A fire pit can serve many uses. In addition to cooking up some hearty barbeque, it can be used for bonfires, s’mores, and a lot of other things. Having a fire pit means having a versatile tool in your yard.
But there is some confusion about one aspect of the fire pit: sand at the bottom. You may or may not have heard about people putting sand in the bottom of their fire pits and wondered why this is the case.
There are even some fire pit manufacturers that will recommend it when using their metal fire pits.
The reason for using sand in your fire pit (link to silica sand on amazon) is actually quite simple. A layer of sand is meant to protect the metal at the bottom of the bowl from the extreme heat of the fire. The sand absorbs the heat and distributes the heat throughout the entire base of the pit evenly.
Without the sand, the heat can become concentrated in one specific area. When this happens, it can lead to the metal at the bottom of the fire pit deteriorating and burning through.
The sand is essentially an insulator against those major levels of heat and acts to disperse the heat throughout.
Keep in mind that fire needs oxygen to thrive. For this reason, there are different types of fire pits. Some will have holes built in at the bottom. That gives the opportunity for proper air flow from both above and below the bowl to keep the fire roaring.
Even without the holes, air is allowed to flow due to the bowl shape. Adding sand, some believe, can actually restrict that airflow and make it difficult for the fire to truly build.
There are some fire pit owners who prefer to not use sand. This is because wood fire ash can actually be used as a fertilizer. Having access to that ash can be beneficial for avid gardeners.
This means that the sand can actually be less than ideal for those looking to cultivate the wood ash for later use. Really, it all comes down to personal preferences with your fire pit.
Using the Sand
Whenever you purchase a fire pit, read the manufacturer’s instructions first and foremost. Each manufacturer has different recommendations and instructions; it is best to not ignore those instructions.
Most of them will recommend using an inch or two of sand to layer the bottom of the fire pit. There are actually some manufacturers that don’t require the implementation of sand, which can save you some time and a little bit of money.
It might be a little bit annoying to clean up the sand after a while, especially because you want to clean the sand but keep the ash. Still, sand is a great way to keep the bottom bowl of the fire pit protected from the immense amount of heat that the fire can put out.
There are some reasons why you would not want to use sand in the bottom of a fire pit, too. The first is that sand retains moisture.
So even though the sand is meant to protect the bowl against the buildup of heat, it can actually make the bowl corrode a bit faster if it is exposed to moisture on a regular basis.
The second reason is that there are some metal fire pits that already have holes in the bottom for drainage and circulation. Adding sand to the bottom of the bowl would make it so that the air can’t circulate, ultimately hindering the purpose of the holes to begin with.
Protecting Your Fire Pit
Keep in mind that the sand alone will not protect your fire pit. Yes, it will keep the bottom of the bowl protected from the extreme temperatures that a fire puts out. But that is all the protection that it will offer.
Some manufacturers will recommend the sand; others won’t say anything about it. If the manufacturer recommends using sand, you should probably do so.
But at the end of the day, you will need to take extra measures to keep your fire pit protected from damage.
One of the major issues with fire pits is in the form of rust. Rust can not only make the fire pit look ugly but it can wear down the metal of the fire pit, causing holes and areas that chip off.
Properly taking care of the fire pit is the only way to keep it really protected. Try to not leave it out and exposed to the elements if you do not want it to rust and break down.
Put it away or even invest in a protective fire pit cover (make sure to get the right size) when you aren’t using the fire pit. That cover will let you keep it on a patio or in a backyard, safe from the elements until your next use.
It is also a good idea to buy a high-temperature, rust-resistant spray (like this one). That will help to keep the rust from potentially building up on both the interior and exterior of the bowl. This will ensure that your fire pit looks good and retains its functionality.
Lastly, if you do add sand to your fire pit, it is a good idea to check the moisture levels every now and again. Depending on the climate that you live in, any additional moisture can be retained in the sand and eventually disperse to the bowl, creating rust.
If the sand is too moist, consider dumping it out and replacing it. That will be an extra measure towards keeping rust away and ensuring that your fire pit works optimally for a long time to come.
Your fire pit can be a fun accessory with several uses. But keeping it protected is important too. A little bit of foresight and a protective cover can go a long way towards keeping your fire pit looking and working the way that it was meant to.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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