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Easy Guide on How To Light a Fire Pit (UPDATED)

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How to Light a Fire Pit: Full Guide

Nothing makes for greater times than sitting around a fire with your close friends or family camping in the wilderness.

However, lighting a fire for someone who has never tried lighting a fire pit before can be a daunting task.

Luckily, it’s not as hard as you may have heard. As long as you have all the right tools and know the right methods, it will only be a matter of minutes before your fire is up and running.

In this article, we will show you different ways on how to light a fire pit!

Starting a Fire in a Fire Pit

There are various ways of starting a warm blaze in your outdoor fire pit. You can use any of these regardless of the fuel you have at your disposal. However, the method you choose to light the fire will depend on the type of fire pit you’re using.

In most cases, it will either be a fire pit that uses gas/propane or one that burns with firewood.

Firewood fire pits are like any other regular fire. The process of getting them burning is almost the same. On the other hand, gas-based fire pits have a slightly different lighting process, although it’s more convenient compared to firewood pits.

Fire Pit Safety

“Fire can be a good servant but a good servant but a bad master!” These words can never be truer when using a fire pit. One simple mistake and you may end up setting the whole neighbourhood alight.

So, before you even think about starting your fire, you must adhere to all the safety precautions to prevent damage.

Some of the tips you can follow to ensure your safety include:

  • Find an open place to light your fire pit. It should be at least 10ft. away from trees, homes, fences, or any other structure
  • Start the fire on an even surface to keep it from escaping
  • Avoid lighting the fire pit in windy conditions; the embers can easily be carried by the wind and spread to any adjacent flammable materials
  • Keep a close eye on any children or pets around. You want them to remain at a safe distance from the fire
  • Avoid using propellants and any other dangerous or toxic products when lighting the fire pit
  • Pay attention to the fire pit even after the fire is up and flame burning stably

When selecting an area to light your outdoor fire pit, try to steer clear of enclosed spaces that are poorly ventilated, as well as any areas with overhanging tree branches. Furthermore, you want to check with and abide by any fire safety codes in your locality. Remember that not all regions permit the use of fire pits in outdoor areas, so you want to be sure before you light yours.

Preparing to Light the Fire Pit

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Once you select the appropriate location to set up your fire pit, it’s now time to collect the necessary stuff to help you start the fire. Luckily, all these will probably be available within your vicinity. So, to get your fire pit blazing, you will need the following items:

Fire Starter

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You have a long list of options to choose from as regards fire starters. The most commonly used are matches and kitchen lighters. These will usually get the job done, although they can be a little bit tedious.

However, most commonly used are Firestarting Blocks along with matches/lighters/clickers, these work perfectly as they are relatively lightweight and you get a better start to your fire than simply using a match on some kindling.

We recommend Pine Mountain Firestarters:


Tinder

Tinder refers to anything you’ll use to start the fire. It can range from leaves to tree barks and pine cones. The best tinder to use is one that is dry and non-toxic. Just use any that is easily accessible when lighting the fire pit.

Kindling

The are the dry sticks you use in the fire lighting process. They burn long enough to ensure that your firewood gets going.

The most preferable twigs and sticks come from trees such as poplar, spruce, cedar, and pine; these burn more effectively.

Firewood

Logs are what will keep your fire pit burning long into the summer night. The other items above are simply needed to spark the flame; it is the firewood that ensures there is a fire.

For the best firewood, you want to source logs from hardwood trees like oak, maple, birch, and ash. Remember to ensure that they are appropriately seasoned and stocked for effective performance.

Starting Your Fire Pit

Now this is the part you’ve been preparing for. To light the fire, you want to follow the steps below:

Start by making a pile in the middle of the fire pit using your tinder. Ideally, the pile should be around as big as the palm of your hand.

Take your kindling then place dry twigs and sticks directly above the tinder pile at an angle of 35 degrees so that it looks like a tee-pee. Ensure the kindling is compact together but leave tiny gaps in between for air to flow in freely.

Take your matchstick or fire starter and ignite the pile of tinder. When you see the kindling starting to burn, it’s now time to add the firewood.

Positioning the Firewood

With the kindling burning, place the seasoned logs of firewood carefully around it. You can do this in different patterns. For instance, you can recreate the tee-pee pattern as in the kindling above or go with a pyramid stack whereby several layers and placed vertically around the tee-pee.

Alternatively, you can use a log cabin stack-this features several horizontal layers placed perpendicular to one another.

