Everything you need to know about garden fire pits

Nick Moyle and Rich Hood

A garden fire pit is an essential component of the autumn/winter garden, but before you fire up, make sure you know the basics 

For at least 200,000 years, humans have had the ability to control fire. No wonder that, to this day, we’re still enraptured by a fire’s flames. So, maybe it’s time to light up your garden with a fire pit?

 

What is a fire pit?

As their name suggests, originally fire pits were holes in the ground dug to contain fire and prevent it from spreading. 

The term fire pit now refers to pretty much any method of enclosing fire in an outside space.

 

What fuel do they use?

Most fire pits are designed to burn wood, but you can get ones that run off gas. 

Assuming you opt for the former, as long as the wood is dry, you can burn it. On that note, chopped up pallets burn beautifully.

 

Are any restrictions in place?

The UK has very lenient outdoor fire laws. If you have outdoor space, it’s very likely you’ll be allowed to have bonfires, barbecues or fire pits. But there are some things you should do. 

Firstly, keep your fire pit well away from buildings and boundaries. Secondly, only burn dry wood—this will prevent excessive smoke. Also, you have to make sure no smoke drifts over nearby roads. 

If you want to remain friends with your neighbours, be wary of ruining their freshly laundered clothes drying outside.

 

Buying a fire pit

There are firepits to suit all tastes and budgets. Simple, small, metal fire pits cost as little as £20; whereas large, designer fire pits can cost thousands of pounds.  

Search online to get an idea of what’s available.  

 

DIY fire pits

Nomadic tribes have been building fire pits for years. Indeed, many replaced the turf they had removed after the fire died out—thus leaving little trace of where the fire once raged.  

This simple design still works, but it’s not practical in a garden setting. Read on for lots of simple ways to create your own fire pit.

1.  Brick-built fire pits

These can be sunken or raised. If it’s the former, dig a hole wide enough for the fire and the surrounding bricks. Then line the edges with fireproof bricks. How you finish the design is up to you. Again, look online for inspiration.

2. Washing machine drum fire pit

This is probably my favourite. Removing the drum from an old washing machine can be a laborious task, but these drums are ideally designed to have second lives as fire pits.  

They look beautiful and have hundreds of small holes in the sides: once designed to let water out, they are also perfect for letting air in. 

3. Tractor wheel fire pit

Yes, tractor wheels are a little harder to come across. But if there’s a breaker’s yard anywhere near you, you may be able to find something similar.  

The wheel will create the bottom and the edge of the fire pit. These don’t look as good as washing machine drums—but they will probably be more durable.

To quote Frederick Douglass, “It is not light that we need, but fire”.


Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter