My neighbor recently told me about having a lakeside bonfire in the stone-lined pit his grandfather had laid some sixty years before. They heard tires on the driveway and went to the door to find the sheriff about to knock; someone across the lake had seen the fire and called not the fire department, but the police. It being the Fourth of July, they grabbed some hot dogs and marshmallows and promised the sheriff they would keep the fire at a reasonable size and that they would apply for a permit the next time.
Aside from concerns about the state of neighbor relations and wonderment at how some things could not literally be ‘grandfathered,’ his story made me worry. At our previous home, having a ‘campfire’ in our back yard was the ne plus ultra of summer; and as there are 162 major league baseball games and 12 Husky football games per year, all of which are broadcast on the radio, and many of which occur during decent weather, we had plenty–all of them conforming to municipal code and local fire regulations. Obviously we would not be able to do that here, even with Duraflame logs. I decided to take our new fire pit underground…and then up to eye level.
The gas pipe runs down from the valve on the exterior wall, underneath the patio, and goes vertical again into a surround made from 1/4″ mild steel, welded together into a two-part cube that is the exact dimension of one patio paver. 1/4″ mild steel is still very heavy, especially when your partner drops half the cube on your finger as you set it in place. The gas pipe is connected to a stainless ‘halo’ burner, and the whole thing is filled with pea gravel and topped with reflective fire glass in amber and copper. I sprayed the steel cube in metallic bronze topped with a flat russet brown, which gives it a rusty, industrial appearance without being all tetanus-ey.
I just happened to have a lightweight-ish concrete tabletop lying around (after I detached it from its matching base, purchased the previous fall from Crate and Barrel with the idea that it would just be a table from Crate and Barrel).
Now, if I want to have a fire, I don’t need a spark screen or chimney, adhere to a size limit, apply for a permit, or have to have a package of Nathan’s Famous sitting next to me in case somebody wants to rat me out to the cops for warding off the chill in my back yard. Because I have space limitations the
dual function is perfect: it’s a table and it is also a fire pit.*
*I work in the HVAC industry, and while I did design this, it was fabricated and installed with the invaluable help of one of my coworkers. This is not a DIY project for most people: be sure to check codes, regulations, and permits in your area and have a licensed professional do any gas piping. Shoddy work on something like this is extremely undesirable.