What Everybody Ought To Know About Home Fire Pits

February 08, 2021

What Everybody Ought To Know About Home Fire Pits

Fire pits are a wonderful addition to any home. They allow you to enjoy the wonderful outdoors even during those coldest nights. How good is it sitting outside with your friends and family, enjoying your favourite beverage, and just enjoying the talking, the outdoors and the company of everyone there.

Like an addition to your home there are some common sense points we need to consider. With a fire pit there are some serious points because it does involve fire.

Fire pit in modern backyard

So here are key points that will help you decide if you should install a fire pit and what is involved

Choosing A Fire Pit


Don't build a fire pit without approval from local authorities.

Your local government, homeowners association, and house deed may impose restrictions on the size, location, material, and fuel type of home fire pits—or forbid them altogether—due to the potential for fire-related property damages.

If your fire pit flouts these rules, you may be fined. Contact your municipality’s planning office and homeowner’s association, and review the deed for your house, to ensure that you comply with all restrictions and obtain any permits required for fire pit installation.

If you live in an apartment and the building has a body corporate, you'll need to check the regulations to make sure they allow fire pits.

When you install the fire pit, it should be positioned on gravel or a paved area, with plenty of room for movement around the pit when it's lit. Avoid tight, secluded or high-traffic areas.

Only use a fire pit on a balcony if it is on a non-combustible surface, if not, a gas heater is a great alternative.

Do consider accessibility when choosing a fire pit size.

Building a fire pit yourself offers room for customization on every detail, size included.

fire pit in modern backyard

Local ordinances permitting, your fire pit should ideally measure between 36 and 44 inches wide (including the width of the walls) to accommodate multiple people around it while maintaining an intimate setting.

Aim for a fire pit height of 12 to 14 inches from the base of the walls to the top of the walls if you want guests to be able to prop their feet on it while seated around it on standard 18-inch-tall dining-height patio chairs.

Increase the pit height to 18 to 20 inches tall if you want to be able to comfortably sit directly on the edge of the pit.

Don't position fire pits in hazard-prone zones with unfavorable winds. Check with various local weather authorities or websites to identify the prevailing wind direction in your location;

You want to ensure that you won’t have smoke blowing into your home through open doors or windows.

Plan to install your fire pit on a patch of level ground in an open area of the yard that’s at least 15 feet from other residences and at least 10 feet from property lines, flammable structures such as wooden sheds, bushes, and trees.

Do consider fuel supply equipment and emissions when determining fuel type.
Ethanol, propane, and natural gas are all sound fire pit fuel options as they emit no smoke, sparks, or embers, and leave no ashes to clean up.

Ethanol, the cleanest of all fuel types (it additionally burns without odor), must be supplied via an ethanol tank or tray and propane-fueled pits require a connection to a liquid propane tank.

Natural gas-fueled fire pits have a more involved setup, however, as they require the gas company to install a supply line.

Wood-burning fire pits require no gas lines, they kick up a high volume of smoke, sparks, and embers; call for frequent ash removal; and make large flames difficult to extinguish—all reasons why city planning departments commonly forbid them.

Invest in fire safety gear.

If you do install a fire pit, then keep a fire blanket (a fire-retardant sheet usually made of fiberglass or Kevlar) within reach to help smother the beginnings of a fire on nearby objects or people.

Similarly, store a fire extinguisher in a nearby outdoor grill cabinet, shed, or garage. The extinguisher should be a multipurpose dry chemical model, which means it can effectively extinguish Class A (involving combustibles), B (involving flammable liquids), and C (electrical) fires.

Keep these things in mind when looking for a new outdoor fire pit

Portable fire pits come in lots of sizes and shapes.

Gone are the days of concrete blocks and rusty drums for outdoor heat. The new breed of fire pit adds atmosphere as well as warmth to a garden, can create a focal point in an alfresco space, and allow you to spend more time outside in cooler weather.

In ground fire pits are great for large back yards where there is plenty of open space. They can accommodate larger logs and safely handle much larger fires.

Building a DIY fire pit can be as easy as digging an 8″ hole in the ground and edging it with large stones or prefab blocks.

Square fire pit

The fire pit you need depends on the space you have available.

Big backyards can of course accommodate built-in stone or brick fire pits, freestanding pits and fire bowls.

Smaller spaces, such as courtyards, should stick to fire bowls, portable fire pits, table-top pits or chimineas.

