You’ve chosen the best outdoor fire pit, set it up in the perfect location, and now it’s time to get in your garden and relax. But alongside enjoying the new heater, you’ll need to ensure you can light and clean it quickly – and stay safe while doing so.
Our expert guide to using your fire pit covers everything you need to know, including how to get it burning, the useful fire-pit gadgets to look out for, how to maintain your fire pit, plus top fire safety tips from the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service.
Put a few bunches of scrunched-up newspaper on the bottom of the pit
Add some kindling on top of the newspaper in a pyramid shape to aid ventilation
Using a long safety match or a long lighter, light the newspaper and kindling
Once the fire has caught, add one or two logs to increase the fire
As the fire starts to decrease, add one or two logs to keep it burning
If you’re lighting a chiminea, make sure you have a layer of sand or lava rocks on the bottom before you light the fire.
If you have a gas fire pit, all you need to do is switch it on. If the gas has run out, always read the instruction manual to find out how to replace the canister.
What wood should I burn in a fire pit?
Burning the correct wood in your fire pit can help it not only light quicker, but also burn at a steadier rate so it needs topping up less frequently.
You may want to consider certain types of wood that are less likely to spit sparks or smoke too much when lit.
Hardwoods, such as oak, hawthorn and ash, are the best types of wood for a steady, long-lasting burn. They're dense woods, and will produce less smoke and residue when lit.
A good mixture of wood can also help get your fire started. Fast-burning woods such as birch and hazel are excellent choices for lighting your fire and can usually be bought in kindling or bark form. Hazel is also unlikely to spit sparks.
If you want your fire to produce a nice aroma while it burns, you may also want to consider apple or cherry wood, though make sure these are seasoned and very dry. Pine will create a pleasant smell, though it will spit a lot and can leave behind sooty residue, so use it with care.
Avoid damp wood. It's likely to smoke heavily, and burning wet logs will produce far more PM than dry logs, making it much worse for the environment. In fact, since 1 May 2021, wood with higher than 20% moisture content in bundles of up to 2 cubic metres should not be sold in England, but can still be sold in the rest of the UK.
There are several steps you can take to make your fire pit more efficient and long-lasting:
Using seasoned or kiln-dried wood - a process of drying out wood until it contains as little moisture as possible. Seasoned wood produces less smoke and burns more efficiently, and you can buy it pre-made or make it yourself from most home and garden stores.
Use sand or lava rocks to protect from extreme heat damage - over time, the bottom of your suspended fire pit may suffer from heat damage, so placing a layer of sand or lava rocks can create a barrier and make it last longer.
Keep it clean and dry - this will avoid you burning old fire pit debris, help protect from rusting and corrosion, and keep whatever wood is burning dry.
Light it from the middle - heat rises, so you won't have too much luck lighting your fire from the top. A match or firelighter in the bottom-middleof your fire pit should disperse the flames and heat evenly.
Don't use flammable liquids to light it -as well as being a massive safety risk, using lighter fluid or other flammable liquids to light a fire pit can damage the pit itself and the surrounding area.
Make sure the fire has plenty of oxygen - your fire won't last long without a steady flow of O2; give it plenty of space to breathe.
Useful fire pit gadgets
Poker: for stoking the fire
Long-reach grabber: to safely add and move logs in the fire
Long-length fire lighter: to avoid burning your fingers when lighting the fire
Log rack: somewhere to store logs
Log carrier: a large bag with handles used to carry wood to the fire pit
Ash bucket: to use when cleaning your fire pit
Fire pit gloves: to keep your hands safe
Fire pit lid: to use as a snuffer, to stop leftover ash/embers from blowing out of the pit and to stop the barrel from getting wet.
Fire pit screen: extra protection from flying embers or sparks
BBQ rack: to cook food over your fire pit
Fire pit roasting oven: this sits on a BBQ rack and can be used to roast meat, potatoes and vegetables
Ash spade: to easily clear ash from the pit
Hanging cooking bowl: a cooking bowl that hangs from a tripod above the fire pit