The Ultimate Fire Pit Guide

Introduction

Welcome to the ultimate guide on fire pits.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned outdoor enthusiast or only just starting out, this guide has everything you need to know. In this helpful guide, we cover all the basics, from choosing the right outdoor fire pit,  maintaining it, and even how to cook delicious meals over an open flame. Let’s go!

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • MAX Fire Pits is Australia’s trusted authority on fire pits, appearing regularly on national television for our knowledge on the topic.
  • For safety, place fire pits 10-20 feet away from any structures.
  • Use dry, seasoned timber to minimise smoke and improve efficiency.
  • Regularly clean your fire pit and remove ashes to prevent rusting.
  • Invest in safety accessories like spark screens and fire shields.
  • Use appropriate materials like lava rocks to avoid explosions.
  • Fire pit ashes can benefit your garden but should be used sparingly.

Our experience

With over ten years in the industry, the team here at MAX Fire Pits are known in Australia as the fire pit experts who focus on quality craftsmanship. Our extensive experience designing, building and maintaining our range of custom fire pits has built us a reputation that is unmatched in the market.

Often called on to offer insight and new information about the topic on National TV programs like The Today Show and SKY news, our team has the knowledge and expertise to help you get the most out of your outdoor fire.

 

What's in this guide?

In this ultimate guide, we’ll explore different types of fire pits, their pros and cons, and how to choose the perfect one for your backyard or camping trips. Safety is critical, so we’ll also dive into the best practices for safely setting up and using your in investment. Plus, we’ll share tips on maintaining your firepit to keep it in top shape for years. And for those who love to cook, we’ve covered you with a section on how to use your pit for grilling. From simple snacks to full meals, you’ll learn how to make the most of your pit as a culinary tool.

Types of fire pits

Fire pits can be constructed all shapes and sizes, offering unique benefits and fitting your style. Let’s break down the main types you’ll encounter.

Permanent fire pits

Permanent fire pits are built into your backyard, becoming a fixed outdoor space feature. They’re often designed in the round, made of cast iron, stone, brick or concrete and offer a sturdy and long-lasting option and a splash of that rustic charm, especially in winter. Perfect for those who want a consistent gathering spot, they can be customised to fit your style and space. Plus, they add a touch of elegance to any garden.

photo of a permanent backyard fire pit

Portable fire pits

Portable fire pits are all about flexibility. They are usually made from quality metal and can be moved around your yard or taken with you as a perfect addition on camping trips. They come in various designs, from simple bowls to elaborate setups with bbq plates. A portable option is an excellent choice if you’re looking for versatility and convenience.

couple sitting around portable fire pit

Collapsible fire pits

Collapsible fire pits are the ultimate in portability. They’re designed to fold down flat, making them easy to pack and transport. Ideal for campers and adventurers, these fire pits are lightweight yet durable, offering a quick and easy way to enjoy a fire wherever you are. Why Collapsible Fire Pits Are, the Ultimate Camping Accessory goes into more detail about their benefits.

Each type of fire pit has its own pros and cons, so consider your needs and lifestyle when choosing. Whether you want a permanent fixture in your garden or something you can take on the go to stay warm, there’s a fire pit for you.

Choosing the right firepit

With so many options available, picking the perfect new fire pit can feel overwhelming. Here’s a simple guide to help you choose the one that fits your needs.

Size and space

First, think about the space where you’ll place your firepit. You can opt for a larger, round permanent fire pit or bowl if you have a large backyard.

A portable or collapsible fire pit might be a better fit for smaller spaces or patios. Measure the area to ensure your chosen fire pit will fit comfortably without crowding your space.

best size and space for a fire pit

Material matters

First, think about the space where you’ll place your firepit. You can opt for a larger, round permanent fire pit or bowl if you have a large backyard. A portable or collapsible fire pit might be a better fit for smaller spaces or patios. Measure the area to ensure your chosen fire pit will fit comfortably without crowding your space.

Stone or brick

Great for permanent outdoor fire pits, stone is durable and can withstand high temperatures. A stone fire pit is a great addition to your outdoors area and if it is well constructed and built with durability in mind, can last for decades. If looks matter, installation of round stone fire pits can be done in conjunction with other outdoor furniture or decor to really dress up your space.

Metal

metal
Common for portable fire pits or bowls, metals like steel or cast iron are sturdy and can be pretty easily moved around. Some even come with heat-resistant coatings to prolong their lifespan. Unmatched durability.

Stainless Steel

Often used for lightweight camping pits, stainless steel is attractive and hard-wearing. If you are looking for a long-lasting material then a stainless model might be your thing.

Cast Iron

Some round fire bowls can be made from cast iron, which is really heavy but absolutely bombproof.

