Building your own garden fireplace: the ideal barbecue

Thomas Bott

A fixed fireplace in the garden is ideal for generating heat on cold evenings or organizing a barbecue with guests. Unlike a mobile barbecue, you don’t have to keep putting it away. The best thing about it is that with a bit of skill, you can easily build a brick barbecue yourself. Find out here what you should take into account.

View of a patio with a garden fireplace.
© Getty Images / iStockphoto

In this article

A garden fireplace: check whether you need a permit

Small fireplaces are usually not subject to approval. However, in some municipalities you may still need permission from the building authorities. So contact them before planning your fireplace to check the local regulations and requirements. After all, fire protection is particularly important with a fireplace.

Planning: work out the best position

The fire safety regulations mentioned above include minimum distances in relation to the house or combustible materials such as wood. You should take these into account when planning your garden fireplace. You also need to consider the neighbors before deciding on the position. Nobody likes to sit on their balcony surrounded by thick clouds of smoke. So try to place the outside fireplace so that it doesn’t disturb the people around you. Otherwise, the following principle applies: ideally, the combined barbecue and fireplace should be located at one end of the patio so that it is easily accessible. Then make an initial plan for your barbecue.

A person is holding a cooking grate over a fire.

To turn your fireplace into a barbecue, all you need is a cooking grate and a coal pan.

Materials: what you need for your garden fireplace

If it is an open fire, it is vital to opt for fireproof materials. Wood and most plastics are out of the question. Steel would be a better choice, but it heats up very quickly. Stone and concrete are therefore well suited for a garden barbecue. Both materials are extremely robust, isolate heat well and are very easy to install. The final choice depends on your personal taste. The easiest way to build a barbecue is probably with bricks. There are the materials you will need for your DIY fireplace:

  • Fireproof mortar
  • Concrete
  • Firebricks
  • Bricks
  • Crushed stone
  • Gravel
  • Concrete slabs (four centimeters thick)
  • Wooden panels (three centimeters thick)
  • Joint sand
  • Cooking grate
  • Coal pan

First steps: create the foundation

Your garden fireplace must be level, secure and protected from ground frost. For this you need a foundation. Using a spade and shovel, start by digging out around 30 centimeters of soil at the desired location. Try to keep the sides of the excavated area straight and make the ground underneath as flat as possible. Now fit the wooden panels around the sides and fill the hole 22 centimeters deep with crushed stone.

Next, sprinkle five centimeters of gravel on top. Compact this to create a surface that is as firm and level as possible. Lay the concrete slabs next to each other over the gravel and hammer them in a little with a rubber mallet, aligning them horizontally as you do so. The slabs should sink in by about one centimeter. Spread the joint sand over the surface and sweep it in. This is the foundation for your fireplace.

A person wearing rubber boots is tapping the earth with a spade.

Before you start building the walls, you must first dig a foundation and fill it with crushed stone, gravel and concrete slabs.

Walls: building a fireplace, one brick at a time

You can now build the actual fireplace by placing bricks on top of the foundation. To do so, first place the bricks on the surface for a test. See if you need to cut them anywhere. If everything fits, you can make a start. To lay the bricks, first apply a thickness of about two centimeters of mortar to the foundation where the bricks are to be placed. But make sure you only spread out enough mortar for two bricks at a time, otherwise it will dry too quickly.

Place the bricks on the mortar and press them down with your hand. Use a spirit level to check that the bricks are straight. Position the next brick two centimeters from the previous one and press it down. Remove any excess mortar underneath to create a straight line. Continue like this until the first row of bricks is complete. Now fill the spaces with mortar and smooth it down.

Cut the bricks for the corners of the next row a little bit so that each layer will be staggered in relation to the previous one. This ensures extra stability and above all looks better. Again, apply two centimeters of mortar and lay the bricks two centimeters apart. If necessary, press a little extra mortar into the gaps and smooth it out to create a uniform appearance.

The next row should correspond to the first. Continue staggering the layers like this until you reach the desired height for the fireplace. Apply another layer of mortar and lay the fireproof and heat-retaining firebricks. Keep measuring regularly with the spirit level after each step to make sure your fireplace doesn’t end up crooked.

A person can be seen plastering the joints of a brick wall.

The joints should be finished with a little mortar and smoothed down. This creates more stability and looks tidy.

The combustion chamber: the heart of your fireplace

Carry on building the wall on the firebricks. In terms of dimensions, let yourself be guided by the coal pan and the cooking grate. After all, you want to be able to barbecue in your garden. Measure everything carefully and draw the outlines on the firebricks. Tip: it’s particularly easy if you subtract about one to two centimeters from the dimensions of the cooking grate and work with it. This way you can mill appropriate slots into the bricks and use them as a run for the grate.

Now all you need to do is finish the wall with the remaining bricks, and your garden barbecue is ready. If you want to give it a hood, a specialist company can make it for you from stainless steel. But this is not absolutely necessary. Once the mortar is completely dry, all you need to do is pour some charcoal into the coal pan, light the fuel and place the food on the barbecue. A cozy fire, on the other hand, can be lit directly with wood on the fireproof firebricks.

Tip: with a pizza stone, you can not only barbecue in the fireplace, but also convert your garden fireplace into a pizza oven. Pizza stones are available in specialist shops from around 40 francs.

Costs: a garden fireplace is not expensive

You don’t have to budget high costs for a self-built garden barbecue. Here’s how much you should expect to pay for a small barbecue that is 1.30 meters high, 0.8 meters wide and 0.4 meters deep:

  • Material
  • Costs
  • Bricks
  • about 70 francs
  • Firebricks
  • about 55 francs
  • Crushed stone
  • about 30 francs
  • Gravel
  • about 11 francs
  • Joint sand
  • about 12 francs
  • Mortar
  • about 10 francs
  • Concrete slabs
  • about 8 francs
  • Wooden panels
  • about 40 francs
  • Cooking grate
  • about 60 francs
  • Coal pan
  • about 70 francs
  • Total
  • about 366 francs

Note: these prices are merely rough estimates. The actual costs may vary.

Conclusion: not a difficult DIY project

Building your own fireplace for the garden is not complicated. However, bricklaying can take a while, so plan at least one working day. You will end up with a cozy fireplace and barbecue ideal for pleasant summer evenings. If you are unsure about the planning, you can also find ready-made kits in specialist shops.

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