How To Start a Wood-Burning Fire Pit

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How to Start a Wood-Burning Fire Pit

A wood-burning fire pit is a great way to spend an evening outdoors with friends and family. Not only does it create a warm and cozy atmosphere, but it can also be a source of heat on a cool night. However, some people may be hesitant to use one because they’re unsure of how to start the fire. Don’t worry – we’ll show you how it’s done!

If you’re like most people, you may be hesitant to start a wood-burning fire pit because of safety concerns. But with a little know-how, starting a fire in your fire pit can be easy and safe. Here’s how to start a wood-burning fire pit.

Related: The Best Wood-Burning Fire Pits For Any Budget

How to Start a Wood-Burning Fire Pit

Follow these steps and you’ll get a fire started the safe way.

Check Local Regulations

Before you start a fire in your fire pit, be sure to check with your local municipality to see if there are any restrictions on wood-burning fires. Some municipalities may have regulations and you’ll need to be sure that you’re following them.

Safely Prepare Your Surroundings

Before starting your fire, take a few minutes to clear the area around your fire pit. this will minimize the risks associated with fire pits and help you have a safe and playful environment. You’ll want to be sure that any combustible materials are nowhere near the fire pit. Also, be sure that there are no tree branches or other hanging objects that will be over the fire. The fire and smoke should be able to go straight up into the sky.

Follow these basic safety tips when it comes to choosing a safe location and preparing the fire pit and surrounding area:

  • Level the fire pit: Ensure that the fire pit’s location is on level ground, especially when using a fire pit with a raised structure, so it doesn’t tip over.
  • Safe ground: Ensure that the area surrounding the fire pit is made up of some fire-resistant material. Flammable materials should never be near a fire pit.
  • Use fire pit screens: If your fire pit comes with a screen, you should use it. It won’t allow any embers to leave the pit.

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What You’ll Need to Start the Fire

The things you’ll need to start the fire when learning how to start a wood-burning fire pit include:

  1. Lighter
  2. Tinder
  3. Kindling
  4. Dry Firewood

You can also purchase specialty firewood meant for starting a fire to make the process simpler and more manageable, but it’s not a requirement. There are multiple different ways to lay the firewood to start a fire, but one of the easiest is the “teepee” fire lay.


Start with gathering the necessary firewood, tinder, fire starter, and kindling.

Fire Starter

A variety of fire starters are available that you can choose from. The most common and readily available are kitchen lighters and matches. Electric arc or butane torch lighters are other examples.

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However , you won’t find an electric arc or butane torch in your home. They are much more effective than matches or kitchen lighters and are relatively cheap, so you’ll most likely need to go out and purchase them.


Tinder is what you use to start the fire. Tinder is the easily lit, quick-burning source that makes your kindling burn and then the firewood you plan to burn. Make sure that your tinder is dry and non-toxic.

Pine needles, birch or cedar bark shavings, cotton balls, and newspaper can all act as your fuel. A creative idea for making tinder is combining lint from a clothes dryer and cardboard tubes from toilet paper rolls.


Kindling is the dry branches and twigs that will keep the fire going on until the primary fuel (firewood) starts burning. The most effective twigs and sticks are from softwoods like pine, cedar, spruce, and poplar.

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Firewood is the foundation of any fire and will keep your fire burning for a long time. The best types of firewood are hardwoods like maple, ash, and oak. Firewood is classified either as seasoned firewood or kiln-dried firewood.

Seasoned firewood is the wood when it is being cut and stacked in a place with a moisture content of 25% or lower. Kiln-dried firewood is greenwood made in a specially designed kiln.

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This will quickly decrease the moisture content to less than 25%. A feature of kiln-dried wood is that the process through which it is made will eliminate any insects. So, you can store it for a more extended period of time.

Related: What is a Rick of Firewood? Everything You Need to Know

Fire Lays

There are different ways to lay down the materials for starting a fire and it is good to know each when learning how to start a wood-burning fire pit. These methods are used for assembling the materials in a specific way to determine how the fire will burn in the pit.

The teepee fire lay is the most common and is super easy to put together.