Design & Style

Whether you prefer a rustic look with natural stones or a sleek, modern design with metal, there’s a firepit to suit every taste. Customisable options in our range allow you to create a unique centrepiece for your outdoor gatherings, and some models even come with an optional stand.

 

Fire Pit Safety

Safety should be a top priority when selecting a fire pit. Look for features like:

Spark screens
These prevent hot coals and sparks from flying out.

Grates
Often made from cast iron, grates help with proper airflow, ensuring a steady burn and sometime can act like a stand for your firewood.

Fire shields
Protect surfaces underneath from high temperatures. Do Fire Pits Get Hot Underneath? has more details on this.

Placement

Where you place your outdoor fire pits is crucial for your families safety and enjoyment. Let’s look at the best practices to ensure it is in the perfect spot and used safely.

Distance from the house

diagram showing how far to place your fire pit or bowl away from house or other structures
Safety first! Always place your fire safely from your home and other structures in your outdoor area. How Far to Place a Fire Pit from the House recommends at least 10-20 feet away. This reduces the risk of accidental fires and from flying sparks damaging your house.

What to put underneath

fire pit on wooden deck

Not all surfaces are safe for metal fire pits. Avoid placing them directly on wooden decks or grassy areas. Use a fire pit pad or shield for wooden decks to protect the wood.

Check out Can I Put a Fire Pit on a Wooden Deck? for more insights.

Airflow and ventilation

airflow-fire-pit
Good airflow is essential for a safe and efficient fire. Make sure your fire pit has proper ventilation to allow air to circulate. This helps the fire work more efficiently. Does a Fire Pit Need Air Holes? Explain why air holes are essential and how they work.

Clear up around the fire

Clear the area around your fire of any flammable materials, including dry leaves, paper, and other debris. A clear space ensures stray sparks or coals don’t ignite a fire.

Supervision and precautions

Never leave a firepit unattended. Always have someone watching the fire and keep a bucket of water, sand, or a fire extinguisher nearby. These precautions can help you quickly deal with any unexpected flare-ups. Following these guidelines, you can enjoy your investment safely and confidently, making it a cosy and secure addition to your outdoor entertaining area.

Maintenance and care

Keeping your firepit in top shape ensures it lasts for years and is safe to use. Here are tips on how to take care of your pit, including cleaning, storing, and maintaining it.

Cleaning your fire pit

Regular cleaning is essential to prevent build-up and rust. After each use, make sure to:

  • Remove ashes: Wait until they are completely cool, then scoop them out and dispose of them properly. Where to Dispose of Fire Pit Ashes offers some valuable tips.
  • Scrub the surface: Use a brush and soapy water to scrub the inside and outside of your fire pit. This helps remove soot and debris.
photo of man scrubbing fire pit ashes

Preventing rust

Rust is a common issue, especially with metal fire pits.

To prevent rust:

  • Cover it up: Cover your outdoor fire pit with a weatherproof cover when not in use. This protects it from rain and moisture.
  • Keep it dry: After cleaning, ensure your pit is completely dry before covering it. Moisture trapped under the cover can still cause rusting and affect the quality of your equipment.
  • Apply a protective coating: Some fire pits come with heat-resistant coatings. If yours doesn’t, consider applying one to extend its lifespan. 

    How to Stop a Fire Pit from Rusting provides more detailed advice.
cleaning rusty fire pit

Storing your fire pit

If you’re not using your fire pit or fire bowl regularly, especially during off-seasons, store it in a dry place. Disassemble portable and collapsible fire pits and keep them in a garage or shed to protect them from the elements.

  • A canvas or plastic cover can help protect your investment from the elements.
  • Store your fire pit under cover, like a patio of in your garden shed.
  • If you don’t intend to use your fire pit for a few months, a quick spray with vegetable oil can help prevent surface rust.

 

Checking for damage

Regularly inspect your fire pit for signs of damage, such as cracks or weakened spots. Be sure to look round any welds or seams for signs of wear and tear. It’s best to address any issues immediately to prevent them from becoming more significant problems. This is particularly important for permanent fire pits, as damaged bricks or stones can compromise safety.

Following these maintenance tips ensures your fire pit remains a safe, enjoyable feature in your outdoor space for many years.

photo of damaged steel fire pit

"Our fire pits are designed to unite people, having your friends round creating memorable moments around a warm, inviting fire."

friends sitting around a fire pit

Using your fire pit

Knowing how to use your fire pit properly makes all the difference in safety and enjoyment. Here’s a quick guide on how to get the best out of your investment.

Starting a fire

Getting a fire going can be tricky in outdoor fire pits, but you’ll be a pro with the right technique in no time. Here’s a simple method:

Following these maintenance tips ensures your fire pit remains a safe, enjoyable feature in your outdoor space for many years.

