How to Light an Outdoor Fire Pit

Outdoor fire pits are popular for two reasons. Not only do they allow you to use your outdoor living space during the cooler seasons, but their burning flame also adds to the overall aesthetics of the space.

But lighting one up can be a challenging task if you haven’t done it before.

The steps to lighting an outdoor fire pit will depend on the type you are using: pits that use gas/propane, or pits that use firewood. The pits using firewood are lit like any regular fire, with slight adjustments. Gas and propane-based fire pits are a bit different but much more convenient.

In this article, we will share with you the step by step process of lighting all these two types of outdoor fire pits. Safety should always be exercised around fires and firepits.

Outdoor fire pit with chairs surrounding it and a house in the background
Luxury backyard fire pit at sunset

Lighting an Outdoor Fire Pit That Uses Firewood

Lighting an outdoor fire pit that uses firewood is pretty fundamental and comparable to starting a regular fire.

Step 1: Gather the Tinder, Kindling, and Firewood

The first step in the process involves the gathering of firewood. If you’ve never lit a fire before, this could perhaps be the trickiest part. It involves gathering three different types of wood:

  • Tinder: This is the quick-burning element that gets ignited before anything else and eventually helps get the fire going. It could be anything from newspaper to dry pine cones, dry leaves, etc.
  • Kindling: This is the part that the tinder ignites. It consists of small sticks and twigs that catch fire from the tinder and then keep on burning long enough for the firewood to ignite.
  • Firewood: These are the larger pieces of seasoned logs (with moisture content below 25%) that the kindling ignites. Once ignited, they will be the source of your actual fire.

Ensure your firepit has adequate basing and consider using a firepit ring as fires can cause damage to the surfaces below, which can be frustrating when having a fire on your patio.

Step 2: Position and Light the Tinder and the Kindling

Once you’ve gathered your tinder, kindling and seasoned firewood, you will need to arrange them properly before you can get the fire going.

The first and easiest of the three to arrange is the tinder.

Put a small lump of tinder (about the size of a tennis ball) at the center of the fire pit. And that’s it for the tinder.

Now arrange the kindling around the tinder in a teepee-like shape. The kindling should be placed close to one another but must have enough gap between them to allow for sufficient airflow.

Also, leave a wider gap at some point so that it is easier to light later.

Once you’ve arranged the tinder and the kindling, take a long candle lighter and ignite the tinder from the gap you left in the kindling.

Wait till the kindling starts to burn. This well help ensure fire safety.

Step 3: Position the Firewood  

Once you’ve got your kindling going, place the seasoned firewood around it.

You can place it in a number of positions, including a teepee stack (like the kindling), a pyramid stack (with multiple layers positioned vertically around a teepee), or a log cabin stack (multiple horizontal layers, with each layer perpendicular to the last).

You must place enough firewood to last the duration you want the fire to last. But you must also leave sufficient gaps between them for airflow.

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Ancient brick firepit with wooden logs smouldering

You could try adding more kindling or tinder if your firewood doesn’t get going. If you are getting impatient, you could even add some kerosene.

Once the fire gets going, keep on adding more firewood for as long as you need the fire to keep burning.

Step 4: Put Out the Fire When You’re Done

One thing you need to be mindful of when you’re using a fire pit with firewood is that it is very much like regular fire. Unlike a gas fire pit, you can’t just turn the pit off when you’re done using it.

You will have to put the fire out, or you might risk spreading it. The first step is simply to stop adding more firewood.

Once the last piece of firewood turns into an ember, you can put it out using either sand or water. In case you’re using water, mix the ember well with the water in order to saturate it, or it could ignite again.

Lighting an Outdoor Fire Pit That Uses Gas or Propane

Gas-based outdoor fire pits basically come in two types: ones that use some form of portable liquefied gas such as propane and ones that are directly connected to the natural gas line in your home.

In either case, gas-based outdoor fire pits are a great option simply because you don’t need to keep adding firewood.

There is also little to no smoke.

Also, never use wood on a gas fire pit as it can cause many problems and safety issues.

Light the Fire Before Turning the Gas On    

Most gas-based fire pits don’t come with an automatic igniter, so you will have to ignite the fire manually.

These fire pits are pretty easy to operate. There is only one thing that you need to remember: Light the fire before you turn the gas on.

When you turn the gas on before lighting the fire, some of the gas gets trapped in the pockets in between the pit.

And when you light the fire later, you might get a little bit of an explosion.

In most cases, this will give only you a scare, but in rare cases, it could potentially injure you.

There’s pretty much nothing more to lighting a gas-based fire pit. But as you can probably guess, they are more prone to failures than firewood based fire pits.

So we feel it would be a good idea to include a few handy troubleshooting tips.

Troubleshooting Guide: Can’t Get Your Gas Fire Pit to Start?

Any trouble with ignition is a frustrating experience, especially when trying to enjoy your firepit on a deck. Here are a couple of the most recurring problems in gas-based fire pits:

The Flame Keeps Going Out

So you’ve started the fire, but the flame keeps dying out. There are a couple of reasons why this could be happening.

For starters, where is your fire pit located? If there is a forceful wind blowing around it, this could be the reason behind the flame dying out.

If so, you could use some sort of guard or shield to prevent the wind from blowing into the fire pit.

Another reason could be a dirty or jammed gas valve. You can fix this by removing the gas line, blowing into it and cleaning it with a brush.

In none of these work, there could be a problem with the thermocouple of the fire pit, which is the electrode that keeps the gas valve on. In this case, you might have to call a technician to fix your problem.

The Igniter Doesn’t Spark

As we already discussed above, most gas-based fire pits come without an automatic igniter. The ones that do are much easier to operate but are also more prone to failures.

Most gas-based fire pits with a pilot starter use a battery to create the spark. Check to see if the battery is full and if it is connected properly.  

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Ornamental fire pit with lava rocks and crystals


Both gas-based and firewood based fire pits are a great choice for your patio.

Of the two types of fire pits we discussed in this article, gas-based fire pits are evidently much easier to operate.

But unfortunately, they are also prone to failures sometimes. We also covered that in this article with some troubleshooting tips.

Firewood based fire pits take a lot more effort and time to set up. They are sort of like regular fires, and as such, the setup consists of tinder, kindling, and the actual firewood. But other than this, they are pretty much fail-proof.