Adding a fire pit can up your backyard’s coziness factor several degrees. But Bob Scott, who owns Heat Exchange Hearth & Patio Shoppe, cautions it’s not as simple as lighting a match. He gives us tips on how to safely enjoy a fire pit. But first, he says, make sure your city or homeowner’s association even allows them.
Stocking up on safety gear might not be glamorous, but when you’re playing with fire, err on the side of caution. Scott suggests investing in a fire blanket and fire extinguisher in case of emergency. The fire pit should be away from any large trees or branches, but he recommends using a screen to cover the fire just in case. “The sparks can fly away. That screen helps to stop that before it floats away and lands on something and starts a fire,” says Scott.
Beat the heat
Your neighbor may swear by their DIY cinderblock fire pit, but Scott says gravel, river rocks and concrete blocks are porous and can trap steam, meaning they could explode when they get hot. If you’re building your own, use fire brick stacked around a steel ring, both of which you can get at most hardware or patio stores. Scott says a width of 36-44 inches and a height of 14-20 inches is best. “That’s a good height if people want to prop their feet on it when they sit down,” he says.
Using a fire starter or candle lighter, ignite kindling such as paper, magazines or newspaper. Slowly add more kindling to keep the flame going for a couple minutes before adding larger logs. Start with two parallel logs, then stack two more on those so they look like a hashtag from above. From there, just keep an eye on things. “Make sure your flames aren’t getting too out of control,” Scott says. “Anything more than 3-foot-tall flames is probably getting pretty big.”