Remember to use sufficient firewood to last the time you want the fire to be burning. Also, ensure that there are enough gaps between the pile of firewood so that air can flow in seamlessly to keep the flame burning. If you notice that the firewood is taking too long to get going, consider adding some more tinder and kindling.

For the impatient ones, add a little bit of kerosene. Once the fire is up and burning, you might have to keep on adding the firewood to continue enjoying the warmth. Remember to do this every time you see the flame fizzling out!

Maintaining the Flame

For the fire to continue burning throughout the night, you have to keep an eye on the flame so that it doesn’t extinguish. If you see the flaming growing smaller and smaller, try adding some kindling and tinder to rejuvenate the flame. You also want to follow up on the state of the firewood.

If the logs are all turning black and slowly crumbling, this could mean that the flame is dying. Rotate more logs to ensure the fire continues to burn. Occasionally add more tinder and kindle if need be, but be careful not to suffocate the flame.

Putting Out the Fire

Once the bonfire party comes to a close (or nighttime camping expedition finishes!) and you want to call it a night, you don’t want to leave the fire pit burning, even if the flame looks dead. There is so much that could go wrong with the embers still visible.

You want to prevent this by ensuring that everything is completely extinguished.

The following tips will help you to appropriately put out the fire pit:

Grab a water bucket or hose pipe then gently some water on the fire but be cautious not to overdo it as excess water can damage your fire pit.

When you sprinkle enough water so that the flame has died and embers are remaining, scoop some sand in a shovel and mix it with the ash and shovel. Do this until no “hissing” sound that fires usually produce.

Finally, test the ash by gently touching to check if it is cool then safely dispose of it.

Lighting a Fire Pit that Uses Gas/Propane

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Gas-based outdoor fire pits usually come in two types. The first one uses a form of portable liquid gas like propane while the other one is directly connected to your home’s natural gas line. In both cases, gas-based fire pits are generally easier to work with because you won’t have to keep on adding firewood to keep the fire burning.

Not to mention that you won’t have to deal with the issue of smoke! Having said that, remember not to use firewood on a gas-based fire pit as this may result in safety issues and other problems.

We recommend this one by outland living:


Light Your Fire Before Turning on the Gas

Most gas fire pits do not come with an automatic igniter, meaning you’ll have to light the fire manually. Generally, these fire pits are user-friendly and don’t require too much knowledge to operate. The only thing you want to pay attention to is that you should ignite the fire before turning on the gas.

This is because when start by turning on the gas, some of it tends to get trapped within pockets inside the pit. When you finally light the fire, you may get a slight explosion due to the trapped gas. While most of these are typically minor and can only scare you, some rare cases see people getting injured for making this mistake.

In a nutshell, that is all you need to get your gas-based fire pit burning, whether you are using portable propane or natural gas from your home line. However, you might have noted that they are more prone to mishaps compared to firewood fire pits!

Lighting the Fire Using a Clicker

This innovative way of igniting a fire in your outdoor fire pit considers all the safety and convenience features in its operation. If you own a gas-based fire pit in your backyard, using this electronic remote-controlled device is probably the easiest method to get your pit going.


But I should remind you to first check with the existing fire safety codes before doing. You can consult a professional to install this ignition system installed in your home. To light your gas-based fire pit:

Use the remote control to turn on the system

A safety check will automatically be administered before the gas starts to flow. After just five minutes, the hot surface igniter will begin to glow and ignite the pilot flame.

When the system detects the ignite pilot flame, the gas in the main burner is also ignited and your fire pit is lit.

To put out the fire, simply turn off the system using the remote control.

This flame-sensing technology typically monitors the status of the flame, as well as the internal temperature. In case you want to distinguish the flame, the system cuts off the supply of gas so that there is nothing to ignite.

How to Light a Pit Fire Without Kindling

You don’t always need a pile of kindling to get your fire started. There are alternative items you can use to get the flame and the firewood burning. Some of these are readily available in your home while others will need a little bit of searching for.

When it comes to how to light a pit fire without kindling, use the following as a substitute:

Used Paper Towels and Cooking Oil

If you have second-hand paper towels lying unused inside your home, you can pair them with some cooking oil to make the perfect kindling substitute when lighting a fire pit.

Once you finish using the paper towels after dinner, dip them is a cooking oil container and allow them to soak for a while.

Some people prefer to wait for a couple of days for the oil to dry so that it’s less messy when lighting the fire.