Here is how you can do it:

  1. Begin by placing a bundle of tinder at the center of your firepit.
  2. Make a teepee using kindling. Make sure that you leave a proper opening in the direction of the blowing wind. This will help get the necessary oxygen and make your flames stronger and higher.
  3. Ignite the tinder materials and add more kindling materials.
  4. As it burns, the structure will cave in on itself. As soon as it does that, carefully place your firewood into the pit.

Another common fire lay is the log cabin.

Here is how you can do it:

  1. Start by creating a small teepee lay.
  2. Then grab your largest firewood pieces and position them on the opposite side of the central teepee.
  3. Take your next largest pieces and place them across the first step to make a square.
  4. Keep on doing this, laying shorter and smaller pieces until you create a four-sided pyramid.
  5. Ignite the central tinder.


After you have made your fire lay, it’s time to ignite the structure. Take a lighter or match sticks, whichever you have, and carefully ignite the structure. It’s recommended that you wear heat-resistant gloves to prevent any possible injury. 

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Keep on adding firewood to your fire to keep it burning. It’s recommended that you use long-arm fire gloves or log grabbers to place the firewood into the fire safely.

After you’ve done all this, sit back and relax. Enjoy the company of your friends and family. The traditional way of creating a fire gives people a great outdoor experience.

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Related: Best Portable Fire Pits for the Yard and Beyond

Other Methods To Start A Fire

There are many different ways to address how to start a wood-burning fire pit. Here are a few other options that you might prefer depending on the materials that are available to you.

Using Pine Cones And Fatwood

This method will eliminate any need for kindling and tinder collection. Pine cones are excellent for starters, as they’re easily bought locally or online. You can also gather them from the nearby woods or in your backyard. 

Ensure that you completely dry the pine cones or select dry pine cones, as wet ones won’t be effective. Longleaf or loblolly pine cones are better than their long and slender relatives, known as sugar pine cones.

The other component is fatwood. It’s made from pine tree stumps. It also goes by the name of “pitch pine.” Among avid outdoor adventurers, fatwood is called “nature’s best fire starter,” since it quickly ignites and burns hot for a long time.

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This is due to the high resin content present in the fatwood. As the wood hardens, this sap concentrates and becomes a natural fire starter.

The steps are as follows:

  1. Place a dry cone in the middle of the fire pit.
  2. Ignite the pine cone.
  3. Position a few fatwood pieces in a cross pattern on top of the pine cone.
  4. As the fire starts, it becomes more robust and more vigorous, so place the hardwood next.
  5. Continue to add hardwood to maintain the flame.

Sawdust Cupcakes

For this trick, you might want to visit a woodworking shop. You’re going to need sawdust, candles, and a flammable object like a cardboard box. 

Here is how you can do it:

  1. Fill the box with some sawdust and pack it, but not too lightly. 
  2. Pour some hot wax over it and give it some time so that it can harden.
  3. Place the box in the fire pit and ignite it.
  4. Place the firewood over the box.
  5. Continue to add firewood to maintain the flame.

The sawdust and wax present are quite flammable and the wax will burn slowly, providing enough time for the wood to start burning. You can also use any other flammable object instead of sawdust, like paper. 

Note: When using an egg carton for this trick, you can cut the carton into smaller pieces to create multiple fire starters. If you don’t have the items needed for this option or would rather purchase this is a great choice from Amazon:

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Lint and Toilet Paper Roll

This one is all about recycling. Instead of tossing out the dried and used lint from your dryer, collect it. Place it in a grocery bag along with toilet paper rolls and paper towel rolls. Save some newspapers, junk mail, or torn pages too.

  1. Loosely stuff the saved articles in the dryer lint, but not too tightly.
  2. After that, wrap the toilet paper roll in a newspaper. Your fire starter is ready.
  3. Place the dryer lint and the rolls in the fire pit and ignite it safely.
  4. Place some firewood over them.
  5. Keep on adding firewood to maintain the fire.   

Positioning The Fire Pit

The best way to ensure the fire pit’s safety is to position the firepit correctly so that no incident occurs. Choosing the right position for your fire pit can be the best way to ensure your safety. 

Here are a few tips to position the fire pit:

Keep Your Distance from Buildings

One of the best rules of thumb is positioning the fire pit at a minimum of 10 feet from any building or structure, and more than that if possible. Never place fire pits under any tree branches or wooden structures, as the embers may rise and catch something on fire. 

