A Guide to Choosing, Lighting and Cleaning a Fire Bowl/Pit

There are so many options when it comes to bowls and pits for fires, but how do you choose one, how do you light one and how do you care and clean your pit after use. This guide will show you how to do so.

Some people love to dig a hole in their backyard. They use the hole to roast a pig. You do not have to dig a hole. You can make a pit in your backyard instead. You will find pits in different styles, including basic metal fire bowls and square models. The square models look like tables, so you can set a plate or drink on top of them.

The Basics of Using a Pit or Bowl for Fires

photo of flames on firepit

Wood-Burning Laws

If you want to make a wood-burning pit, you cannot use it on a covered porch, in windy places, or under very low branches.

You must check with the local homeowner’s association, county, or city for restrictions regarding burning wood, fireplaces, or outdoor pits. If you violate the local restrictions, you may get fined. If you are not over 18 years, there may be a fire and wood-burning laws that you need to know, especially if you are tending fires.

According to environmental agencies and scientists, it is dangerous to inhale smoke from wood-burning pits and fireplaces. Some programs, such as the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) of Southern California and Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Burn Wise, are providing incentives and information. They educate people on the importance of reducing pollution from the burning of wood.

Fuel Type

Wood is suitable for people who love the crackling sound of fire and the smell that lingers in their clothes and even hair. The size of an average log is 24 inches. Therefore, you must ensure your pit accommodates an average log.

You can use either natural or propane gas pits on your open porch with an overhead roof. It is cleaner to use them since you will not have to deal with debris, smoke, ashes, and wood.


You need to consider the material before you choose a fire bowl. Choose a material that will extend the lifespan of your pit. It is not easy for cast aluminum to rust. It is easy for copper to get stained. You can consider cast iron since it is solid, even though it is heavy.


You can afford many pits since they are affordable. You can even get a safe and nice model for $300 or less. However, it is more expensive to purchase pits using costly materials or fire tables. It costs thousands of dollars to purchase custom-built pits, especially the ones using customized features, such as natural stone.

Portable or Permanent?

Fire pits are permanent fixtures in some backyards, so you can custom build your pit in your backyard. However, this depends on your budget and the location of the fire pit in your backyard. You can choose a portable pit. You will move it easily in your backyard.


You must check the local regulations regarding pits and fireplaces in your local area. You must follow the code requirements when choosing the location of your pit. It is much better to adhere to the local rules and regulations to avoid fines.

Do not use pits inside your house. In fact, Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association (HPBA) do not recommend using pits indoors. Also, do not place your pit on your lawn or wooden deck. Do not even place it near your house or any structure. And do not put it under something that can catch fire.


Remember to review safety practices before making a pit in your backyard. Do not forget to remind your loved ones about the rules. Do not leave your children near your pit.

It is now more popular to use pits in landscape designs. People gather around pits to socialize. In addition, pits are perfect for cooking outdoors. The design of the pits varies, including natural or propane gas-powered units, metal pits, and masonry hardscapes. You can choose any type you want. However, you need to clean your pit regularly. Regular cleaning keeps the pit safe, attractive, and in good condition.

How to Start a Fire in Your Fire

macro shot of fire pit table


After you pick the right location, it is now time to collect the required items. It is easy to get all the required items.

Here are all the things for starting a fire:

Fire Starter

The several fire starters on the market. You will mostly find matches and kitchen lighters. It is easy to use them to start a fire. However, it is very tedious to use them.

You can choose either a butane torch or an electric arc lighter. It is not easy to find them in most homes. But it is cheap to purchase them. And it is even much better to use them to start a fire in your pit.


You will use tinder to start the fire. What is tinder? It is tree bark, newspaper, pines cones, or leaves. If your tinder is not toxic and dry, you can use it to start a fire.

We always use tinder to start a fire when we are starting a fire in our pit. It is easy to find several homemade tinder choices for starting a fire in a pit.


You will use dry sticks to get the firewood going. So, you must choose dry ticks, which can get the firewood going.

The best twigs and sticks for getting the firewood going are softwoods, such as spruce, poplar, cedar, and pine.


It is essential to choose the best logs to ensure they can burn throughout the night.

The best firewood for a pit includes; birch, ash, oak, and maple. You must properly season and stack them before you use them.

These are the materials you will need to start a fire. Here is how you can start the perfect fire in your pit:

Start Your Fire

You do not need harmful chemicals or lighter fluid to start a fire in a pit.

Here are the steps for starting a fire:

Step 1 – Use the tinder to make a small pile in the pit’s bottom center. The size of the pile should be around the size of a palm.

Step 2 – Grab the kindling. And place the kindling on top of the tinder to resemble a tee-pee or pyramid. The angle should be 35 degrees. Put the kindling close together, but there should be enough space between the kindling for airflow.

Step 3 – Use a fire starter to light the tinder pile. Wait until the kindling begins to burn before you place the firewood.

Step 4 – Once the kindling burns, place the seasoned firewood in your pit. You must place the firewood the same way you placed the kindling. So, you can either place them in a tee-pee or pyramid shape. Also, leave small gaps between the firewood for airflow.