However, you can do this right before you light your fire pit and it will still be as effective. Both the paper towels and cooking oil are very flammable. When ignited, they produce a stable flame that stays burning long enough to ignite the firewood.

Sawdust Cupcakes

If you know any woodworking shop in your locality, you might want to pay it a visit for this DIY trick. Take some sawdust, candles, and something flammable (cardboard egg cartons or paper muffin wraps) to put the sawdust in. Put your sawdust on the egg carton then pour hot wax over it. Both the sawdust and the wax are highly flammable but the wax serves to slow down the burning process so that there is enough time for the firewood to get going.

Food Fire Starters

You might know this but some foods make very nice kindling alternatives. Many foods are very flammable, and this might just explain why kitchen fires are a common phenomenon. So, if you have some leftovers thrown in the trash can, you can retrieve some to get your fire going.

Take a paper bag and fill it with the flammable food leftovers then place the bag somewhere beneath the pile of wood. Set the paper bag alight and give it time to burn. Some of the foods you can use for your fire pit lighting include potato chips, dried milt, flour, peanut shells, dried coffee creamer, orange peels, etc.

Toilet Roll and Lint

This is another easy to find fire starter that will get your wood burning in no time. Instead of casting away your dryer lint, put it in a grocery bag and mix with toilet paper rolls or paper towel. If you have any newspapers you’re not using and other print outs from work, throw them all into the mix.

Stuff the toilet paper rolls and dryer lint together then wrap them in a newspaper. This ensures that all the flammable stuff is intact so that when it starts to burn, the flame lasts long enough to ignite the firewood.

Essential Oil Pinecone

Pinecones and essential oil will help you kill two birds with one stone; get your fire pit burning while treating the surrounding environment with a sweet scent. This is a relatively easy project to accomplish. You’ll need pinecones, wax, thread, and essential oils to get started. Look for unscented candles or wax from your local store to keep the scent of the wax from contaminating the aroma from the essential oil.

  1. Take a saucepan and melt the wax inside over a source of heat then pour any essential oil of your liking.
  2. With the wax melted, tie your thread around the pinecone then gently dip it inside so that it is thoroughly coated with the wax.
  3. Let the pinecone rest until the wax hardens and use this as your kindling to light the fire pit.

Conclusion

Before you become a master fire pit starter, you may have to go through multiple trials and several practice sessions. However, your learning curve will greatly be reduced when you follow the right methods. This article provides you with a precise step-by-step guide that will get your outdoor fire pit blazing.

Remember that your safety is critical and so is the property around your fire pit. As such, take all the necessary precautions to prevent any mishaps and avoidable accidents. Whether you installed a firewood-based or gas-based outdoor fire pit, you will get all you need to light your pit above. Good Luck!

FAQ

Why is My Firepit Producing Excess Smoke?

Sometimes, your firewood-based fire pit may produce too much smoke that is enough to alarm your neighbours. This is a common thing that happens and it’s usually because of one of the following reasons:

  • If you just installed your outdoor firepit and it is yet to be used, you might notice a lot of smoke being produced the first time you try to fire it up. This is because new outdoor pits usually require an initial burn out period to allow any excess substances from the manufacturing procedure to completely burn out.
  • The type of tree you source your outdoor fire pit firewood from may also determine the level of smoke produced once you ignite the fire. Ideally, you should try and look for dry and well-seasoned hardwoods for your fire pit.
  • Finally, the amount of wind blowing when you’re lighting your outdoor fire pit can also affect the smoke produced by the fire pit. For instance, when there is more wind blowing, the fire will have higher amounts of smoke.

How Should I Position My Fire Pit?

Depending on how hour backyard is arranged, you always want to set up the fire pit in an area that not only enhances your outdoor décor but also makes it safe and convenient for you. For instance, the pit should be positioned away from trees, fence, and any other vegetation. There should be no overhanging branches.

These can easily be ignited by stray sparks and embers from the burning pit and a small accident might turn into a full-blown disaster. Also, ensure that you place the fire pit on a non-combustible surface.

How Should I Clean My Wood-based Fire Pit?

Maintenance of your fire pit is important to ensure it functions effectively for the long haul. Every once in a while, you should try cleaning your pit. Wait until the fire pit has cooled down and the firewood has completely burned. After clearing out all the ash and disposing of it as is necessary, you can now clean your fire pit.

Use mild dishwashing soap or baking soda mixed with warm water to do this. For stubborn stains, use a citrus-based degreaser with a nylon brush to scrub off. Any collected creosote can be removed using a relevant chimney cleaning product. Once you finish scrubbing the fire pit, you can rinse with clean water then wipe it down before leaving it to dry.

