Whether it’s taking away the chill of a cold evening with the family or you’re not quite ready to call it a night with friends, socialising and relaxing around a fire is one of life’s oldest pleasures.
Looking at one of our fire pits and not sure where to start? Using and maintaining a fire pit can seem daunting at first but we’ll break it down into these steps.
- The best place to put a fire pit
- Prepare the garden
- Getting fire pit started
- Fuel to burn
- Douse the fire
In the UK, unless you live in a postcode with specific bylaws preventing fires, householders are usually free to have bonfires, barbecues and fire pits. See the government guidance here
Drifting embers could ignite any combustible surroundings including decking, twigs, or dry grass. And the fire pit itself will cause heat damage to decking or any plants it’s near.
You can place your fire pit on grass, but the heat will cause damage to the lawn. It’s more than worth preparing an area to place the fire pit if it’s for long-term use, any non-burning flat natural surface would be ideal. Bricks, paving slabs, or concrete are good options.
Clearing the immediate area of any dry, flammable items is fire best practice, as well as having a bucket of water and a shovel handy.
While you don’t need to add anything to the bottom of the fire pit, each one will usually come with instructions.
A layer of sand will help distribute the heat through the fire pit and protect the metal from the intense heat. But it can make cleaning an awkward process if you are only trying to remove the ash and not the sand. With regular cleaning you may be able to forgo the use of sand.
If you aren’t using sand, you could even use some of the ash in moderation to add to compost if you’re only burning wood.
Sticks like these
You’ll need tinder, any kind of small, dry material capable of lighting easily. Wood shavings, leaves, and even paper are good choices. Next you’ll want to have the kindling: smaller sticks and twigs that are built up around the tinder, often in a pyramid shape to give the kindling airflow and time to fully catch fire.
Once this is hot enough you’ll add the main fuel for the fire. Larger logs of hardwoods are best, and avoid anything sappy as it could pop more (this is caused by sap and moisture expanding in the heat) creating more floating embers. Never use treated wood or you’ll release the chemicals used in the treatment process.
For more information on this see our article here on what to burn in a fire pit.
Have a large stick or poker handy to move logs and help redirect the heat within the fire pit. Try not to over-poke or you might undo all of your hard work.
Correct dousing technique demonstrated here
The simple answer is with the bucket of water and shovel you should always have handy. First add water, make sure the fire is completely drowned and keep pouring until you don’t hear any hissing. Then mix in some dirt and stir with the shovel to make sure the fire is fully quenched.
Of course, you could just let the fire burn down to ash completely, but you should never leave a fire unattended. Even when the fire pit burns itself out, it could reignite. So always make sure the fire has been put out completely.
When the fire pit is cold from the water it’s time to use the shovel to clear out the ash in the fire pit (it can go straight into the rubbish waste bin once cold, but hot ashes will melt it).
Remember to clean out your fire pit regularly to keep ash levels down as too much ash will stop the fire pit burning well.