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June 1, 2010 6:31 PM   Subscribe

Would a concrete planter function as a firepit? (see pic inside)

I'm planning on buying somebody's used concrete planter and using it as a simple outdoor firepit. Is this a good idea, or a dangerous idea? Would love to hear thoughts and comments. Thanks.

The planter in questions is this:

If the link is dead, it looks similar to this:

To add, I've read somewhere not to use bricks that have been sumberged in water when building a firepit. If I remember correctly, the residual water trapped inside would heat up, expand, and possibly cause the brick to explode, if it was used to build a firepit. True?
posted by cheemee to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would not recommend it. Exploding concrete is a very real possibility.
posted by axismundi at 6:37 PM on June 1, 2010

It seems that some people do something similar.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:41 PM on June 1, 2010

I think if you bury it up to the rim, an explosion would just go into the dirt. You could try that.
posted by delmoi at 6:55 PM on June 1, 2010

If it wasn't made with the intention of holding fire, there's a good chance it'll crack or explode if you build a fire in it, yeah. (I don't know what the mechanism is— if it's just trapped water turning to steam, you might be able to bake it out, but I don't know if that'd work.)
posted by hattifattener at 6:56 PM on June 1, 2010

Some time ago I redid some masonry in a fireplace, and learned that to do it right you need to use firebrick and refractory mortar. Regular cement/concrete will disintegrate if exposed to high heat; that is how it is made in the first place, so you are essentially reprocessing it. If you only use it occasionally a plain concrete planter may last for a while, even years (if it is not in a climate where the cracks that for from heating and cooling become expanded by freezing water in the winter). When it does fail, think about where it is; if it is on a concrete patio away from your dwelling it may be no big deal; if it is on a wooden deck, think of the consequences of dumping a grill full of flaming charcoal out and decide if it is a reasonable risk to take. There are a lot of inexpensive metal firepits out there that would be a better alternative in most situations; they even include screens to keep stray embers from causing problems.
posted by TedW at 7:04 PM on June 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think if you bury it up to the rim, an explosion would just go into the dirt. You could try that.

The problem really isn't the exploding container, it's about the significant amount of on-fire projectile bits that the explosion sends flying.
posted by axismundi at 7:04 PM on June 1, 2010

Some of the explosion would go into the dirt.  The rest of it would shatter into the fire, then up into your faces.  I say go for it.
posted by Aquaman at 7:06 PM on June 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Based on my experience of building large fires in ill-advised places, wet concrete/cement/mortar doesn't explode with much force (a bushel of oysters dumped on a bonfire on top of sheet metal and burlap will set off bigger explosions). The chiminea I killed and replaced with a metal one shed flakes and crumbled until it was unusable; the cinderblock barbecue pits I have built for hog cooking have suffered a similar fate. In no instance have I seen an explosion that would approach the explosive force of the average firecracker. The real problem is that the firepit may disintegrate at any time; if it is used to line a hole in the ground it will probably be no big deal; if it is on or near a flammable structure there could be major problems.
posted by TedW at 7:44 PM on June 1, 2010

Thanks for the replies!

Will opt not to take the chance, as much as I enjoy a good explosion.
posted by cheemee at 7:57 PM on June 1, 2010

If you're burying it in the ground, what we have used for years as a firepit is a large truck rim (the metal wheel from an 18-wheeler) sunk flush to the ground, surrounded on the sides and below by firebrick. Going on 10 years and no issues, and it was all scrounged/recovered material, so free is nice. :D
posted by xedrik at 1:27 PM on June 2, 2010

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