There’s nothing better on a summer night than a cozy fire. When we’re out in nature, we build campfires using rocks and items we find around us. At home, we gather around permanent or portable fire pits in an array of styles.
When you’re assembling a fire pit, you will eventually need to choose what to put at the bottom of it before you can enjoy the warm glow of a fire. There are a variety of materials you can use for this, but sand is the most popular choice because it’s cheap, works well, and is safe to use.
Unless the manufacturer specifically instructs you to, you do not need to use sand at the bottom of a fire pit. However, you can use sand as a protective layer as it evenly and effectively distributes heat without the risk of explosion that can occur with other materials like lava rocks.
Before choosing sand for your fire pit, consider all of the options. Manufactured fire pits have their own requirements, while DIY pits can have any of the materials that are mentioned later.
Sand or no sand, you can use these other options as well to customize fire pits to your liking.
Always check your area’s fire regulations before constructing or using a fire pit!
Check the Manufacturer’s Label!
When you’re using a manufactured fire pit, always check the label before deciding what to put at the bottom.
Some manufacturers discourage using sand because the pits are made with holes at the bottom for ventilation, which would get clogged if you use it. However, this might not affect the quality of the fire too much, so it’s safe to say you can use sand for any metal fire pit.
Fire pits with air holes at the bottom should be covered with something like stones, gravel, fire glass, or lava rocks to allow air to pass through the spaces in between.
If the manufacturer instructs you to use sand, pour a 2” layer at the bottom and spread it out evenly. You can use this same measurement for a DIY fire pit, too.
Should I Use a Certain Type of Sand in my Firepit?
If you have your own sand, then that’s the best kind to use for your fire pit, because it’s free of course!
You can buy a variety of types from stores like all-purpose sand, play sand, and silica sand. Certain brands come in different colors or textures, too.
Silica sand is the most common type used in fire pits, but any kind will work great. Some people recommend using all-purpose sand because the grains are finer, so it settles more evenly on the ground.
Maintenance For Sand Fire Pits
When you use sand at the bottom of a fire pit, you should maintain the pit so the sand doesn’t cause any corrosion.
Keep the fire pit protected from the elements as best as you can when it’s not in use. You can do this by bringing it inside or using a protective cover every time you’ve extinguished the fire.
One disadvantage of sand is that it holds in a lot of moisture. Some people discourage using sand for metal fire pits because the longer moisture is in contact with metal, the faster it rusts.
Spray your metal fire pit regularly with rust protection spray. This will reduce the corrosive effect of any moisture in the sand and leave the fire pit looking and working great for longer.
To completely avoid the corrosive damage caused by sand, consider using one of the options below instead. Most of them are compatible with air holes and all of them are as effective as sand, some even more so.
Alternatives to Sand in a Fire pit
Unless the manufacturer instructs you to, you can use a number of other things besides sand for the bottom of a fire pit. Many people choose one of the options below, whether for cost, heat distribution, or aesthetic appeal. Be careful when you choose what you use in your fire pit as some items can explode when they get hot.
These are a popular choice for fire pits because of their durability and visual appeal. They distribute and absorb heat just as well as sand, but they also leave room for air ventilation.
They’re great for permanent fire pits because they form a protective layer between the burning hardware and the elements.
The only downside of lava rocks is their potential to crack and explode. They are porous rocks, so if they get really wet, the water is sucked into the middle. Once it’s hot enough, the water boils and causes the rocks to crack and possibly explode.
Fire glass is a gorgeous choice for fire pits and arguably the best material to use at the bottom. They resist high temperatures, last a long time, and distribute heat really well.
People love fire glass because it comes in virtually every color from sky blue to sparkling black; and you can get it in different shapes like shards or smooth pebbles.
There are only two downsides to fire glass. One, they are more costly than other types of material. Secondly, fire glass shaped in shards may lose their sparkle over time as they scrape together.
Like sand, you shouldn’t use dirt if there are air holes at the bottom of a fire pit because it will clog them. Dirt works just as well as sand and it’s free, but it has to be added every time you light a fire.
And it goes without saying that it’s just plain ugly. Not to mention dusty and, well, dirty. It should be a last resort.
People use gravel at the bottom of their fire pits because it’s cheap and does a good job. It’s a pretty common choice. A lot of people praise it for not having any downsides, but there can be one under the right conditions.
Although gravel can’t handle really high temperatures like fire glass or lava rocks, it can withstand the heat of a regular fire. However, there is a possibility of cracks or explosion if the gravel is close enough to a lava rock or fire glass and gets too hot, so don’t mix these two materials together.
A Final Note
All in all, sand is an excellent way to capture a fire’s heat and radiate it around the fire pit pleasantly. It’s popular, effective, and it can’t explode or burn.
The best part is—it’s cheap (or free)! Beach goers in particular have an endless supply of sand, but they should remember to sift through it to filter out other material before using it.
Otherwise, play sand, all-purpose sand, and silica sand do the job just as well and are available at just about any home improvement store.
I hope this article has helped you and made you feel confident in choosing the right material for the bottom of your fire pit.
May your fires always burn bright!