Fire pit area
Using Merbau screens as fencing and in a custom bench seat design, Workshop member lcooksey88 created an outdoor haven dedicated to gatherings around the fire pit.
When choosing a fire pit, look to your own backyard for inspiration. A simple, sleek bowl will suit a contemporary garden, while an ornate brazier could work in a period home. For finishes, be guided by those already used in your landscape – stone, weathering steel, cast iron or concrete.
Size is also a factor; a petite space might be better suited to a small bowl-style fire pit or a partially enclosed chimenea. Bear in mind that a too-small fire pit in a large space will appear disproportionate. A larger fire pit will almost always look better, but carefully measure your space to make sure there’s plenty of room on all sides to move safely around it.
Most fire pits serve only as an ambient centrepiece and a source of warmth, but some come with added extras like grill plates or rotisserie brackets.
A flickering fire pit as a centrepiece is always going to be a drawcard, so embrace its role as heart of the party by setting it up as the centre of a conversation zone or entertainment area. Position it away from the house (for safety) but not too far removed from the rest of the action. For example, near the barbecue area might work well, so guests can easily drift between the two spaces.
Channel the spirit of a campfire by grouping chairs or benches around the fire pit, close enough to feel the warmth and facilitate conversation across the flames, but at a safe distance from flying sparks.
You don’t mess around with open flames, so make sure you set up the fire pit on a flat, level surface and on a non-combustible material, such as concrete pavers or gravel. Ensure it’s a good distance away from the house and any other structures, garden features or plantings that might burn. Also consider the wind strength and direction – you don’t want smoke drifting into the house or the neighbour’s backyard!
Never leave the fire unattended and keep a close watch on kids and pets. Dispose of ashes responsibly, waiting until they are completely cold before scooping them out.
Is the fire pit going to be a permanent feature, or only to be wheeled out a few times a year? If it’s going to be stored elsewhere when not in use, a light weight model will be easier to move.
If your fire pit is going to stay put, a good way to maximise available space is to use a flat cover to turn it into coffee table when you’re not using it. This also stops water pooling in the bowl when it rains.
For a safe and effective blaze, make sure you’re burning the right wood. Hardwood burns hotter and creates less smoke than soft wood. Store wood out of the weather, so it stays dry and burns well. The drier the wood, the better; you can use a moisture meter to check, aiming for a moisture content of between 15 and 20 per cent.
Always use sustainably forested timber, and don’t burn driftwood, wood that has been painted, pressure-treated or stained, plywood or particle board, as it can release toxins into the air.