What is the Right Size of a Fire Pit?

One of the most common questions homeowners ask when contemplating installing an outdoor fire pit is, what is the ideal size? This makes all the sense, especially when you consider that some designs can be 60cm in width while others stretch to 1.5 meters. Before choosing, you want to decide the spot your fire pit is going to be installed.

This will help you determine the appropriate size for a fire pit. Cut out a piece of board matching the diameter you have in mind for your fire pit. Assuming this is the actual fire pit, place it at your chosen spot while ensuring there’s at least 1.5m of radius from the edge. If you have more space to spare, then you can go for a bigger sized fire pit. Just make sure that the fire won’t be too close to people or property when you light it.

Should I Choose a Wood or Gas Outdoor Firepit?

Before I say anything, it is important to note that virtually any type of fire pit can be adjusted to accommodate your fuel of choice, i.e. you can turn your firewood-based fire pit into a gas-based pit and vice versa. So, when it comes to choosing a fire pit design, the main consideration rests with the type of fuel you plan to use.

All the factors that determine your choice will directly relate to the fuel itself. Let us consider some of these factors and see how they compare with regards to the fuel in question:

Fuel Availability

Consider your area of residence to select the right type of outdoor fire pit. If you live in the country, chances are there is plenty of vegetation around where you can access firewood. This means you won’t have a problem finding fuel for your firewood-based fire pit. But if you live in an urban environment, where gas lines are already installed in the home, then you don’t have to worry about looking for firewood. A gas-based outdoor fire pit will work just fine!

Set up Time

Generally, wood is a cheaper fuel compared to gas. A wood fire pit is also less expensive to install and can be ready to go in just 75% of the time taken to fully install a gas unit. But as far as expenses go, you can’t ignore time as a factor. It will take you long to chop the firewood into pieces, and even if you don’t have to do this yourself, ordering, seasoning, and stacking will eat a lot into your schedule. This is unlike using gas, where you simply turn on the supply to make the fuel available.

Storage of the Fuel

If you’re using a propane fire pit, you need a storage tank that can range from 15 to 100 gallons depending on the frequency of use. This can be positioned at a relevant corner in your backyard so that it is away from sight. Generally, storing propane will be more convenient for you than when dealing with firewood.

Firewood, on the other hand, requires a well-planned storage space. It should in a sheltered area from the rain so that the dry wood does not get wet. When stacking the wood, you want to do it in a hidden area so that it doesn’t take away from the appearance of your home. Furthermore, wood can harbor termites and bring you another problem to deal with.

Convenience

Gas is, without a doubt, much easier to use compared to wood. You only need to flip a switch and hold a lighter to get the fire pit going, unlike the long process of arranging kindling, tinder, and firewood involved when dealing with a wood-burning fire pit. Furthermore, wood is relatively messier; there is smoke to deal with and you still have to sweep away the small bits of tree bark that fall.

Maintenance

Wood-based fire pits require more maintenance since they hold everything from soot to ash and logs. These will constantly require shoveling off, especially before you put up a new fire. Creosote is also an issue when you burn wood since the tar-like substance leaking can release harmful compounds into the air, which can affect people when inhaled. Furthermore, any unforgotten embers may cause fire and serious damage to your property.

Elsewhere, gas fire pits will barely take a moment of your time as far as maintenance is concerned. Considering that it burns clean, no soot needs cleaning. A simple wipe down is all you need to have it looking clean and fresh. When it rains, just cover the top of the fire pit and no damage is done.

Safety

The risk of using a gas-based fire is evident in the event of a gas leak. However, this is a relatively rare occurrence when you find a professional to do the installation for you. Gas also burns clean and has little effect on the environment compared to firewood. With firewood, you can’t overlook the basic safety measures. Be sure to cut the wood with extreme caution and always extinguish the fire completely when you’re done with the pit. Wood also produces a lot of smoke, which can be discomforting to an asthmatic member of your family or circle.

Can I Burn Wood in a Gas-based Fire Pit?

If you have a gas fire pit installed on your property, you should never try using wood as fuel. As harmless as it may seem, it’s not a good idea to do this. This is because fire produced by burning wood produces far more heat than that from a typical gas flame. The fire pit might end up cracking as a result and suffer costly damage; not something you want for an outdoor fire pit that just got installed!

References:

https://www.quora.com/unanswered/How-do-I-light-a-Fire-Pit

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