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DIY Gel Fire Pits: Easy & Cheap Sizzle for Table Tops!

 


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by Jeff Patterson in Exterior
DIY Gel Fire Pits

Need a conversation starter?

This tutorial will give you one.

I’m always up for building cool stuff to make our patio more inviting.

Since I’m also a penny pincher I like to figure out how to DIY these things and get a cool result.

Cement DIY gel fire pits like the one I made are super easy to build, don’t cost a ton, and add sizzle to your outdoor space.

This project took me one day and I’m stoked to show you the details!!!!

It’s fall here in Pittsburgh. The nights are getting cooler and having a little fire pit would be nice.

BUT our local code doesn’t allow fire pits.

Probably something to do with homes burning down.

So I decided to build a small table top fire pit from concrete, lava rock and gel fuel.

Fire Pit on Table

It’s probably the safest fire pit you could design for a table top setting.

Here are the supplies you need

I raced all over town looking for the solid gel fuel only to find it at my local Lowe’s.

Duh!

It was in the garden center.

The lava rocks can be bought at a fireplace store.

Let me show you how to build a custom cement bowl for the fire pit.

It’s way easier than you think 😀

 

Build a way cool custom cement bowl for your fire pit 

Do you remember making neat stuff in grade school art class?

Well this part of the fire pit project is kinda like that.

Place newspaper on your table.

Get two plastic bowls, one smaller than the other.

The space between the two bowls needs to be about 1 inch. This will be the thickness of your cement bowl.

Plastic Bowls

Put on your gloves and respirator, safety first my friend.

Place the sander close by. It’ll be used to vibrate the cement cast.

Spray the inside of the large bowl with Pam. Then spray the outside of the smaller bowl with Pam.

Pam for bowls

THIS IS SUPER important.

The Pam will allow the cement to pull off the plastic bowls. I show you an extra step in the video tutorial that makes this a full proof process.

Pour one bag of the quick setting cement into your 2 gallon bucket.

Then add enough fresh water to mix it with your margin trowel.

Always make more cement than you think you’ll need. I made the mistake of not doing this 🙁

The consistency will like a thick milk shake. You want the cement to be pourable.

Pour the cement into the large bowl.

Pour Cement into Bowl

Then press the smaller bowl into the cement mixture.

Press Small Bowl

Make sure the small bowl is centered inside the large bowl and has a 1 inch gap on the bottom.

Use the sander (without sand paper) to vibrate the large bowl. This will help remove air pockets.

Sander to Remove Bubbles

Let the cement sit for a good 5-6 hours.

Then you can pull the small bowl from the large bowl.

Place a beach towel on your table and turn the large bowl upside down while holding the cement cast with one hand.

Voila!!!

There’s your cement cast.

Cement Cast on Towel

Now for the fun part: playing with FIRE!!!!

 

How to safely setup your gel fire pit

The bowls I bought at Walmart were just deep enough to hold a gel fuel can.

Wear chemical resistant gloves and open one fuel can. Place it in the center of the bowl.

It wouldn’t hurt to temporarily place the cans lid back on so that you don’t get lava rocks in the fuel.

Spread the fire resistant lava rocks around the gel fuel can.

Light the fuel with a long match or lighter.

And you’re done.

Check out my video for all the details and extra tips.  I thought this was a fun 1 day project. Once you have the supplies you can make more DIY gel fire pits pretty darn easily.

How to Build DIY Gel Fire Pits

http://youtu.be/GBkvFLlzsak

 

What’s Next

Hope you liked this fun project.

This is totally off topic, but if you’re remodeling a bathroom you might like our free ‘Guide to a Bathroom Makeover in 10-Days’, it has a ton of great tips

Get Our Guide

Thanks for reading, watching, and being part of our awesome community.

Have a great day and talk to you soon,

Jeff Patterson

 

 

 

 

P.S. If you didn’t know, we have online classes for homeowners doing a DIY bathroom remodel.

They’re affordable, step-by-step and awesome for newbies.

Learn More

38 Comments
  1. Char says:

    Splendid idea!

    1. Thanks Char, I hope it inspires others in our community 😀

  2. Nancy Leszczynski says:

    Well, I never thought I needed a fire pit, but now I see that I DO NEED one. Very cool, and super easy. Can’t wait to get this built!!!

    1. I didn’t think I’d want one either. But this is pretty easy to do. So now a second one might be in the near future, haha.

  3. Ann says:

    Wow, I love it. I’ve been wanting (for a long time) to have a fire pit to fill with “fire glass.” It’s pretty in the day time (fire glass is entrancing). It’s pretty when the fire is burning. (Fire glass with flames is gorgeous.) The fire pit you designed would be perfect for holding fire glass. Thanks Jeff. You just made my day.

    1. Cool idea Ann to use fire glass with something like this. You could easily do the same thing but with rectangular molds. And that would be way easier to partner with glass.

