With the warm days of summer just about here, the outdoor entertaining season has come as well. If you have a fire pit, you may be wondering what type of wood (and other materials) you can safely burn. (If you don't have a fire pit yet--and want one--you can look at some of the ones we've talked about in the past: Ball O' Fire Pit with Spark Shield, the handsome Aluminum Fire Pit Table, and the fun Tiki Tabletop Fire Urn).
Since you don't have the protection of a firebox and chimney, and you may have dry grass or tree branches nearby, it's important to be especially safe when starting fires outdoors. So let's take a look at what you can burn (and what you shouldn't).
What Should You Burn in Your Fire Pit?
Many species of wood are suitable for burning in an outdoor fire pit. (Where people tend to get in trouble is burning unorthodox stuff.) For ideal firewood, see our article on the Best Types of Firewood. Hickory, oak, maple, beech, birch, and elms top the list, but there are plenty of other suitable choices as well.
If you want instant logs, Hearth.com recommends Eco Logs, which are compressed logs made from the dust created by hardwood floor manufacturing companies. The logs come in 8-packs, are inexpensive, but burn a long time with larger flames than most presto-log types you get at the supermarket or DIY store.
Wood size is important when burning in a fire pit. Make sure to get logs that fit in the unit and don't stick out the top or sides. For shallow models, the logs may rise above the rim, but don't let them hang over the sides.
What Not to Burn in a Fire Pit
Let's make a list to highlight some of the big things to avoid:
- Pressure-treated wood (emits toxic fumes)
- Railroad ties (they have been treated and contain carcinogens)
- Painted or stained wood (again, fumes may be toxic)
- Green wood (even more so than with an indoor fireplace, the extra smoke is annoying to you, your guests, and maybe your neighbors too).
- Burning garden waste, weeds, etc. may be against your city's ordinances.
- Also don't burn anything that creates black smoke or a noxious odor