New Design – Fire Table

New Design – Fire Table

I am excited to bring to you my next big build for our house! Ever since moving into our home about 3 years ago (even before that honestly), I’ve wanted to have a fire table for our patio. The idea of sitting outside with friends around a table with a fire in it just seemed cool to me. Not to mention the great potential for s’mores! While we’re still not at the point of having a bunch of friends over, I figured it would be a good time to make my long desired fire table.

Like all of my builds, I had to come up with a solid design first. And here is where we hit a bit of a snag. Typically, wood and fire don’t mix. As an educated adult human, I realize this. So I wanted to do some research and see if others had come up with similar builds. Shockingly, I didn’t end up finding very much. There were a couple posts on reddit with fire pits set directly into wood tables but details were always lacking. I also found a youtube video or two about a fire pit set in a concrete table, but that wasn’t exactly what I was looking for either. Back to the drawing board, or in this case, the SketchUp board.

I knew a couple of things. One, I wanted the table to be like a normal dining table with room for eight. This meant making it large enough for 8 (like 3’x6’) and also leaving enough space for plates to sit without burning to a crisp. Two, fire (or heat) and wood don’t mix. Out of an abundance of caution, this meant that I needed a “barrier” between the fire pit and the wood table to protect against the heat. I considered a couple of options in this regard (tile, fire blocks, cement) and ended up going with cement. I felt like this was the best compromise of ease of building, decent heat protection, and good outdoor performance. With those design “requirements” in mind, I started my SketchUp model and the sausage making began.

First things first, the size of the table. I already knew I wanted something about 3’x6’ to accommodate 8 people. What I didn’t know was how big to make the fire pit in the middle. I assumed that about 10-12” would be enough space for a typical plate to sit. I also knew that I wanted to use 2”x6” cedar for the table top, ripped down to 5” wide pieces. Because it is an outdoor piece, I planned to leave spaces between each table top board. This makes accounting for wood movement easier and gives a place for rain to drain down. So with a ½” gap between boards, and a 5” wide board, 2 boards before the center cement feature meant 10½” for plates to sit. Perfect!

I actually built out the table in SketchUp with the 5” wide boards and ½” spacing. I then deleted the inner boards to make sure these measurements worked. It made it super easy to see that I had 16” total for the center cement and fire pit.

While technically a table at this point, some extra work is needed.

As for fire pit length, I also knew that I wanted the fire pit to extend as much of the length as possible, so that it was a big feature of the table. So for a 6’ long table, with about 12” on each end before the cement, I had just under 4’ to work with for a fire feature. With 16” wide and 48” long for both the fire pit and cement as my working limits, back to the internet I went!

I searched around for different fire pit providers and ended up on (not an affiliate). They seemed reasonably priced and had decent reviews, so I figured I’d size my design based on their offerings. I’ll get into the fire pit details in a later post, but I picked their 38”x7” pan for my design. They had wider fire pits (10”), but with the lip the fire pit would be 12” wide, only leaving about 1½” on each side for cement. Way too thin for both strength and heat protection!

The 7” wide pan, with a 1” lip (minus ½” on both sides for overlap of the pan on the cement), meant that I needed ~4” of cement around the pan to be about 16” wide. This worked perfectly with the length as well, as the fire pit and cement feature would be about 47” long. With the fire pit picked out and a rough idea of the cement size, back to SketchUp!

With the fire pit size in hand, it was easy to add the fire pit portion to my sketch up design and center it.

If only my fire pit could defy gravity!

As you can see from the picture above, I had 3½” on the sides for the cement buffer. Because metal expands when hot (as does cement), I needed to leave some expansion room between the edge of the cement and the fire pit walls. The metal has a 1” overhang, so making the cement 4” wide left ½” on all sides for heat expansion. With that finalized, it was easy to add in the cement portion of the table.

Getting closer to obeying the rules of physics and a functional table.

That left me to fill back in the middle 3 wood boards and extend them to the cement.

Perfect! Not pictured, supports along the length of the cement under the wood to hold the cement in place.

The fire table design was complete! Except for legs, but Allyson wanted to buy some steel table legs, so I didn’t have to add them here. I ended up going into more detail than normal for my design process. Hopefully it helped give you an idea of how I made the sizing decisions that I did! Now for the fun part: building the new fire table!

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