  • Make room outdoors: always ensure your area is free from flammable objects.

  • Gather dry tinder: Use small, dry materials like twigs, leaves, and paper.

  • Add kindling: Place small sticks and branches over the tinder, forming a teepee shape.

  • Light the tinder: Use a match or lighter to ignite the tinder. Once it catches, the kindling will start to really take off. Stand back!

  • Add larger logs: Once the kindling burns well, carefully add larger logs to keep the fire going.

    For more tips, check out our article on How to Start a Fire.

Managing smoke

Fumes from your fire can be a nuisance, but you can minimise it with a few tricks:
  • Use dry wood: Wet or green wood matter is much worse. Always use seasoned, dry wood.

  • Maintain airflow: Ensure your firepit or bowl has good ventilation. This helps the fire burn more efficiently. 

    How to Stop a Fire Pit from Smoking has more advice on this.

Monitoring heat

Be mindful of how hot your fire pit gets, especially underneath. Some surfaces can get damaged by intense temperatures. If you’re using backyard fire pits on a deck or patio, consider using a fire shield or pad.

Check out our expert article on this topic here: Do Fire Pits Get Hot Underneath? 

Extinguishing the fire

When it’s time to put out the fire, follow these steps:

  • Let it die down: Allow the fire to naturally die until it’s mostly ashes.

  • Spread the ashes: Use a stick or poker to spread the remaining embers.

  • Douse with water: Pour water over the ashes to completely extinguish everything.

  • Stir and repeat: Stir the ashes and add more water if needed. Make sure everything is cool to the touch before leaving the fire pit unattended.

Using your fire pit correctly keeps you safe and enhances your outdoor experience. Enjoy those cosy fireside moments with confidence!

Cooking with your fire pit

Creating delicious cuisine over outdoor fire pits or bbq isn’t just for camping trips with family or friends —it’s a great way to add a unique twist to your backyard gatherings. Here’s how to make the most of your fire for cooking.

Getting Started

First, make sure you have a high-quality fire pit that is suitable for cooking. Many portable and collapsible fire pits come with a barbecue grill. If yours doesn’t, you can buy a separate grill plate or use a cast iron skillet directly over the flames.

Types of meals to cook

Fire pits are incredibly versatile when it comes to preparing breakfast, lunch or dinner. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

delicious looking meat on an open flame

Grilled meats

Steak, chicken, and sausages cook beautifully over an open flame. Use a grate or skewers to get that perfect char.

making stew over a campfire

Soups and stews

Using a good quality stock base, it’s easy to create delicious hearty soups and stews which make great winter warmers.
grilled vegetables over a fire

Vegetables

Wrap veggies like corn, potatoes, and bell peppers in foil and place them in the coals for a smoky flavour. Serve in a bowl on spicy beans or rice!
smores cooked on a fire pit

Snacks

Classic fire pit snacks like marshmallows and s’mores are always a hit, especially in winter. Try roasting other treats like fruits or making campfire cones filled with chocolate and marshmallows.

Fire Pit Safety

Using fire pit or bbq for meals comes with some safety considerations:
  • Keep a safe distance: Use long-handled tools to protect your hands and face from the flames.
  • Avoid flare-ups: Grease from meats can cause flare-ups. Keep a spray bottle of water nearby to control any unexpected flames.
  • Monitor the temperature: Maintain a steady, medium temperature for even results. Too much fire or coals can burn food quickly on the outside while leaving it raw inside. Place coals off to the side and move food next to them to stay warm.

Clean up

After you finish, make sure to clean your steel grill or hotplate and tools thoroughly. Remove any food debris and give them a good scrub to prevent rust and build-up. If you’ve used foil, dispose of it properly. Top tip, get your family to help with the cleanup, after all you did the cheffing =)

Prepping meals with your fire pit adds a fun and delicious element to outdoor activities. Experiment with different recipes and enjoy the unique flavours that only an open flame can offer.

photo of how heat from a fire pit can affect underneath

Fire pit rocks and materials

The materials you use in and around your fire pit or fire bowl can significantly affect its performance and safety. Here’s a guide to help you choose suitable rocks and materials for your outdoor area

Fire pit rocks

Using suitable rocks in your backyard fire pits or fire bowl is really important to prevent accidents. Certain rocks can explode when heated, causing serious injury. 

Check out our article Can Fire Pit Rocks Explode? which explains which rocks to avoid and why.

  • Safe choices: Lava rocks, fire pit glass, and specially-made fire pit stones are excellent options. They’re designed to withstand high temperatures without breaking.
  • Rocks to avoid: River rocks and other stones in water should be avoided. These can trap moisture, which expands and causes the stones to explode when heated.

