How to Start a Wood Fire in a Fire Pit
Master this essential skill with ease
Knowing how to easily start a fire is a great skill to have in your pocket when you have a wood fire pit at home. Fortunately, the process is relatively straightforward and simple. Read on to find out what it takes to start a cozy fire and be sure to check out our selection of wood-burning fire pits when you’re finished.
How to start a wood fire in a fire pit
To start a fire, you really only need four things: a lighter, tinder, kindling, and dry firewood. You can purchase specialty fire starting wood to make the process easier, as well, but it’s by no means a requirement. For this guide, we’ll assume you’re just using the wood you have on hand. We’re also going to assume you’re making a “teepee” fire lay. While there are different ways to lay a fire, this one is quick, easy, and likely what comes to mind when most people think of “building a fire.”
Start building your fire with tinder. This can be any kind of small, dry material capable of lighting easily, burning hot, and burning quickly. This can be something like dry leaves, wood shavings, or even paper. Your tinder bundle will be the base of your fire.
Once you’ve laid your tinder, start constructing a “teepee” in your fire pit over the top of your tinder material. Use your kindling, the smaller sticks and twigs you have on hand. Be sure to leave a small opening in your teepee to allow airflow. This airflow will ensure your fire gets the air it needs for good combustion. Start with your smallest kindling at the center of the teepee and work your way up to larger pieces. Finally, add several larger pieces of firewood to your teepee.
Once you’ve assembled your teepee, use your lighter or matches to ignite the tinder pile. Your tinder should catch fire easily and burn hot enough to ignite your smaller pieces of kindling. This will, in turn, ignite the larger pieces of kindling. If you’ve assembled your fire well, the kindling will burn hot enough to catch the rest of your firewood, which will mean it’s time to sit back and enjoy your fire. Eventually, your teepee structure will fall, but your fire will be strong enough to add additional logs to the pile at that point.
What type of wood is best for a fire pit?
Things to consider when selecting a type of firewood are heat output, burn speed, and smoke. Hardwoods like oak, hickory, ash, and maple are generally the best fuel option but may take longer to catch fire. Softwoods like pine, fir, and cedar can make for a good fuel, as well, but may burn faster and put off more smoke than hardwoods. Consider using these more as a fire starter if you have the option.
One more detail to note is moisture content. If your wood isn’t completely dry, you’ll likely notice it popping, crackling, and throwing more sparks. This is the result of inefficient combustion and steam pockets releasing pressure as they burst. Hardwoods are less likely than softwoods to crackle and pop. Want to avoid this problem altogether? Use kiln-dried wood designed specifically for fire pits and fireplaces.
How long does wood burn in a fire pit?
How long your wood burns depends on the type of wood you’re using in your fire pit. As previously mentioned, hardwoods burn longer than softwoods. This is due to the fact wood fibers are closer together in hardwood.
Assuming you’re starting your fire with softwood and sustaining it with hardwoods, you’ll end up with a great, long-lasting fire. If you’re using 12- to 14-inch logs approximately four or five inches in diameter, you’ll likely be using four or five logs every two hours. This assumes your fire pit is roughly three to four feet in diameter. Changing these variables will change your burn time, but use this as a rough starting estimate.
What’s the best way to put out a fire in a fire pit?
Always keep water and a shovel handy to control your fire. To put out a fire, remember three things: water, dirt, and stir. Add water, then add dirt, and mix the two until no hot embers remain. You should be able to put your hand over the top of the mix safely if the fire has been properly quenched.
Always extinguish your fire properly when you’re ready to call it a night. Even after a fire “goes out,” embers will continue to smolder and the fire may reignite. This can spell trouble if you assume the fire has burned itself out and you leave the fire pit unattended.
Upgrade your fire pit experience
Thinking about a nice warm campfire has us ready for some s’mores, but until then, we’re here to take your fire pit calls. You can contact us by phone or email to speak with one of our product specialists. They’re here Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT and ready to answer any questions you may have about wood fire pits, gas fire pits, or any number of other patio products available on our site. We’re looking forward to assisting you.
Product Specialist Alex W. contributed to this article.