DIY Portable and Upcycled Fire Pit

April 15, 2013 by


I spotted this today on Instructables (from member pienkc) and just had to share. I’m not suggesting we all go out and steal a shopping cart, but if you happen to come across a rejected or trashed one, this is a cool way to reuse it as a fire pit–and it has its own built-in log storage rack to boot.

The price is right: the cost of extra materials for this project is less $15.00.  The author of this idea found his shopping cart close to the loading dock area of a local grocery store beside a trash compactor, then asked the manager if he could purchase it and it was offered to him gratis.

Make sure your cart has a chrome finish. Apparently, newer carts have a powder coat finish so the old style chrome carts, such as the one in the photo, above are no longer used and the reason for which this one was put out with the trash. Powder coated carts are not recommended for use as fire pits because the heat generated by burning wood will destroy the finish, and frankly the melted coating is probably toxic.

Chrome shopping Cart
27″ x 8′ steel lath
galvanized steel drip edge flashing
galvanized steel  corner bead
3 cookie sheets
1 pr galvanized steel hurricane ties
nuts and bolts

Note: After reading one of the comments below about possible toxicity arising from the metal , I went back to the Instructables post to see the comments there about. Here is what the project’s author says: 

“When the idea first came to me, I had the same concern about chrome and fire so did some Google research. What I found is that shopping carts are plated with nickel/chrome. I also found several companies (weber, chef master, firemagic, shinerich) that manufacture nickel/chrome cooking grids where the food is cooked directly on the plated grid. With that information I thought it safe to proceed with my idea. Maybe I am missing something. Perhaps I need to trap some squirrels, put them in a cage and place it in proximity of the fire pit during some test burns and see if they are affected. (kidding… don’t need PETA on my case.)  


  1. Steven said:

    This shopping trolley Fire Pit/ BBQ has just cracked me up!
    Every fire needs wheels.

    — April 16, 2013 @ 07:17

  2. Dad_a_Monk said:

    I feel you should have given credit to peinkc on soince you used his guide verbatim as well as his pictures.

    AS IMPORTANT, you failed to add the warnings on galvanized steel that comminters added and in turn peinkc added a warning/correction about. Galvanized metals give off zinc gas when heated and is HIGHLY toxic. They should NEVER be used in a fire pit like this, Also as a reminder to all, this cart was given to the maker and he did as to purchace it from the store. Taking a cart from a storem EVEN if you find one abandoned a distance from the store it is m nearked for is theft of ovder $500 which is a felony in many states. Even if you find the cart by a loading dock near a trash dumpster it can still be called theft. ASK the store manager BEFORE you take action just to save a few $$

    — April 18, 2013 @ 14:31

  3. Robin Horton said:

    Thank you for mentioning. I thought the link to his page, which included his bio, was sufficient. But I am going to take your advice and add his name. Thanks!

    — April 18, 2013 @ 14:36

  4. Robin Horton said:

    Whoa, the writer explicitly stated that he asked and was granted permission by the store manager, so he didn’t steal the cart. When I read the piece, it did not yet have any comments, so I never saw anything from commenters. Thanks for mentioning about the galvanized thing, I will absolutely go back and check this out and add a footnote.

    — April 18, 2013 @ 14:39

  5. Dad_a_Monk said:

    Yes the comments are often easy to miss and may have not been
    added till after you published this. I just want to make sure
    people are aware of the danger. Even the author was unaware till
    after publishing his guide. Not one of those communally known
    facts but still very dangerous. Many construction workers have
    become quite ill from burning scrap that contains galvanized

    Also, yes the author did clearly state that he was given the
    cart, just many think nothing of grabbing shopping carts since
    the are always left unattended. Just as many think nothing of
    taking plastic milk crates or soda crates which are obviously not
    as valuable, but none the less still theft.

    I LOVE your site and thank you for passing on great tips like
    this and all the others. Keep up the GREAT work!!

    — April 18, 2013 @ 14:50

  6. Robin Horton said:

    Thanks again for calling possible issues to our attention, better safe than sorry. And thanks for the kind words about Urban Gardens!

    — April 18, 2013 @ 15:02

  7. Robin Horton said:

    Thanks Steven, glad you enjoyed!

    — April 18, 2013 @ 15:03

  8. peinkc said:

    Greetings Urban Gardeners

    This is peinkc, creator of the portable fire pit and I wanted to add a couple
    of comments here.

    First… the shopping cart. It is not cool or smart to steal these things. The
    store that gave it to me had a recent changeover where all their carts were
    replaced with powder coat carts and the chrome carts were hauled away. After the changeover, a couple of chrome carts showed up in the parking lot. They were hauled to the back of the store and one of them sat back there a month before I went in and asked about it. I had a certain budget in mind but the store manager said I could have it. Off to a good start on my project. The manager even went an extra step and signed a note and wrote his phone number on company stationery stating that the store had given me the cart. He pointed out that if the police happened to spot me with a cart hanging out the trunk, I would be stopped.

    On the matter of galvanized steel. I didreceive a few posts pointing out the danger of the stuff so I have made a few changes to the original project. Then I had a post from someone who seemed quite knowledgeable on metals. He stated that galvanized steel had to get very hot (as in welding) before there were any fumes. The fumes will not kill you but give you what is called metal fume fever which is
    like having a bad case of flu for a couple of days. Then another post pointed out that galvanized steel is routinely used in wood stove chimneys. I know that in the
    test burns that I have done, the galvanized steel framing that I used on the
    spark screen did not get hot enough to singe a finger so I would guess that the
    dangers of using galvanized steel are overstated but the beauty of a project
    like this is to take the concept and adapt it as you wish with materials on

    — April 18, 2013 @ 18:19

  9. Robin Horton said:

    Thanks peinc for this feedback. Sounds like you did a lot of research and I personally value seeing these kinds of ideas and even learning about what works and what does not.

    — April 18, 2013 @ 18:42

  10. said:

    creative idea, but it doesn’t look like a trashed shopping cart. Want to need an outdoor fire pits, come here to a visit,

    — April 26, 2013 @ 01:52

  11. Peter said:

    I actually happen to have an old shopping cart lying around somewhere, I think I’ll give this a try 🙂

    outdoor fire pit

    — April 26, 2013 @ 06:13

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