How to Troubleshoot a Fire Pit

Fire pits can turn an ordinary night into a evening of fun and enjoyment as friends, neighbors and family relax around a crackling, warm fire. Cool nights around the fire become a time when stories are told, old memories are explored and new ones are created. A fire pit that is not performing well, though, can create problems that range from simple annoyances to actual danger. There are three major areas where a fire pit is likely to have trouble.

Properly seasoned wood makes the best fires.
  1. Check the support of the fire pit to make sure it is stable before you start a fire. If the fire pit seems wobbly when it is loaded with wood and the fire is going, that is a sign that the supporting leg brackets may give out, spilling the contents of the fire pit. A fire pit on raised legs should not show any rust, and the bolts holding the legs should be installed with a tight, firm grip on the nuts. A fire pit set directly on the ground needs to have a level surface on which to rest. If the surface has shifted, the pit needs to be removed and the area leveled out again.

  2. Watch carefully as the fire is going to see if the draft is sufficient. A fire is only as good as the amount of fresh air it receives. If there is too little airflow, the fire will burn poorly and slowly, and it will give off a lot of smoke. If airflow is too great, the fire will burn quickly, and with higher heat than perhaps desired. Check the draft holes to make sure they are not obstructed by ash or other debris. If the fire pit has a chimney, it also needs to be checked to ensure it is clean and free from obstructions.

  3. Examine the sides and bottom of the fire pit carefully for any developing holes or cracks. Both solid and mesh-sided fire pits are prone to rust due to the action of water and heat. If a weak spot has developed, then it only takes the simple action of a piece of wood being slammed against it for it to split and spill its contents. Tap around the sides with a hammer to see if any spot seems mushy or soft when hit.

  4. Fill up the fire pit with water after all the ash debris has been cleaned out. Watch to see if the drain holes in the bottom allow the water to flow freely from the pit. If not, then water may be retained long enough to cause rust and weaken the bottom. If the pit is not drained in a few minutes with the existing holes, then drill extra holes into the bottom to allow it to drain more quickly.


  • Covering a fire pit allows it to avoid harsh weather, but be sure to allow air to flow under the cover to prevent moisture from being trapped against the pit and rusting it.

About the Author

Jack Burton started writing professionally in 1980 with articles in "Word from Jerusalem," "ICEJ Daily News" and Tagalong Garden News. He has managed radio stations, TV studios and newspapers, and was the chief fundraiser for Taltree Arboretum. Burton holds a B.S. in broadcasting from John Brown University. He is a 26-year veteran of the U.S. Navy/Navy Reserves and the Navy Seabees.