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Does a Fire Pit Need Air Holes? (And Why a Smokeless Pit Might Make Sense)

Does a Fire Pit Need Air Holes? (And Why a Smokeless Pit Might Make Sense)

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A fire pit makes an excellent bonding spot for your friends and family. Just picture the delightful image of your loved ones huddled around the fire, drinks in hand, and sharing the moment.

Now comes the hard part: building the fire pit and getting it right. You probably understand the basics of making a fire pit, but you might wonder how vital air vents are.

Do fire pits need air holes? Or are they an optional design?

Keep reading to discover whether or not to install vents in your fire pit. I’ll also share some practical and safety tips for an enjoyable and secure fire pit experience!

Do You Need Air Holes for Fire Pits?

Yes, in most cases, you’ll need air holes for a fire pit. These components aren’t optional, as they help guide oxygen in and help maintain combustion.

As you know, burning requires three components: heat, fuel, and oxygen. With one of these components missing, there’d be no flame to enjoy at your fire pit party.

You might have noticed a series of small holes at the base or sides of a friend’s fire pit. Those punctures aren’t aesthetic choices. They’re there to draw the air in and keep the flames going long enough for you to grill those s’mores to perfection!

Proper ventilation also helps prevent scorching on the fire pit’s surrounding surfaces. It saves your patio, wood deck, dining table, or other spots where you might place a fire pit from unsightly damage.

Tips for Making Fire Pit Air Holes

Making vent holes is easy, though there are a few caveats to remember. Here’s some of them:

Avoid Using Plastic

First, avoid using plastic as vent materials. Some people use PVC pipes to guide air in or smoke out, which isn’t a great idea around fire pits.

For one, fire pits can go up to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit hot. No matter how thick, plastic has a low melting point and will burn to a crisp under such conditions in no time.

More than its poor practicality, plastic smoke is dangerous to inhale. As the synthetic material burns, it releases fumes mixed with toxic chemicals like dioxin, which can affect lung health.

Consider Your Material

Consider the material and size of your fire pit when making air vents. For bricks and pavers, you’ll need wider air gaps positioned at the bottom area of the structure.

When piling your pavers, bricks, or cement block, evenly-spaced gaps of at least 2 inches at the base and build your way up. These spaces will let cool air into the pit as the flame burns.

Most metal fire pits will come with air gaps in them. But if you’ve got a metal grill without vents, you can simply make them by drilling holes in its base.

Use Right Spacing

Ensure the vent holes have enough spacing between them. You don’t want them too far and few and choke your fire out or too close and too many to blow the flame off.

To get the appropriate airflow for your fire pit, experts suggest placing a two-inch vent hole between every 24 or 36 inches around the base or side.

Keep Vents Clean

Finally, you’ll want the vent holes always clear of ash and other debris. With plugged holes, your grill won’t receive as much air, influencing how long you can enjoy the toasty flame.

Clogged air holes also affect the ventilation inside the grill. Without cool air, your fire pit will trap heat inside like an oven, wearing the pit’s material over time.

Smokeless Fire Pits

Air holes aren’t 100% necessary when you have a fire pit because you could use a design that doesn’t require them. Yes, I’m talking about smokeless fire pits.

Smokeless fire pits are grills that use controlled airflow and temperatures to ignite fire. They have two walls to create secondary combustion, reducing smoke drastically.

DIY smokeless fire pits need to be on or below ground. So, instead of drilling holes into your fire pit, low-smoke grills use vent tunnels or pathways to funnel cold air and feed the flame.

Of course, you can also purchase a smokeless fire pit instead of building one from scratch.

Understanding Fire Pit Safety

To Be Safe Avoid Things Around Your Firepit

Understanding essential fire pit safety rules is crucial when installing one near your home. Follow these tips and practices to maintain a safe and cozy fire pit experience:

Consider Your Placement

You need to be mindful of things nearby that have the potential to catch fire. Ideally, you’d want the fire pit at least 10 feet or more away from structures and other combustible materials.

Ensure to set up your grill in an open area away from your house, shed, or fence. It’s also best to trim hanging tree branches and remove debris near the fire pit.

Most fire pit enthusiasts create a ring of safety around the fire pit location. The basic idea is to have a circular area without grass or anything combustible to deter fire accidents.

Prepare For Emergencies

By failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail. It sounds cliche, but it’s a valuable rule when playing with fire—in this case, enjoying fire pits.

Despite how prepared you think you are, fire pit accidents can still (and do) happen. And in these moments of fiery emergencies, you won’t have a second to spare.

Keep water nearby that you can use to put flames out if something does happen. Have a garden hose or a bucket of water ready to douse the flame if necessary.

A fire extinguisher could provide extra safety if you happen to have one that you can use. It’s also practical to have a fire blanket to snuff flames out by cutting off the oxygen.

Lastly, keep a first-aid kit handy at all times. A properly stocked medical kit is essential for accidental injuries and may even help save a life!

Check Your Home Insurance

Aside from the risk of injury, you’ll want to consider your property’s protection when installing recreational fire pits.

Before thinking about your grill’s build, it’s a good idea to check with your insurance agent and inquire about the coverage for fire accidents.

If you reside in a wildfire-risk area, the law might require you to disclose your plans to build fire pits or if you already have one with your insurance provider.

Follow Local Laws

Consult your local authorities for city, country, or state-wide fire pit regulations. Review your HOA policies and ensure your grill will be up to the code.

In several states, including California, Florida, and Massachusetts, fire codes mandate permits for fire pits. Some cities, like New York, are stricter and prohibit these implements altogether.

Other areas of North America also implement seasonal burn bans due to the danger of wildfires. These bans usually happen during dry seasons or high air pollution.

In other words, before you lit that match, you’ll want to learn about the rules in your area. If there are permits that you need to obtain, then you’ll need to go through with that first.

It doesn’t mean that you absolutely cannot use a fire pit, but it does mean that you need to do your homework first. Learn your local fire codes and enjoy fire pits without the risk of hefty fines!


Here are a few commonly asked questions about fire pit vents you might find helpful:

Do fire pits need to be vented?

Yes, most fire pits need air vents to keep the flame burning and regulate heat. It’s even necessary if you’re using propane as fuel, as most propane-fuelled systems incorporate air to function correctly and prevent accidental combustions.

How do you add airflow to a fire pit?

How to add airflow depends on the fire pit system you have installed. Adding air holes on the side or base should be sufficient for traditional wood-fuelled grills.

Keeping one side of the enclosure open is ideal for appropriate airflow for propane fire pits. You’ll need an 18 to 20-square-inch air gap for a regular-sized propane grill.

How much ventilation does a fire pit need?

The amount of ventilation usually depends on your fire pit size. For smaller grills, having a few small holes about 2 inches in diameter should provide the required oxygen.

Oversized fire pits, however, need wider gaps to feed sufficient air and heat control. Ideally, you’d want a minimum of ten vents with approximately 4 inches in diameter.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know more about fire pits, you’ll feel more confident using them. Constructing your fire pit can be an enjoyable experience, but it’s also something that you need to take seriously.

That said, you do need vents to keep your fire pits aflame. The fire won’t last long without sufficient oxygen flow, an essential component provided by air holes. Even smokeless fire pits installed on the ground still use oxygen to keep things going!

Nevertheless, you can decide which fire pit design is right for you and your property. And you can always opt for a portable fire pit for its convenience and effortless setup.

Finally, follow all fire pit safety reminders and policies in your area. But most importantly, enjoy the crackling fire as you share laughs, stories, and a good meal with your family and friends!


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