When it comes to balconies, the best option is a tabletop fire pit or small fire bowl.

Don't use flammable or non-porous, water-retaining building materials.

Fire pits commonly consist of an inner wall, an outer wall, a “cap” (i.e., a flat tabletop-like surface around the opening at the top of the pit), and decorative stones or rocks in the center of the pit.

The inner wall must be made of fireproof building materials, optimally fire brick; the outer walls should still be heat-resistant but can be made of traditional brick, stone, masonry blocks (consisting of brick, concrete, granite, etc.), concrete pavers, or even heat-resistant outdoor stucco or tile.

Flagstone and crushed stone are ideal materials for the fire pit cap, and the stones in the center of the pit, respectively.

No part of the fire pit should be made with flammable materials (e.g., plywood shipping pallets) or non-porous materials that hold water, such as pea gravel, river rocks, or compressed concrete blocks; these materials can trap steam and eventually explode.

Do install a steel ring in the fire pit.

When building a fire pit, lining the innermost wall with a steel fire ring will prevent the wall material from drying out from regular exposure to the heat of the fire.

As a non-combustible material, the steel will ward off heat and keep the wall itself from prematurely dehydrating and crumbling; this will preserve the looks and structural integrity of your fire pit longer.

Fuel Choice
While timber is the most obvious fuel option for a fire pit, you can also use clean-burning ethanol/bioethanol products, gels (with a base of isopropyl alcohol or methanol), and faux logs (as in the ornamental logs used in outdoor gas fireplaces, which are less like fire pits and more like fireplaces).

Timber alternatives can be used in both small and large spaces, but wood should only be burned where there's no risk of embers landing on flammable plant life or built structures.

Whatever you go for, it's important to consider safety requirements and environmental concerns.

Bioethanol is by far the most environmentally friendly option as the fumes emitted are the cleanest, followed by natural gas.

A great alternative to wood is biofuel logs. There is a variety of choices available today with some even being made from coffee grounds.

If you do choose wood, any dry hardwoods, such as red gum or jarrah, burn for longer and are cleaner. Softwoods, such as pine, tend to burn quickly, so you will need more wood to keep the fire going and more smoke to manage.

And remember, you can only burn natural, untreated timbers.

You can control the size of your fire and use your wood more efficiently in a fire pit by using uniform pieces of firewood.

Save your woodworking scraps for your fire pit! Only use non-treated, unpainted, unstained and wood without nails.

Rectangle fire pit with seating

Once you're all set, you can further enhance your fire-pit experience by burning naturally scented products.

For a festive olfactory punch, light up cinnamon sticks at Christmas, dried citrus such as orange in winter, and sage and rosemary when the bugs are about, which should ensure a fragrant – and hopefully mosquito-free – experience at any time of the year.

Using A  Fire Pit

#1) Never use lighter fluid or other flammable liquids to light a fire pit fire.

You don’t need matches or a lighter to start a fire pit fire. There are a number of safer ways to light your fire pit.

Position your fire pit at least 10 feet from a building, 20-25 feet is better.

Don’t put a fire pit under a porch, overhang or tree.

Always keep a hose or bucket of water nearby to stir the embers and completely extinguish the fire before leaving

#2) Use Sand to Protect the Bottom From Extreme Heat
If you’re worried that the bottom of your fire pit will sustain heat-related damage, add a thin layer of sand to it. Sand acts as an insulator, reducing the amount of heat to which the bottom of your fire pit is exposed.

For additional protection, you can add a layer of lava rocks over the sand. After adding the sand and lava rocks, you can build fires in your fire pit using kiln dried firewood.

Keep in mind that neither sand nor lava rocks will protect your fire pit from rusting or corrosion. To protect your fire pit from rusting and corrosion, you must keep it dry.

When moisture accumulates on the metal surface of a fire pit, oxidation will occur, which results in the metal rusting or corroding. As long as you keep your fire pit dry, however, it shouldn’t rust or corrode.

#3) Add a Grill Grate to Cook Using Your Fire Pit
You can use your fire pit to grill hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks, chicken and other foods by adding a grill grate to it.

Consisting of either cast iron or steel, a grill grate will convert your fire pit into a fully functional grill. As shown below, you simply place the grill grate directly over the top of your fire pit.

Once in place, you can add meats, veggies or other foods to it. The grill grate will absorb heat from the fire, allowing your grill delicious foods at the appropriate temperature.

