A wood fire pit is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and create a cozy atmosphere, but it can also be a source of excessive smoke if you don’t use the right wood, or follow some basic tips to reducing smoke.
Follow this handy guide and learn how to stop a fire pit smoking. When you’re sitting around the fire pit with friends, the last thing you want to worry about is smoke filling the air and causing a nasty smell for your neighbours. Campfire smoke can make it hard to breathe and irritate your eyes, too. Not nice. Of course, if you really cannot afford to have any smoke at your place, then a smokeless fire pit or solo stove might be the answer.
By following this handy guide, you can reduce fire pit smoke and help your fires burn hot, and burn longer into the night.
How to stop a fire pit smoking
1) Keep your fire pit clean
The first thing to stop fire pit smoke is to remove the wood, ash and other debris before starting your fire pits. Ash and unburnt firewood pieces are a natural insulator and will help to keep the heat in the fire once it is going, but when there is too much ash in the pit it will block proper airflow and increase the amount of smoke produced.
If you try to remove the ash every fire pit use, and you’ll be able to avoid the insufficient supply of clean air into the bottom of the fire and this is key to minimizing smoke.
2) Always use adequately seasoned firewood
Seasoned firewood is a type of wood that is completely dry and will burn more efficiently. Using green wood or wet wood will produce significantly more smoke than properly dried wood. When you’re looking for firewood, try to choose pieces that are around 40 to 60 centimetres in length, to make it easy when starting fires, but also smaller pieces allow enough air to circulate between the wood.
When you create a fire with large chunks of wood in your fire pit, there is much higher chance of incomplete burning and smoke, especially when they are all stacked closely together. Be sure to give them some air!
Seasoned wood or kiln dried firewood has less than 20% moisture content and has been stored for at least a year after being chopped down.
Burning green wood (especially in a portable fire pit) will produce significantly more smoke than burning dry wood.
3) Build a proper fire
A properly constructed fire is the real key to a smoke-free fire pit experience. Of course, make sure that your kindling is nice and dry before starting the fire. Use tiny pieces of dry wood, or some smaller dried twigs.
If your wood or kindling is wet, it will produce a chemical reaction and more smoke when you light it.
If you are having trouble getting your kindling to start properly, you can either leave it to air dry outdoors in the sun before using, or use a fire starter to help move things along. There’s no shame in using them, especially if it helps to reduce fire pit smoke and stops annoying your neighbours.
Also, make sure that your fire is burning evenly. If the fire is too big in one spot and not enough in another, it will produce more smoke coming from the colder section of the fire.
Try to evenly space your kindling and add larger pieces of wood gradually.
4) Use the correct wood types for your fire pit
When selecting firewood for your fire pits, it’s essential to use the right kind. If you want the most consistent type of firewood, choose hardwood for burning and softwood for kindling. Softwoods burn faster than hardwoods, but they burn cooler as well.
Softwoods, such as pine, will easily ignite and create a fire, but they won’t burn efficiently or as long as hardwoods. It is important to add more kindling to the fire if it is entirely out; otherwise, you will create more smoke by adding larger chunks of hardwood.
It’s also extremely important to not use grass clippings, leaves, pine needles or pine straw when starting your fire.
These types of fuel contain too much moisture content and will create excess smoke. The moisture level in these types of woods can also produce toxic thick smoke, which will blanket the area as the fire burns and cause sore eyes and throats. Not ideal!
5) Use naturally smokeless types of firewood.
There are a few types of fire wood that naturally smoke less than others. These include hardwoods like oak and ironbark and softwoods like Australian cedar and pine. If you’re looking to reduce fire pit smoke, try using one of these types as your main fuel.
6) Use only as much fire wood as you need.
Adding too much fire wood to your pit can create a larger fire and therefore more fire pit smoke. When the wood is burning, it will produce sparks that can fly out of the pit and start a fire somewhere else. Yikes!
Only add as much firewood as you need to get the fire going and add more gradually as the fire grows. If you are managing your fire properly, you should only need to add more wood every few hours.
Also, if you can find it, kiln dried firewood provides the best burn time and heat as it is extremely dry. It can be a little hard to find and most expensive, but you won’t go through as much wood if you use it.