Maintaining the Flame

It is essential to maintain the fire in a pit. Maintaining the flame ensures the flame burns strong during the night.

If the firewood cannot catch fire or the flame burns out, you can add more tinder and kindling.

In addition, do not forget the check the condition of the firewood. If the fire is dying or the logs are black and crumbled, then rotate the firewood to keep the fire burning.

You need to continuously check your fire. If necessary, add more dry kindling and tinder to keep the fire burning. Do not add too much kindling and tinder to suffocate the fire.

Putting Out Fire in Your Pit

Once your party calms down and you are ready to go to sleep, you now need to put out the fire safely. It is easy to put out the fire.

Here are some tips for putting out the fire in your pit:

Put water in a water bucket or grab your hose and sprinkle water in your pit. Do not pour or dump the water in the fire. Why? It can damage thepit. It is much better to do it gently.

Sprinkling water turns the water into embers. Once you finish sprinkling water, use a shovel to mix the ambers and ash. Mix them until the hissing sound stops.

How Often to Clean Your Pit or Bowl

burning wood on fire pit

If your pit uses wood, remove the ashes every time you use your pit. Do not leave the ashes in your pit. Why? The acid in the ashes can damage your pit. If your pit uses gas, then remove any debris, twigs, or leaves that may fall onto the lava rocks or glass before you turn on your pit.

If you use your pit frequently, you will need to clean your pit regularly. It is better to clean a pit twice every year. Clean your pit before store it.

Here is what you need to clean your pit:

Equipment / Tools

  • Rubber gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Sponge or soft cloth
  • Scrub brush
  • Plastic bucket
  • Shop-vac (optional)
  • Trowel or shovel
  • Ash can or metal bucket
  • Old towels
  • Garden hose


  • Steel wool
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Masonry sealant
  • Muriatic acid


Cleaning Your Masonry Pit

Empty Ashes

Do not remove the ashes before checking if the embers are cold. Once the embers are cold, you can now remove ashes from your pit. Use a trowel or shovel to remove the ashes. Place the ashes in an ash can or a metal bucket for disposal.


The potassium in the wood ash can improve the acidity of the soil in your garden. Therefore, test your garden soil to determine the pH of the soil. Doing the tests can help you know if adding wood ash is beneficial to your soil.

Mix a Cleaning Solution

Mix nine parts of water and one part of muriatic acid in your plastic bucket.

Scrub the Masonry

Wear eye protection and rubber gloves. Dip your scrub brush in the water and muriatic acid solution. Use the solution to scrub the cement, rock, or brick blocks. Creosote stains can discolor the pit. So, clean both the outside and inside of your pit using the solution. The solution removes the discoloration.

Rinse Well

Spray down your pit using a garden hose. Spraying down the pit rinses away both the cleaning solution and dirt. Leave your pit to air dry before you use it again. It usually takes 48 to 72 hours for the pit to completely dry.


Once your masonry pit dries, you can use a masonry sealant to protect your masonry pit. It also makes it easier to clean the pit.

Cleaning Your Cast Iron Pit

Remove Ashes

Once the ashes become cold, safely remove them. If you cannot dip out some ash, use your shop-vac to remove them.

Use Steel Wool to Scrub

Put hot water in a plastic bucket. Wear your rubber gloves and dip the steel wool inside the hot water. Use the steel wool to scrub the interior of your cast iron bowl. If necessary, rinse your steel wool before using it.

Rinse and Dry

Use fresh hot water to rinse the cast iron bowl. Then, use old towels to dry the interior and exterior of the cast iron. Do not leave water inside your pit since it is easy for the cast iron to rust.

Cleaning a Metal Pit

If your pit is either made of copper or steel, here are the steps for safely cleaning and keep it clean:

Empty Ashes

Empty the debris and ashes inside your pit.

Mix a Cleaning Solution

Pour water into your plastic bucket and add a tablespoon of any dishwashing liquid.

Scrub the Surfaces

Dip a soft cloth or sponge into your cleaning solution. Use the sponge to scrub the exterior and interior of your metal pit. If your pit has a cover, use the cleaning solution to scrub the cover.

Rinse and Dry Well

Use your garden hose or bucket of clean water to rinse your metal fire. Use old towels to completely dry the metal fire since it is easy for rust to form on the wet metal.

Lastly, check if the ash is cool. If the ash is cool, you can now dispose of it.

Cleaning a Gas Pit

Remove Any Debris

Before and after using your gas pit, remove debris, such as dead leaves and twigs.

Remove Exterior Dirt

You can dip a sponge in warm soapy water solution and use the sponge to clean the exterior of your pit, especially if it is dusty or has become discolored due to soot. Dip a clean sponge in clean water and use the sponge to rinse your pit. The sponge will wipe away any soapy residue. Dry your pit using a towel and buff your pit’s exterior.

Annual Maintenance

Hire a gas technician to check connections and clean your gas jets every year. The technician will ensure your gas pit is in good working condition.

How to Maintain Your Pit

If you are not using your pit, use the cover to protect it from various elements.

