There are many, many types of wood out there, but choosing the best wood for fire pits can be more of a task than you might think. Naturally, you want to get the best use of your fire pit while keeping it in the optimum condition, and the type of wood you use can play a part in both of these things. So to help you maximise the use of your fire pit, we’ve put together a guide exploring the best wood for fire pits and some of the types to altogether avoid!
Although many kinds of wood will burn in a fire pit, they won’t burn the same. This is why choosing suitable timber for your fire pit is vital. For example, if your fire is for creating a relaxing atmosphere in the garden, you don’t want to choose a wood type that will burn heavily and produce excess smoke.
So, start by considering how you would like to use your fire pit. However you plan on using your fire pit, you’ll want to choose the right wood fit for that purpose.
Also, you should choose a wood that ignites easily and burns cleanly. For this, you should use wood that is denser and drier. It’s recommended that you only burn woods with a maximum of 20% moisture[i]. This is why seasoned wood is often the best way to go. Wood that you or your local hardware store has seasoned has been dried to remove as much moisture as possible. Seasoned wood will burn more efficiently and keep your fire pit clean.
Usually, choosing the best wood for fire pits comes down to hardwoods vs softwoods. Due to their density and dryness, we’d recommend using hardwoods, like beech or ash, since they will ignite a low-maintenance fire that can burn for hours. On the other hand, softwoods may be easier to light, but they will burn up quickly and produce excess smoke, so it may not be best for a relaxing evening around a fire pit.
Whichever wood you do decide to use, ensure that the logs are completely dry. Damp wood will produce vast amounts of smoke, and you won’t be able to get a proper warm fire going.
Most experts agree that the best wood for fire pits is hardwood. Their ease of lighting, limited production of smoke and affordable price guarantee that these dense wood types will help you create a successful fire whether you’re relaxing in your back garden or singing songs around a campfire. Here are some of the best wood options for fire pits to create a long-lasting flame wherever you set up your fire.
Ash is a highly recommended wood for fire pits because of how well it burns. This durable hardwood has a high density and low moisture content, ensuring that it produces a clean flame that lasts long into the night. Plus, ash is a readily available and reasonably cheap wood type. Although it can take a little longer to ignite than other wood types, ash creates an incredibly long-lasting fire that produces enough heat to warm the chilliest of nights.
For an incredibly inexpensive option that will set the atmosphere of a relaxing night, pine is one of the best options. Pine is perfect for creating the desired ambience when sitting around a fire because it splits and crackles merrily almost as soon as you light it. For the straight-out-of-a-buddy-movie atmosphere, pine is the wood you’ll want!
However, pine burns incredibly quickly, so it’s best to use this wood type as kindling rather than the main wood for your fire pit. Pair pine kindling with a small twist of newspaper and a log of seasoned ash wood for a crackling fire to take you through the night.
If your main aim for your fire pit is cooking, maple wood maybe just for you. Some of this sweet-smelling maple wood under your fire pit grill will season your meal perfectly with a beautifully sweet flavour, leaving everyone sitting around your fire pit with watering mouths as they wait. Although, you don’t have to limit maple wood to cooking. This wood is incredibly dense, guaranteeing a long burning time, and the syrupy smell it produces is perfect for enlightening summer nights.
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For a warm fire to snuggle around on summer nights and autumn evenings, beech wood is your best option. Beech is incredibly dense, however, it has a higher water content than other hardwoods. Because of this, it’s important that you ensure you purchase seasoned beech wood. Properly seasoned beech wood will produce a nice, hot fire that comes with a pleasant, nutty smell.
Although oak can take years to dry out, seasoned logs of this dense wood are strong, heavy and incredibly slow-burning. Of course, this means you’ll have a long-lasting fire to keep you warm until morning. Oak is also easy to split, and doing so allows the wood to exude plenty of heat. Also, oak is a fantastic wood to use when cooking foods without altering the taste.
Cherry is a great time-saving wood for fire pits because it will light quickly and stay aflame for a good few hours. So, you can spend more time relaxing and enjoying your fire rather than building and stoking it all night long. Even better, cherry wood smells as good as its namesake. With a rich, tangy smell and a long-lasting fire guaranteed, cherry wood is an ideal choice for your fire pit.
You may already be aware that there are several types of treated wood that you should never burn in a fire pit, such as pressure-treated and painted wood. However, there are certain wood types that will naturally burn worse than others. Although hardwoods are the best wood for fire pits, so are a fair few kinds of wood that are unsuitable for fire pits. These are the wood types you should avoid burning on your fire pit.
Although it’s a beautiful hardwood tree, the willow tree thrives in wet soil, meaning the wood is incredibly soft and full of moisture. Because of this, it doesn’t burn particularly well unless it has been very well seasoned. As well as this, willow wood emits a very strong unpleasant scent (particularly the weeping willow) and doesn’t produce a lot of heat, so it won’t keep you warm for very long. Although it’s not the worst firewood out there, willow wood is certainly not one of the best woods for fire pits.
Lighting up your fire pit on the beach may sound like a beautiful end to a fun day, but don’t use any washed up wood to light your fire. Any driftwood that has been washed up on the shore will not burn well at all. Not only is it wet and full of moisture, but the salt from the ocean water can release dangerous chemicals and toxins into the air when burnt[ii].
Throwing leftover construction wood and broken furniture may sound like a dream for your waste disposal, but construction wood is incredibly toxic when burnt. Much of the wood used in building homes and crafting furniture is treated with chemicals, with some pressure-treated woods containing arsenic as recently as the early 2000s. Burning these woods will release toxic fumes that can be incredibly dangerous.
Green wood refers to any wood types that have been freshly cut, none of which are suitable for burning. Freshly cut wood has not been seasoned or dried out, meaning it’s near impossible to get it to light properly and burn steadily. So, if you have any freshly cut wood, your best bet is to stock and cover it until it dries out. Depending on the wood type, this can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years[iii].
On the other hand, you shouldn’t burn wood that has reached the other end of the lifecycle either. When the wood begins to rot, it loses its density, leading to a less steady burn and a loss of heat production. Even worse, if you burn wood that has begun to go mouldy, it will release toxic mould spores that can irritate the eyes, throat and nose. Instead, leave any mouldy wood in the garden for wildlife, bugs and fungi.
There are plenty of options when considering wood for fire pits, now you can be sure that you’ll choose the right one! Although some options are better than others, choosing wood for a fire pit is a relatively easy decision as long as you remember to focus on hardwoods that have been well seasoned and will burn steadily.
What woods do you use in your fire pit? Let us know your favourites.
Anna is the marketing and office manager for Garden Benches – a premium supplier of high-quality wooden benches and other outdoor furniture.