Keep a Water Source Nearby

An accident can occur anytime because of a simple mistake. So, it’s best to have a water source like a garden hose or bucket of water ready to go. Make sure to place the bucket or garden hose in a spot that’s easily accessible before you start your fire.

Keep a Safe Distance

Objects, such as chairs, around the firepit should be kept at a safe distance. If they tumble, they won’t fall into the fire pit. They also won’t pose as a tripping hazard for anyone moving around the fire pit. 

Flammable Objects

No flammable object should be kept near the firepit. Plants should be at least 10-20 feet away from the pit. Plastic material may melt if kept near the fire pit as well.

Note: Burning plastics produces toxic gases, so they should be kept away. 

Keep Fire Pits in an Open Area

Using a fire pit in an enclosed area is inviting an accident to happen. In an enclosed space, the embers can easily come in contact with a flammable object and cause damage.

The Fire Triangle

The fire triangle refers to the three things you need to keep the fire going: oxygen, heat, and fuel. They are easy to remember, as our bodies require all three of them as well.

Without even one of them, your fire won’t start. If you want a bigger fire, add more fuel. If you want it to burn faster, provide it with more oxygen.  

The secret to a good fire lies in the fire triangle. Without the proper heat, you can’t even hope to start a fire; that is where tinder comes into play.

What if the Firewood Is Wet?

You can start a fire with wet firewood. It will be difficult, but it’s not impossible. The first thing you should do is make a platform to touch the fire pit’s metal bowl. 

As the firewood is wet, it will require more heat to burn. The required heat can be achieved by increasing the amount of tinder and kindling. More tinder and kindling will heat your initial fire. 

You can also shave the firewood’s outer part with a knife to get to the firewood’s inner drier region. 

Some DIY Tricks To Start A Fire

Use a Magnifying Glass

As shown in movies and on television, the magnifying glass can be used to start a fire. A magnifying lens concentrates the sun’s rays in a particular direction. These rays become hot enough to ignite tinder.

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A polished piece of ice carved into a convex lens or the bottom of a glass bottle can also be used to start your fire.

Liquid Lens

A balloon or a clear sandwich bag can be filled with water to create a liquid lens. A liquid lens is to be kept quite close to the fuel to start a fire. Ensure that the outer surface of the liquid lens is not wet.

Flint and Steel

Special fire strikers can be bought in shops; these strikers will give you a spark in almost all-weather conditions. Flint, when struck against a blade, will also do the job.

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Related: Are Backyard Fire Pits Legal?

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you light an outdoor fire pit?

You can light an outdoor fire by using a lighter or a match. Be sure to use caution when igniting the pit as it can cause burns.

How do you start a fire pit with a fire starter log?

The fire starter log is placed in the center of the pit and then ignited. Once it’s burning, you can start adding your kindling and wood.

Why will my wood fire pit not stay lit?

There are a few reasons why your wood fire pit may not stay lit. Make sure that you have enough kindling and tinder to start the fire. You may also need to adjust the airflow by opening or closing the vents on the pit.

What type of wood should I use in my outdoor fire pit?

The best type of wood to use in an outdoor fire pit is hardwood. You can find this at local general stores, hardware stores, online, and sometimes grocery stores.

What is the difference between seasoned and kiln-dried firewood?

The main difference between the two types of firewood is the moisture content. Seasoned firewood has a moisture content of 25% or lower while kiln-dried firewood has a moisture content of less than 25%. Kiln-dried wood is also insect-free.

Can I use treated wood in my outdoor fire pit?

No, treated wood should not be used in an outdoor fire pit as it can release harmful chemicals when burned.

Can I use a chimney starter with my outdoor fire pit?

Yes, you can use a chimney starter with your outdoor fire pit. This will help get the fire going faster.

How do I stop my fire pit from smoking?

If your fire pit is smoking, it’s likely that the wood is not dry enough. Make sure to use seasoned or kiln-dried firewood in your pit for best results.

Related: How To Put Out A Fire Pit: Completely Extinguish With or Without Water

Now You Know How to Start a Wood-Burning Fire Pit

Now that you know how to start a wood-burning fire pit safely, you can enjoy all the benefits that come with it. From cooking food to keeping warm, a fire pit is a great addition to any backyard. Make sure to follow these simple steps and you’ll be able to start your next fire with ease.

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