Whether you’re looking to keep warm or cook al fresco BBQ style, a fire pit is a great addition to the garden. There are lots of different options to suit all budgets and settings – from permanent brick-built structures to portable metal designs. And, with the nights slowly drawing out, now’s the perfect time to get set up for summer with an outdoor fire pit.
To help you choose the most suitable design, think carefully about where you plan to put the fire pit – and how you plan to use it. Do you need to be mindful of younger children or pets? Are you looking for a permanent feature or something portable, to move around or stow away? And, what kinds of things are you looking to burn in your fire pit? Do you plan to burn wood or charcoal, or are you looking for a gas-fired or liquid fuel fired model?
Here’s everything you should consider to get the perfect fire pit for your garden.
To Keep Warm, to Cook On – or Both?
Have you ever wondered what you do with a fire pit? Well, it depends upon whether you are looking for a fire pit to create warmth or would you like a design that you can cook on too. For example, a fire pit table or brick-built fire pit, where a metal bowl sits in the middle of a structure, can be a great option for groups to gather around.
An outer ledge makes a good surface for cups and plates, and, if sufficiently wide, can stop children and animals getting too close to the flames. If the structure is low, however, it might encourage people to sit on the edge, which could be dangerous.
Consider the height of the fire pit too, especially if you have young children or pets; choosing one with sufficient height will help keep the heat from the flames out of their reach. You should, however, never leave children or pets unattended around lit fire pits.
If you’re looking for a multi-purpose fire pit – to cook on and keep warm around – a traditional wood burning ‘fire bowl’ is a great option. Many of today’s designs are based on the original Indian Kadai – a bowl shaped pan used over the centuries to cook food, often on a grand scale. Our own Reclaimed Fire Pit is based on this iconic design; it is made from a recycled wrought iron oil drum and comes in three sizes, with a tong, wire brush and stand.
Iron fire pits can rust as they get older, which does help to make them even more charming as they age, but any rust spots or deposits can be easily removed with a little olive oil, applied with a cloth.
What to Burn on Your Fire Pit
Most fire pits are designed for burning wood and seasoned or kiln-dried logs are the best option.
Seasoned logs are naturally dried and kiln-dried logs are dried artificially. This is carried out to remove moisture, so that the wood will burn more easily and will create less smoke than a newly cut or ‘green log’. The dried logs will be much lighter than newly cut timber. The bark will be loose and will chip away easily, the wood will be more faded and often cracked and the log will sound hollow.
Kiln dried logs tend to be more expensive than seasoned logs but they will have a lower moisture content and will give a cleaner burn.
If you’re cooking on your fire pit, you might want to choose a wood based on its level of smokiness. Mild woods, like alder and apple, have a sweeter, milder smokiness, whilst medium woods, like oak and hickory, give a distinct smoke flavour.
If you’re burning charcoal, you’ll generally have a choice of briquettes or hardwood/lump charcoal. Briquettes – made from sawdust, wood and additives – tend to give a long, even burn but will take longer to light and will create a lot of ash. Hardwood/lump charcoal – made from hardwood – will light more quickly and will burn for a shorter time, but the flame will be hotter and cleaner. Hardwood/lump charcoal will also produce little ash, making cleaning easier.
Different Types of Fire Pits
Once you’ve considered the setting for your firepit, and how you’re going to use it, you can choose the most suitable design. Here’s a round-up of the most popular fire pit formats;
Brick built fire pit – a permanent structure which should be made from fire-safe bricks and built on a solid concrete base. Used for warmth and cooking and fuelled with wood or charcoal.
Fire pit table – generally used as a heat source. Some designs are portable. Generally powered by gas or electric.
Kadai-style fire pit or fire bowl – the authentic cast iron design for wood burning. Portable, ideal for cooking and warmth; wide range of cooking accessories available.
Silhouette or basket fire pit – an intricate design with a patterned outside edge. Mostly used as a heat source and made from steel, for wood burning.
Camping fire pit – a portable, metal, trough-like design that sits low to the ground. Wood or charcoal burning and primarily for cooking.
Gas fire pit – generally a permanent fixture made from stone and used as a heat source. Pebbles and/or faux wood top surface with real flames.
Table top fire pit – a portable design that sits on a surface. Mostly powered with bio-ethanol; more of a feature, than an effective heat source.
Choosing a fire pit style that fits well with your existing garden or outdoor space is important to consider. Here are some inspirations for outdoor styles for garden parties this summer and here are some design tips if you are looking for complete renovation ideas for your outdoor space in time for summer.
Fire Pit Safety Tips
Before using your fire pit, make sure that the location is safe, and that there’s nothing hanging nearby that could catch fire. Here are some safety tips which might be helpful:
- Position your fire pit in the middle of your patio, so that you have plenty of room to move around it safely and so that it isn’t close to combustible surfaces, grass, trees, plants and shrubs, etc.
- Make sure that it isn’t too close to your property or sheds/summer houses, etc.
- Don’t light the fire pit under a gazebo or other covered area.
- Check wind direction before lighting.
- Take fire safety precautions. For example, have a fire extinguisher, fire blanket or at least a bucket of water/sand nearby.
- Keep children and animals away if they are unsupervised.
- When you have finished with the fire pit, ensure that the fire is completely extinguished. Cover the fire pit with a suitable lid to contain any hot embers and prevent ash from blowing around.
- If you have chosen a fire pit that doesn’t have legs or which gets very hot, you may need to protect the surface underneath.
Accessories for Your Fire Pit
It’s best to buy any accessories that you need at the same time as the fire pit, so that you can be sure that the products are compatible. Certain accessories, like lids and hanging cooking bowls, will be designed to use alongside specific models or formats. Our own range of ironware and fire pit cooking accessories includes cooking pans, skewers and skillets, along with a grill lifter, tripod, poker, shovel and cover. For wood and charcoal burning fire pits, it’s worth having a log/coal store nearby, a proper metal poker for stoking and a bucket of water or pale of sand to hand, just to be on the safe side.
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