Do not put out a hot flame using cold water. A sudden temperature change may shock the metals and masonry. Therefore, your pit may crack and become weak.

Do not use accelerants. Instead, use split, seasoned, and dry wood to reduce the build-up of creosote.

Once you clean your portable pit, store them safely when not using them.

Pro Tips for Pit Use

One of the most important components of outdoor living space is a fire bowl/pit. If there is a fire bowl/pit in your backyard, you will spend more time outdoors during winter, fall, summer, or spring. If you want to fully enjoy your pit, here are 7 tips you need to consider:

  1. Protect the Bottom From Heat Using Sand

If you think heat will damage the bottom of the fire bowl/pit, you may need to add sand to the bottom of the pit. The sand will become an insulator, reducing the amount of heat reaching the bottom of the pit. To add more protection to the bottom, put lava rocks on top of the sand. Once you add the lava rocks and sand, you can use kiln-dried firewood to build fire in the pit.

However, the lava rocks and sand will not protect the pit from corrosion and rusting. Keeping the fire bowl/pitdry can protect it from corrosion and rusting. If you let moisture accumulate on the surface of your metal pit, oxidation occurs. Oxidation leads to corrosion and rusting. To avoid worrying about corrosion and rusting, you must keep the pit dry completely dry.

  1. Use Your Pit to Cook By Adding a Grill

Add a grill gate to your pit and use it to grill foods, such as chicken, steaks, hot dogs, hamburgers, and more. The grill grate is either made of steel or cast iron. You can use the grill grate to convert your pit into a grill. You will just place the grill grate on top of the pit. Once the grill grate is in place, put foods, such as meats and veggies, on top of the grill grate. The grill grate cooks the foods at the correct temperature since it absorbs heat from the wire.

You will find grill grates in both steel and cast iron. However, a lot of people prefer cast iron. This is because cast iron lasts longer, is easy to clean, and retains more heat. One of the main downsides of the cast iron is, it is expensive to purchase them. It is much better to invest in cast iron grill grates because of its long lifespan.

  1. Deter Mosquitoes By Burning Sage Bundles

It is hard to enjoy the outdoors because of mosquitoes. Mosquitoes will attack you as you try to relax and lounge in your backyard. Even though mosquitoes are very small, they can be a serious nuisance. Fortunately, you can burn sage bundles in the pit to keep the mosquitoes away. You will have more fun outdoors without worrying about the mosquitoes.

Once you burn the sage bundles, they produce a unique smell. People love the smell. However, mosquitoes do not love the smell. Once the fire in your pit is very hot, drop a bundle or two bundles of sage in the pit. The burning sage bundles will fill the outdoor space with a fragrant smell. The smell will keep the mosquitoes away from your patio. In fact, the aroma will keep most insects away from you.

  1. Use Kiln Dried Firewood

You want to spend less time adding more firewood to your pit. You want to spend more time relaxing and enjoying the outdoor living space. That is why you need to choose kiln-dried wood. Kiln-dried firewood contains low moisture content, so it can burn for longer. In fact, the Cutting Edge Firewood dries their kiln-dried firewood twelve times longer than the kiln drying standard of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). It also produces less byproduct because it is low moisture content.

  1. Use a Fire Mat to Protect Your Patio

If you want to use your pit on any wood surface, such as the deck or patio, then you need to use a pit mat. The purpose of the pit mat is to protect the surface on which you will place the fireplace. That is why the pit mat is made of fire-resistant material.

Do not place the pit directly on the patio. Why? The heat will damage the surface of your patio flooring. In some cases, the patio flooring may catch fire. In most cases, the patio flooring develops black marks due to the heat from the pit. Therefore, you can use a pit mat to protect your patio flooring from damage since the mat protects the surface. It minimizes the heat reaching the patio flooring because of its heat-resistant properties. Therefore, you can use the mat to minimize the damages to your patio flooring.

  1. Light the Pit From the Bottom Center

It is easy to light the pit by lighting it from the bottom center. If you understand the basics of chemistry, you know that heat rises. So, if you are lighting the match on top of your wood, it will take time to light the wood. But if you place the match in the bottom of your wood, the heat rises and ignites the wood.

If you struggle to light a pit, avoid using accelerants, such as fluid. It seems effective and easy to use accelerants to start the pit. They are not necessary. In fact, using accelerants, such as lighter fluid, increase the risk of property damage and bodily injury. Therefore, place tinder and kindling in the bottom of your wood and place the match. If you use kiln-dried firewood, you will not need accelerants to start the pit. You will only need tinder, kindling, and match.

  1. Save the Ashes

Do not discard the ash of your pit. Save them instead. You can use the firewood ash for different purposes. For instance, you can spray the firewood ash on your sidewalk and driveway during the winter. The potassium salts in the firewood ash melt ice and snow. It is safe to use firewood ash than to use de-icing agents.

Additionally, you can use firewood ash as plant fertilizer. If you love gardening, you can sprinkle firewood ash into your garden. This is because there are essential nutrients, such as potassium, in the firewood. Therefore, firewood ash can improve the soil’s pH level. You can use firewood ash to help you grow healthy plants in your garden.