      I’d love to see your project ;D

      1. Where do you buy fire glass??

        1. I’m not sure Sandi, you could try a fireplace store and they might have some. Sorry I don’t have a better answer 😀

        2. Redgie Schneid says:

          I get my fire glass from starfiredirect.com. I like the selection they have.

  4. Rich says:

    You could push stones, small tile pieces or bits of smooth glass along the rim after pouring and shaping the concrete. The concrete could also be tinted to add some interest.

    1. Love your ideas Rich, I actually thought about tinting the cement but held off on my first try.

  5. Kiki says:

    Very cool! I think I’d try to come up with a rectangular version just to mix up the style. The dollar stores have those plastic shoe-box-thingies that I bet would work. Thanks for the idea and the how-to! Looks super easy. Great inspiration! 🙂

    1. Rectangular would look great Kiki. I frankly wanted to do one in that shape but couldn’t find a suitable plastic container. If you do find one let me know because I’d love to give it a try.

  6. PAM says:

    If you sit this on a metal table, won’t it heat the table? Possible burned hands and melted dishes?

    1. You’d have to test your specific cement bowl Pam but in my case it wasn’t hot to the touch. The gel fuel stays in the can and the rocks act like insulation.

      So the metal table stayed super cool.

  7. Jay says:

    Hey Jeff!
    Great article – looks like a fun project. Do you think you could also pour a quart of rubbing alcohol over the lava rocks and burn that instead of spending the money on the gel canisters? A quart of 70% rubbing alcohol is $2-3 at any drugstore and most groceries.
    Thanks!

    1. Hey Jay, not sure how the alcohol would work.

      The nice part about the gel is it lasts for several hours. I could imagine the alcohol just burning off.

  8. matt says:

    You do not mention heat factor. Does the cement ever warm to the touch – can it be painted on the outside?

    I grew up huntin/fishin and sterno never really put off a lot of radient heat, just a focused upward heat (great for cooking, not so much for warmth by its self) – are the lava rocks on the outside edge as warm as the rocks in the center?

    Looks great! Thanks for your time.

    1. Hey Matt, good questions.

      The cement bowl doesn’t get super hot.

      I like leaving cement bare since the paint will eventually peal off. But you could use a special paint for cement. Or you could try dying the cement when mixing it.

      The rocks, in my case, didn’t get hot on the edge.

      Thanks buddy for your questions.

  9. Pam says:

    Jeff, I REALLY want to make some of these diy fire pits but I’ve searched high and low and can’t find suitable bowls. Can you give me an idea where I might locate? Thanks! Love the idea if I can just find the supplies!!

    1. Thanks Pam for your question.

      I had a hard time finding bowls, too.

      But eventually spotted some plastic ones in Wal-Mart that did the trick.

      If you can’t find any bowls I’ll send you the ones I used 😀

  10. Renee says:

    Why haven’t I been making these my whole life? A long, rectangular mold would be pretty sweet, too. Thanks for the great idea!

  11. Jayme Tidwell says:

    How much cement did you buy? I am seeing different size containers.

  12. Glenn says:

    Have you ever painted one of these?

  13. Tom Weiland says:

    How would I be able to implement citronella into these without over heating the cement bowl??

  14. Redgie Schneid says:

    This is an awesome DIY idea. It perfect on top of a patio table. Gotta try this project out. It would match the large fire bowl we already have.

  15. I love this! I am going to try it! Have you ever painted it?

  16. Leanne says:

    Question: went to the local hardware store & they discontinued selling the gel fuel because of safety hazards. Would Sterno or a Magic Flame canister, used for small camping stoves, work the same?

  17. Darrelynne says:

    Thanks Jeff for the instructions they were fantastic! I checked into some others and they were to complicated so I tried yours and I had a great time plus it was so easy I took it a step further. My bowls were the clear plastic like the ones that you used and since I was doing this for my son’s birthday I traced a Seahawk (yup he’s a football fan) on a piece of paper then taped it on the outside of the large bowl then used calking and traced it on the inside. After the silicon dried completely I just continued with your instructions. I wish I had some way of sending you a picture, it turned out great. I also put fire glass on top of the lava rock in the seahawks colors. Thanks again, I will be doing this again!

  18. When dealing with concrete all day long, you would think you would grow tired of it. Well, not me. I love all the things it can be molded into. I love this project, thanks for sharing.

  19. Inga huff says:

    Great DIY. Have you made a bigger one since the original? This is going to be a summer DIY for me, I’m thinking I’d like to try it on a bigger scale. Thank YOU

  20. Lauren says:

    Hi! How do you replace the fuel once it goes out? Do you have to take the whole thing apart??

  21. Maryjo says:

    Cool idea! Can you use regular cement too? Where do you find lava rocks?

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