Should you use an outdoor fire pit?

A fire pit is a great addition to any outdoor space that provides warmth and ambiance.

How do you pick the right type for your garden? What is the best type to use in your yard?

What is a firepit?

Any structure that is designed to hold a fire is called a fire pit. A fire pit can be anything from a hole in ground to a simple metal drum. However, many people now choose fire pits made of cast iron, steel brick, stone or mortar to create a beautiful outdoor entertainment space.

Fire pits can be dangerous to your health

The combustion of solid fuels like coal or wood in firepits can produce a lot of air pollutants. These include high levels of fine particulate matter (small particles which can enter the lungs), carbon monoxide, and other toxic chemicals.

The smoke from fire pits can cause lung damage. NSW Health states that long-term wood smoke exposure can cause lung damage and worsen heart and lung disease. Exposure to wood smoke in high amounts can cause irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract, worsening asthma, or worsening heart disease.

Victoria’s Environment Protection Authority published their September Air Emissions Inventory. It was found that wood fires were responsible for 51% of PM2.5, the most hazardous form of air pollution, in metropolitan Melbourne. (In contrast to motor vehicles causing 30% and aircraft causing 7%.

Wood smoke can cause health problems in anyone, even children and the elderly.

Many individuals and advocacy groups have called for the banning of fire pits on health grounds. However, they are often opposed by the community.

CHOICE does not recommend or test fire pits. However, there are some things you should consider when buying one.

What are the differences between fire pits?

Cast-iron fire pit

These pits, which are round and rustic in appearance, are very popular. These pits are durable, long-lasting, and very hardy. However, they can be heavy and leave oxidation marks below the pavement.

Steel fire pit

This type of fire pit is the most affordable and can be found at Bunnings Hardware Stores. These fire pits can be made to look like cast iron or stainless-steel, but they are more prone to rust than cast iron or stainless steel and will eventually corrode faster.

Fire pit made of stainless-steel

Stainless-steel firepits are sleek and modern looking. They work in the same way as cast-iron firepits. These fire pits are durable and can withstand rust (unlike standard steel pits), but they are more expensive than cast iron or standard steel.

Brick/stone fire pit

Brick fire pits can be built in your yard. A professional can help you install a brick firepit or you can do it yourself. Although they’re strong and great for cooking, they can also take up space and are not portable. They can be costly and time-consuming to set up.


Chiminera, which is Spanish for ‘chimney’, is an outdoor Mexican fireplace that’s used for heating and cooking. It radiates heat well, produces minimal smoke and is easy to use in all weather conditions. However, it can be used to make woodfire pizzas or barbecues.

A smokeless fire pit

Secondary combustion is used in smokeless fire pits. The secondary combustion system draws air from the pit and injects it through vent holes in the fire pit’s lip. This creates jets of smoke that ignite the smoke. It’s possible to see a bit of smoke during the initial stages of the fire, but it quickly disappears.

They are safe for people who smoke and can be used in areas with high levels of smoke. They are easy to light and generate a lot heat. They require more fuel and have fewer design options.

Design options

Liz Jackson, owner of Aussie Heatwave Fire Pits & Chimineas, explains the various fire pit designs.


Most fire pits can be either square or round. Jackson claims that a circular design allows for the greatest airflow and conducts heat more efficiently.


A fire pit can be either shallow or deep. Jackson suggests that a deeper bowl will be safer for your fire and protect it from the wind.


Jackson warns against the use of fire pits that are painted or colored. Jackson says that fire pits painted or coloured over time will turn to a rusty color so it is better to choose the natural colour.

The right fuel to use in your fire pit


Wood fires are loved by many people for their large flames and woody smell. However, they can also emit a lot smoke which poses a health risk. The health effects of wood smoke can be reduced by choosing the right wood. The WA Department of Health recommends the following:

  • Only use well-seasoned hardwoods
  • Never use stained, treated, or painted wood
  • Cut your wood into smaller pieces.
  • You can store your wood in loosely stacked pieces and cover it in a well-aired area.

Charcoal/heat beads/briquettes

Charcoal and similar products are simpler to light, produce less smoke than wood, are generally more suitable for barbecuing.


Gas fire pits in australia are rare and expensive. You will need to consult your local council before you install one. These produce less heat than coal- and wood-powered pits but they are more energy efficient and leave no ash or embers.


A fire pit with an ethanol fuel reservoir in it offers similar benefits to gas firepits. It produces a cleaner, but less intense flame.

Safety considerations

  • Place a firepit on grass, but not directly on it. Instead, place it on a non-combustible surface like concrete or pavers.
  • The pit should be at least three meters from any structure or combustible materials.
  • When the pit is alight, don’t leave it unattended.
  • Keep a garden hose or fire extinguisher close at hand.
  • The right size and type of fuel for your intended use is important. If you are buying a firepit for your balcony, consider a smaller model with gas to avoid excessive heat and flames.
  • A metal lid is the best way to extinguish a fire pit. You’ll need one separately. You can also use dirt or sand. Water can also be used, but it can cause a lot more smoke and mess. Water and ash can form a corrosive liquid which can cause steel fire pits to be damaged.

Is it necessary to get council approval for a firepit?

A permit is not required to light an outdoor firepit. However, it is legal in most states. All outdoor fires in South Australia require a permit.

You may need a permit from your local council to light a backyard firepit.

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