While grill grates are available in both cast iron and steel, most people prefer cast iron. When compared to steel grill grates, cast iron grill grates retain more heat, are easier to clean, and they typically last longer.

The only downside to cast iron grill grates is that they cost more than steel grill grates. But since they also last longer than steel grill grates, most people will agree that they are a smart investment.

#4) Burn Sage Bundles to Deter Mosquitoes
Don’t let mosquitoes prevent you from enjoying your patio or outdoor living space. It’s frustrating when you’re trying to relax and lounge outdoors, only to be constantly attacked by these blood-sucking pests.

While small in size, mosquitoes are a serious nuisance. But the good news is that you can keep mosquitoes away by burning sage bundles in your fire pit.

Sage plants emit a unique aroma when burned that most people love but mosquitoes hate. After building a hot fire in your fire pit, toss a bundle or two of sage in it.

It will fill your patio or outdoor living space with a pleasant, fragrant aroma. At the same time, the burning sage will act as a natural mosquito repellent.

Smoke in general deters most insects, including mosquitoes, but sage smoke is particularly effective at keeping these blood-sucking pests away.

#5) Use Kiln Dried Firewood for Long-Lasting Fires
You can spend more time lounging around your fire pit and less time collecting and adding firewood by choosing kiln dried firewood.

Kiln dried firewood burns cleaner and longer than other types of firewood because of its exceptionally low moisture content.

fire pit in backyard

#6) Protect Your Patio With a Fire Pit Mat
When using your fire pit on a patio, deck or any other wooden surface, it’s recommended that you use a fire pit mat.

A fire pit mat is a fire-resistant mat that’s designed to protect the underlying flooring or surface on which a fire pit is placed.

If you place your fire pit directly on your patio, the heat from the fire may scorch and single the underlying flooring. 

This will likely develop black marks where the wooden planks are scorched from the heat. A fire pit mat can protect your patio from such damage, however, by acting as a layer of insulation.

Its heat-resistant properties will minimize the amount of heat to which your patio is exposed, thereby minimizing the risk of heat-related damage to your patio.

#7) Light Your Fire Pit From the Bottom Center
The secret to lighting a fire pit is to place your match in the bottom center of the wood. Going back to the basics of chemistry, heat rises.

If you place a match on top of the wood, you’ll struggle to light it. You must place the light in the bottom center of the wood so that the heat will rise and ignite the rest of the wood.

If you’re struggling to light your fire pit, don’t use lighter fluid or other accelerants.

Although it may sound like an easy and effective way to start your fire pit, it’s not necessary — and using lighter fluid or other accelerants will only increase the risk of bodily injury and property injury.

To light your fire pit, place a match in the bottom center of the wood with a small amount of tinder and kindling.

Assuming you use kiln dried firewood and not fresh or air dried firewood, you should be able to easily light your fire pit using nothing more than a match with some tinder and kindling.

#8) Save the Ashes
Rather than discarding your fire pit’s ashes in the trash, consider saving them. Firewood ash has dozens of practical uses, some of which may surprise you.

During the winter, for example, you can sprinkle ash on your driveway and sidewalk to melt snow and ice. This is because wood ash contains potassium salts, which acts as a natural de-icing agent. Unlike other de-icing agents, though, wood ash is safe and environmentally friendly.

You can use ash as plant fertilizer. If you have a garden or flowerbed, try sprinkling some leftover ash in it. Wood ash contains essential nutrients, including potassium, that plants need to grow and stay healthy.

Furthermore, wood ash can improve the pH level of soil that’s too alkaline.

You can even use leftover ash to keep pests out your garden or flowerbed. Common pests like snails and slugs will actively avoid ash. Therefore, sprinkling a ring of ash around your garden or flowerbed will protect your plants from these and other common pests.

Work a 1/4 cup of wood ashes into the soil when planting tomatoes, they’ll be larger and plumper.

Store your fire pit ashes in a sealed container.

#9) Cost
Think about the return on investment when weighing building costs.

The costs of a fire pit will vary depending on whether you DIY or you hire a professional to install of a pre-built fire pit.

Fire pits are such a coveted architectural feature nowadays that you can expect to recoup some of your investment when you sell your home. 

When the changing way we live fire pits are a great addition to your home especially when you want to enjoy the outdoors with friends and family.

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