.

If you're looking to add a touch of rustic charm to your backyard, consider building a fire pit using unconventional materials like we did, using railroad ties for the pathway and tree bark for a natural, earthy touch.

In this DIY guide, we'll take you through the steps of creating a unique and visually stunning fire pit area that will become the focal point of your outdoor space. Keep in mind that we didn't follow all of the steps listed below because our situation was different (as you'll see in the video), but hopefully you'll find the inspiration you're after!

Materials Needed:

  1. Railroad ties (for the pathway)

  2. Tree bark

  3. Gravel or crushed stone

  4. Fire pit ring or fire pit kit

  5. Leveler

  6. Shovel

  7. Rubber mallet

  8. Landscape fabric or cardboard

  9. Sand

  10. Tamping tool

  11. Safety gear (gloves, safety glasses)

Step 1: Choose the location

Select a suitable location for your fire pit. Make sure it's away from overhanging trees and structures, and that it complies with local fire safety regulations. We built ours out on a farm so regulations weren't a problem.

Once chosen, mark the area for both the fire pit and the pathway using spray paint or stakes.

Step 2: Lay out the railroad tie pathway

Lay the railroad ties along the marked pathway, leaving enough space for comfortable walking.

We measured the space as 57-58". That is enough space for 2 people to walk side by side down the path.

To create a visually appealing design, consider alternating the orientation of the ties or creating curves in the path. Use a level to ensure the ties are even and level with the ground. For us, that required removing dirt bit by bit as you'll see in the video.

Step 3: Prepare the path base

Remove the railroad ties and excavate the pathway area to a depth of about 2 inches. Add a layer of gravel or crushed stone to improve drainage. Compact the base using a tamping tool.

Step 4: Lay landscape fabric

Place a layer of landscape fabric over the compacted gravel to prevent weeds from growing through the pathway. You can use cardboard sheets, too.

Pour a layer of sand on top of the fabric and level it using a rake or shovel.

Step 5: Reinstall railroad ties

Carefully reinstall the railroad ties on top of the sand, ensuring they are level and secure. Use a level and rubber mallet to make any necessary adjustments.

Step 6: Create the fire pit area

Clear the designated fire pit area and, if necessary, level the ground. Install the fire pit ring or assemble the fire pit kit according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Step 7: Add bark for a cleaner, rustic look

Enhance the rustic feel of your fire pit area by incorporating tree bark. Use bark to line the pathway edges or strategically place logs or bark pieces around the fire pit area for a natural aesthetic.

Step 8: Fill the fire pit area

Fill the fire pit area with a layer of gravel or sand to create a stable and fire-resistant base for your fire pit.

With a little creativity and some DIY magic, you can transform your outdoor space into a charming and rustic fire pit oasis using railroad ties for the pathway and tree bark for added natural elements. We also added solar-powered lights for extra warmth and 'hygge' during those chilly winter nights.

This unique project not only adds warmth to your gatherings but also gives your backyard a distinctive and inviting atmosphere. We hope you'll enjoy the crackling flames and the beauty of your handmade fire pit area with family and friends for years to come.


Welcome to my garden

Hi! I'm Lars (Denmark).

Thanks for joining me as I share tips and inspiration for perennial gardening. 

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