Guide written by:
Crystal, Owner of a small gardening business, Oxford
Fire pits can double up as heating and cooking devices and are perfect for warming up those chilly evenings outdoors. Traditionally fuelled by wood or charcoal, fire pits come in various shapes, sizes and materials. Read on to discover the benefits of each type and find the right fire pit for you.
- Fuel type
How to choose the perfect fire pit
If you plan on using your fire pit primarily as an outdoor heating system, opt for a traditional pit fuelled by wood or charcoal rather than a gas or electric model. This way you'll also be able to enjoy the flames as they flicker! Of course, you'll have to install your fire pit away from any flammable materials or surfaces.
If you aim to use your fire pit for cooking – just like on the barbecue – go for a model equipped with a grill rack. Some fire pits are even set up on a tripod meaning you can adjust the height of the grill to the flames and rotate your food for even cooking. Quick tip: place a bit of sand at the base of the fire pit to help absorb the grease.
The size of your fire pit should be chosen to fit your space and the number of guests will be expected to serve. The largest fire pits can provide heat for up to 15 people.
Fire pit shapes
Fire pits come in a variety of shapes to choose from depending on the kind of style you're after. They may be mounted on feet or be equipped with a sturdier base.
Whether round or oval-shaped, the diameter of your fire pit should be chosen to match the number of people you plan on gathering around it. A diameter of 50 to 100 cm should warm approximately four to ten people.
Square, rectangular or round, fire baskets come in different heights and widths. These models usually offer a 360° view of the fire for everyone to enjoy. As these baskets tend to lose embers through the holes, these models must be set up on a non-flammable surface and should ideally be placed on an ash tray to catch the ash from the fire.
Designer fire pits
Fire pits come in a range of other forms – from globe-shaped pits to lanterns and even pyramids – all of which can be considered decorative items in their own right.
Chimineas are shaped like large urns with an opening in the front and a chimney on the top. Traditionally made from terracotta or clay, it is also possible to find cast iron chimineas.
These models feature a more concentrated form of heat compared to classic, open fire pits. While chimineas are ideal for warming up your summer evenings, they can be great for use as barbecues or ovens but be sure to check the product specifications.
Fire pit materials
Fire pits come in three main materials, each of which boasts its own set of advantages.
Cast iron fire pits
Cast iron is among the most popular options for fire pits. These pits store heat and release it over several hours even after the fire pit is extinguished. This material is also designed to cope with very high temperatures (for chimineas, for example) and radiates more heat than steel.
Steel fire pits
Whether you go for stainless steel, enamelled steel or powder-coated steel, steel fire pits are all very rust- and heat-resistant. This metal is easy to work with meaning it can be used to create fire pits in very unique shapes.
Terracotta fire pits
Terracotta fire pits offer good thermal inertia and distribute an even form of heat over a radius of several metres around the fire pit. They are, however, more fragile than cast iron or steel models.
Fire pit fuel
For traditional fire pits, you can choose between wood and charcoal.
A cost-effective option, wood must be perfectly dry before use as wet wood is more harmful to the environment. Wood provides a cosy fire show but it also produces ash and smoke. Charcoal burns less quickly and has a higher calorific value, but it does produce dust and is more difficult to light.
Fire pit accessories
There is a wide range of fire pit accessories to choose from, some of which may come supplied with your model. These items should be selected according to where your fire pit is installed and how you plan on using it. From protective fireguards to ash trays, pokers and storage shelves, you have plenty of accessory options.
If you cannot store your fire pit indoors over the winter, be sure to use a protective cover. The cover should be strong, waterproof and fitted to the size of your fire pit.
It goes without saying that fire pits do contain fire! As such, you should ensure your fire pit is set up on a perfectly level, stable and non-flammable surface. The same goes for the area surrounding the device.
Additionally, keep children and animals at a safe distance from the fire at all times. Finally, make sure that the fire pit is properly extinguished before leaving it unattended.
Guide written by:
Crystal, Owner of a small gardening business, Oxford, 51 guides
From a background in waste transportation, I became a farmer specializing in organic market gardening. A graduate of a professional baccalaureate in Agronomy and Horticultural Production, I tried for several years as a young farmer to settle in the beautiful region of Oxford. After many disappointments, I finally started a small-business in home services, specifically in gardening, assisted by my loving, dear husband. Passionate about nature and wild edible plants, I am very attentive to ecological solutions and respectful of our environment in all aspects of my daily life. From the vegetable garden to the flower beds, from seed to harvest, I have all kinds of advice up my sleeve. Do not hesitate to ask me your questions.