Garden fire features: Our guide to log-burning fire pits, bowls, globes, baskets, and chimineas
Not sure what the differences between fire pits and fire bowls are? Stressing about how to light your fire? Getting even more stressed over how to put your fire out? We’re here to help.
A log-burning fire feature – whether it be a fire pit, bowl, globe, basket, or chiminea – will be a wonderful addition to your outside space.
In the spring and summer, they allow you to gather with family and friends, enjoying each other’s company long into the night. During the colder months, they provide a welcoming source of warmth so that you don’t have to miss out on any coveted free time on the patio.
And we couldn’t move on without mentioning the main benefit: they’re perfect for toasting marshmallows!
We know that many people love the idea of getting their own fire feature in principle, but they’re intimidated by the reality. There are so many different types available and it can be scary dealing with a live flame for the first time – particularly when you’re actively burning wood.
To quell these worries, we’ve put together this guide on all things log-burning fire features. We’ll explain what different fire feature options there are, what to consider when making your choice, and how to use them.
If you have a particular question or query you need answering, click the relevant link below and you’ll be taken directly to the corresponding section.
We hope that you love your new fire feature!
What are fire pits and bowls?
Depending on what you read, it can get a little confusing as to what fire pits and bowls are and the differences between them.
To begin on shaky footing, there isn’t an ‘official’ definition as to what a fire pit is – particularly in the garden design world. Indeed, there isn’t even a consensus on how to write the term; elsewhere you’ll find firepit written as one word!
The term fire pit can be used to refer to anything from a literal pit dug into the ground to moveable structures in an array of sizes that hold flames. In this guide, we’ll be dealing with the latter type.
Fire bowls on the other hand are, unsurprisingly, always bowls held by a stand – normally metal legs. Also, fire bowls are commonly more portable than their pit counterparts.
The key common element between the two is that they are structures designed to hold a flame and stop it from spreading.
What are fire globes?
You may have also heard of fire globes.
A fire globe is a specific type of fire bowl. What makes them special is the globe top above the bowl, which commonly features designs cut into the metal.
They are a beautiful, elegant, and sophisticated option for people who want a statement piece in their garden.
What are fire baskets?
We’re now starting to move away from the standard fire pit and bowl.
A fire basket is a metal basket in which wood can be burned for heat and entertainment.
Far more portable than even the lightest bowl, fire baskets are perfect for temporary placement in your outside space.
Also, once you’re done burning, you can use the basket to store your logs until you light your next fire!
What are chimineas?
A Chiminea (which you’ll also find spelt as ‘chimenea’) is a traditional, open-flame structure that can be found gracing gardens across the world.
Chimenea is a Spanish word that means fireplace. This makes sense as chimineas were originally used within homes for heat and for cooking.
They differ from fire pits and bowls as they’re enclosed and have an opening in the front for placing fuel.
The chimenea is usually placed on the ground or on some sort of stand so that you can use it just like a fireplace would be used indoors.
Although traditionally made from clay, you will also find options made of either cast iron or aluminium.
How to choose a fire feature
When you’re looking for the perfect fire feature for your garden, there are a few things we’d suggest considering.
1. What’s your budget?
First and foremost, what are you willing to spend on your beloved new garden feature?
Although not a perfect science, the larger and more intricate the design, the more the fire feature will cost.
However, this rule of thumb may play into your favour depending on the size of space you have available…
2. What space do you have available?
Some fire features don’t need much space or height clearance around them, while others may require more room.
Keep in mind the shape of your space, as it’s important to choose a feature that fits seamlessly into your outdoor area without getting in the way of family, furniture, or foliage.
3. How permanent do you want your fire feature’s placement to be?
If you’ll be moving your feature around a lot, we’d recommend opting for a smaller and lighter choice – perhaps going for a basket, which is the most portable option.
4. What fits your garden’s style?
As the likely centrepiece of your patio, you need to consider the aesthetics of your new fire feature.
For example, some options are designed to artfully rust over time (which we love!), but this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
5. How much time will it take to maintain?
If you plan to light up the fire pit every night during the summer months, then you’ll want to make sure that maintenance is easy so that you can keep up with it daily instead of weekly or monthly.
How to use a fire pit, bowl, globe, basket, or metal chiminea
Once you’ve got your hands on a fire feature, the moment you’ve been waiting for has finally arrived: it’s time to light it!
If you’ve never lit a fire before, don’t worry. We have you covered.
Where to place your fire pit or bowl
First things first, you need to place your fire feature in a great – and more importantly, safe – place.
Make sure to set your fire feature away from any flammable objects, such as trees.
