How to Make a Bonfire In Your Backyard

By: Contributors  | 
A group of friends around a bonfire during winter.
Building a bonfire can be lots of fun but can also be catastrophic if done wrong. Heath Korvola / Getty Images

Building a bonfire can be lots of fun for the whole family. You can tell ghost stories, sing campfire songs and cook hot dogs and baked potatoes while sitting around a bonfire. All you need to do is pile up some dry wood in a safe place, and then light the wood with a match.

Before building a backyard bonfire you should:


  • Find out if you need a permit to build a bonfire, and get one if necessary.
  • Find out if bonfires are legal in your area, and if so, during what times of year.
  • Contact your local fire department to find out whether there are any requirements for the building of outdoor fires and whether they have any specific fire safety instructions for your area's landscaping [source: Ohio].

Here's what you'll need for your bonfire:

  • Bricks and/or stones
  • Tinder (twigs, pine needles, bark, newspaper, etc)
  • Kindling (larger sticks)
  • Fuel (logs)

Use hardwood that has been dried or cured. Green, uncured wood produces more smoke, smaller flames and less heat.

Here's how to build the bonfire:

  1. Make a circle with bricks or stones. If you want a permanent bonfire pit in your yard, you can dig a hole and then surround it with bricks or stones [source: The Sunday Times].
  2. Stand the tinder in a teepee shape in the center of the circle.
  3. Make a teepee out of kindling around the tinder, leaving some gaps for oxygen to escape.
  4. Put some fuel logs parallel to each other on two sides of the teepee.
  5. Repeat this process up to five times, building the teepee in higher and higher layers [Source:The Telegraph].

Once the bonfire is set up, drop a match into the center of the teepee (or stick it into one of the gaps) to start the fire. Make sure the match gets all the way into the tinder layer of the teepee.

Be sure to have a supply of water on hand, just in case. Put out the fire completely, before going inside for the night.


Originally Published: May 4, 2011

Bonfire Pit FAQs

What do you need to start a bonfire in your backyard?
Before building a backyard bonfire you should find out if you need a permit to build a bonfire and get one if necessary. You’ll also need to know if bonfires are legal in your area, and when. It’s also a good idea to contact your local fire department. If all that checks out, then you can assemble the materials for a bonfire: bricks or stones, fuel, a match or lighter and tinder (twigs, paper, bark, etc.).
Can I make a bonfire in my backyard?
Some areas require getting a permit before you can legally start one. In addition, some states prohibit bonfires at different times of the year.
How do you make a bonfire?
To make a bonfire, you essentially need fuel (logs), some bricks or stones, and matches or a lighter. Start by placing the bricks or stones in a circle. Stand the tinder in a teepee shape so they can burn evenly. Then place the fuel logs next to the teepee and light it up.
What is the best wood for burning in a firepit?
The best wood for a firepit is dried and cured hardwood because it produces less smoke and more heat.