7) Make sure the airflow is good
A well-ventilated fire pit will produce less smoke than a poorly-ventilated one. When the air can’t circulate the flames, it will cause more wood smoke to be produced. Therefore, it makes sense to keep your fire pit away from items that will stop the air flowing through, such as wheelie bins and fences.
Make sure to check the airflow in and around your fire pits before lighting, as this will save you a lot of hassle.
8) Use a Chimney Starter
A chimney starter is a great way to start your fire without using any kind of lighter fluid. It will help to get your wood or kindling burning evenly and without the need for too much smoke.
Simply place some crumpled-up newspaper in the bottom of the chimney starter and light it on fire. Place your kindling on top of the newspaper and let it burn. Once the kindling is starting to burn well, add hot coals to the stack of logs and let it catch on. Easy!
A chimney starter is an easy way to start your fire pits and reduce smoke.
9) Buy a smokeless fire pit
If you really need to reduce the smoke coming from your fire, then a smokeless fire pit is a great option. Rather than using charcoal or wood like a traditional fire pit, smokeless fire pits often use natural gas or other sources of fuel that burn clean. This type of fire pit will obviously not offer the same ‘campfire experience’ but if you aren’t a fan of the smell of campfire smoke, then happy days!
Another huge benefit of a smokeless fire pits ( or natural gas fire pit) is that there is also no ash, wood, charcoal or other debris to clean up as the gas offers complete combustion with no mess.
If you’re using a fire pit with a screen, ensure it’s in place before lighting the fire.
A gas fireplace is a great way to get the benefits of a fire pit without all the smoke.
10) Use the correct fire structure
A good fire will produce less wood smoke than a poorly structured one and help keep your evening smoke free. When the logs are burning correctly, they will produce less smoke. Make sure you use the correct placement of wood for your fire pit type, like a log cabin structure or a teepee, where the kindling is stacked into a pyramid shape.
If your logs are too close together or too far apart, it will create more smoke. Make sure to place your logs in a way that for the best results. A lot of people suggest the log cabin method of creating a fire to produce the least smoke, especially inside in a fire place etc.
The log cabin method involves creating a smaller teepee structure with kiln dried wood for kindling and then building in a square stack to ensure adequate airflow as the fire is starting.
What causes smoke in a fire pit?
Let’s identify what may be the cause of the smoke in your wood burning fire pit. Many things can cause smoke, but the good news is that excessive smoke is mostly avoidable. Things like excessive moisture content in your fuel and not having the correct airflow are easy to fix and will help you enjoy your outdoor experience.
Some of the things that can cause campfire smoke in a fire pit are:
1) The fire isn’t burning hot enough
When the fire in your fire pit isn’t burning hot enough, it will produce more smoke than a hotter fire. Make sure your fire wood is burning bright and hot before sitting down to enjoy it.
2) The wood isn’t completely dry
As a general rule of thumb, green wood will always produce more smoke than dry firewood.
Make sure your fuel is completely dry before adding it to the fire pit. The moisture level of your wood is critically important. If the wood is only just staying alight, then check the moisture content by using a moisture meter. These are widely available from hardware shops like Bunnings or online at Amazon etc.
3) The airflow is blocked
If the natural airflow in your fire pit is blocked, the smoke will have no way to escape and will fill the pit instead. Make sure you keep your fire pit clean and there is plenty of ventilation to allow the smoke to escape and draw in fresh oxygen for burning.
4) The pit isn’t cleaned regularly
If the ashes and debris from your previous fires are left in the pit, they will create smoke when ignited. Make sure you clean your fire pit regularly to make sure the wood burns hot and prevents this from happening.
5) The wrong type of fuel is being used
Using some fuels, like gasoline to start your fire will create more fire pit smoke than others. Make sure you’re using the correct type of fuel for your fire pit as per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Some fire pits are made to use only wood as fuel, and if you use charcoal or heat beads will void the warranty. It pays to always check first before you start.
So, how do you stop wood smoke in your fire pit? The answer is simple – follow these 10 tips, and you’ll be able to enjoy your outdoor experience.
We know that it can be tricky to get the fire going just right, but once you have it mastered, you’ll be able to relax by the warm glow of a crackling fire pit without worrying about the smoke.
Have you had problems with smoke production in your fire pit? What solutions did you try? Share your experiences in the comments below!