In case any stray embers start a fire outside of your feature, keep a hose and a bucket of water close by.
What to burn
Although some fire features can use both wood and charcoal, we’d recommend always going for the former option.
Firstly, using wood is far more environmentally friendly. Secondly, after a charcoal fire, your feature will be covered in far more ash and other debris, making clean-up extremely difficult.
Dry, seasoned hardwoods are perfect for keeping your flame burning brighter for longer. We highly recommend wood such as oak or birch tree logs.
What you need to light your fire:
- Some dried kiln and logs
- Matches or a lighter
- A natural fire lighter
- Heat-resistant gloves
How to light a fire feature in four easy steps
Step 1: Arrange your kindling into a tower inside your feature and add your natural fire lighter in the middle. Keep your heat-resistant gloves on to protect your hands.
Step 2: Put some small logs or kiln across the kindling. It’s best to arrange them at an angle to allow the oxygen flow and the smoke to leave the feature. It’s important to maintain air gaps to keep your flame burning.
Step 3: Now, it’s time to light your firelighter. Wait until the logs are well lit before adding more logs.
Step 4: Enjoy your fire bowl!
How to keep your fire alight for longer
- Here are some top tips for keeping your fire feature burning for longer:
- One common mistake made by people new to fire bowls and pits is using wood filled with moisture. To keep the flame lit, using very dry wood and ensuring your fire has proper ventilation is vital.
- Fully dry your fire feature before adding any fuel to minimise moisture.
- Although they’re admittedly harder to light, larger pieces of wood will burn for longer.
- Make sure your fire feature is protected from the wind. If it’s exposed, the flames will be more likely to go out.
- If the fire is starting to die down, add more wood.
How to put out a fire
Stop adding wood or any other fuel you may be using to keep your fire going for about an hour or so before you intend to put it out.
Let the fire die down on its own for 30 to 45 minutes.
To help things move along faster, you can separate out the logs so they’re not touching – this will make them burn out quicker.
At this point, you can move ahead with three options.
If you go for water, we’d recommend filling a bucket ready. Make sure to stand as far away from the fire as possible when you slowly douse the feature, as the water can turn into scoldingly hot steam.
You’ll hear sputtering or sizzling as you pour water on the flames. You should keep adding water until all of these noises have subsided. Make sure to wet every piece of ash, even if it isn’t glowing or red.
Once everything in the feature is covered in water, use a shovel or poker to stir the ashes and embers. If any more steam rises, add more water and keep stirring.
Inspect the area surrounding the fire feature for any embers or debris that may have escaped.
Wait for the feature to be cool to the touch – and you’re done.
However, bear in mind that if you’re using a metal fire feature, the water method is likely to cause rust build-up. So, perhaps sand would be preferable.
To put out your fire using sand, you’ll need a shovel.
Use it to scoop dry sand into your feature. As with the water method, the next step is to stir it into the ash to ensure that all embers are gone.
Again, before you leave the feature, don’t forget to check the surroundings for any escaped embers or debris.
A snuffer is a lid you place on top of your feature to cut off the fire’s supply of oxygen, which will extinguish the flame.
If properly covered, a snuffer should put out a fire in about five minutes.
Handily, a snuffer will also acts as a lid to protect the bowl when not in use.
Given that all oxygen needs to be cut off, this method will work best with fire pits and bowls which can be completely covered (i.e., not fire globes or baskets), and you should aim to procure a snuffer that covers the bowl entirely.
How to use a clay chiminea
If you’ve opted for a traditional clay chiminea, there are a couple of extra things to bear in mind.
However, don’t worry, it’s not too complicated. You’ll just become well acquainted with sand.
What to burn in a clay chiminea
Although we’ve suggested always using wood over coal, it’s even more important to do so when it comes to clay chimineas.
Using coals to light such a chiminea will cause the clay to crack – so definitely go for wood!
How to prepare a clay chiminea
Before lighting a traditional chiminea, the bottom must be filled with sand to protect the clay from the flame. As you heat the chiminea, this is called the curing process.
Putting out your clay chiminea’s flame
If you want to put out the fire in a chiminea, you must allow the flame to burn naturally and smother the ashes and embers with sand.
Do not use water inside the chiminea as this will damage your chiminea’s base.
Now you know all about the different types of log-burning fire features and how to use them.
We hope that our guide has been useful and alleviated any trepidation you may have had at the thought of getting your own fire feature. They really do light up a garden – both literally and figuratively!
If you’re to take just one thing from this guide, let it be this: plan ahead. Figure out what type of fire feature will suit your needs best, get your fuel and tools ready ahead of time, and have the requisite supplies to put out the flames safely.