Fire pit materials

The material of the fire pit itself also matters. Here are some common materials and their benefits:

collage showing different types of materials
  • Steel: Durable and strong, steel fire pits are famous for their resilience. They often come with rust-proof coatings to prolong their lifespan.

  • Cast iron: Known for excellent warmth retention, cast iron fire pits are sturdy and provide even distribution. They are heavier, making them less portable but very durable.

  • Stone or brick: These materials are ideal for permanent fire pits. They offer a rustic look and can be customised to fit any outdoor decor. They’re also highly temp resistant, making them safe for long-term use.

 

Surrounding materials

Consider the materials around your fire pit, too. A non-flammable surface like gravel, concrete, or paving stones is ideal to prevent accidental fires and protect your yard. If you’re using your steel fire pits on a wooden deck, ensure you have a heat shield or pad to protect the timber.

Choosing suitable rocks and materials for your setup ensures safety, longevity, and a better overall experience. Whether you’re building a permanent fire pit or setting up a portable one, the suitable rocks and materials make all the difference.

Fire Pit Accessories

Enhancing your fire pit bbq experience often comes down to the right accessories. Here are some must-have items to make your backyard fire pit sessions more enjoyable and functional. It’s always a good idea to look for items on sale on places like BCF or Amazon.
photo of a spark screen on a fire pit

Spark screens

A spark screen is a safety essential. It prevents embers and sparks from flying out of the fire pit, protecting you and your surroundings from potential burns and fires. Spark screens are especially important in areas with a lot of dry vegetation or during windy conditions.

cooking steak and vegetables on a bbq grill

BBQ grill plates

A BBQ grill plate is a fantastic addition if you love cooking over an open flame. These grates fit over your high quality fire pit, allowing you to grill meats, vegetables, and more. They come in various sizes and designs, some even with adjustable heights for better control over cooking temperatures.

Fire pit tools

A good set of high quality fire pit tools makes managing the fire much more accessible. Look for a set with a poker, tongs, and a shovel. These tools help you move logs, stir embers, and clean out ashes safely and efficiently.

Fire shields and pads

Protecting your surfaces is essential, especially if your fire pit is on a wooden deck or patio. Steel flame shields and fire pit pads are designed to be durable and withstand high temperatures and prevent damage to the surface underneath your fire pit.
man putting on a fire pit cover to protect

Covers

Keeping your fire pit protected from the elements prolongs its life. Invest in a good quality cover that fits your fire pit perfectly. This helps prevent rust and keeps debris out when the fire pit is unused.

Seating and comfort

Comfortable seating around your fire pit enhances the experience of your outdoor area. Opt for weather-resistant outdoor furniture that can withstand heat and sparks. Adding cosy cushions or blankets can make your fire pit area more inviting and add that wow factor.

Fire pit ashes and environmental impact

Fire pit ashes and charcoal might seem just a byproduct, but they can be helpful. Let’s explore how to handle ashes responsibly and their benefits to your garden.

Disposing of fire pit ashes

Proper disposal of fire pit or fire bowl ashes is essential for safety and environmental reasons. Here’s a simple process to follow:
  • Cool completely: Always let the ashes cool completely before handling them. Hot ashes can ignite fires if not properly managed.

  • Use a steel container: Store cooled ashes in a metal container with a lid. This prevents any accidental ignition and keeps them contained. You can often get a sturdy container on sale at Bunnings. they usually have a good range in stock.

  • Dispose properly: Ashes can be disposed of in your regular trash, but make sure they are completely cool. For more tips, check out Where to Dispose of Fire Pit Ashes.

 

Benefits of ashes for your garden

Ashes from your fire pit can actually benefit your garden in several ways: Balancing the PH: Ashes can help balance the pH of acidic soil, making it more alkaline. This is particularly useful for gardens with plants that prefer neutral to slightly alkaline soil. Nutrient boost: Ashes contain valuable nutrients like calcium, potassium, and magnesium, which can help improve soil health. Pest deterrent: Sprinkling a thin layer of ashes around plants can help deter pests like slugs and snails. The alkaline nature of ashes irritates these pests, keeping them away from your plants.

For more on how ashes can benefit your garden, see our article Are Fire Pit Ashes Good for Your Garden?

Environmental considerations

Handling fire pit ashes properly and understanding their benefits can turn waste into a valuable resource for your garden. It’s an easy way to be environmentally friendly while enhancing the health of your plants.

  • Avoid overuse: Too much ash can make the soil too alkaline, harming plants. Use sparingly and test your soil’s pH regularly.
  • Avoid treated wood: Never use ashes from treated or painted wood in your garden, as they can contain harmful chemicals that could damage your plants and soil.