A close-up of a steel wood burning fire pit burning in a backyard.

Anatomy of a Wood Burning Fire Pit

Wood burning fire pits are simple to use and require just a few tools to make a great fire! So, how do they work?

There's nothing better than sitting next to a cozy, crackling wood burning fire pit on chilly evenings. While these classic fire features aren't as complicated as gas fire pits, specific components are still required for them to work correctly.

Below we break down the main parts of a wood burning fire pit, along with the accessories and optional fire starters available to enhance your burning experience!


The shell is the body of the fire pit, or the main component that houses the fire. Shells are made from durable, non-combustible materials like steel, copper, cast iron, concrete, and stone.

The size of a fire pit shell varies greatly. They range from small portable styles that weigh as little as 30 lbs to large, permanent fire pits that weigh over 1,000 lbs. Portable shells often come equipped with handles for easy transportation.

Most shells have a drainage hole in the center to prevent rainwater from pooling up and creating weak spots or rust in the body of the fire pit.

Shell Features:

  • Available in a wide range of sizes and heights to fit any space
  • Made from durable materials that can withstand exposure to high temperatures and harsh weather conditions
  • Most have a drainage hole in the center to prevent rainwater from pooling up in the bottom
  • Portable shells often come with handles for easy transportation
  • Do-it-yourself fire pits can be customized to fit your budget and lifestyle


Logs and kindling are the main sources of fuel for wood burning fire pits.

Logs are stacked in the middle of the fire pit, and kindling is placed under and around the bottom. Kindling burns quickly and helps to ignite the fire more efficiently than logs alone.


Screens and spark guards are typically made of steel and mesh. They sit on top of a wood burning fire pit to prevent sparks, embers, and ash from flying out.

Screens and spark guards can also be used to cover the fire when you’re done for the night. This is a practical way to let the fire burn out naturally without supervision since you don’t have to worry about embers and ash escaping.


Fire Pit Grates

A grate sits inside the fire pit and holds the wood logs. Grates keep the logs elevated while ash falls through to the bottom, maintaining constant airflow.

Not all wood burning fire pits use grates, but if one is available for your fire pit, it can be a very useful tool to keep the fire burning much longer.

Cooking grates are also a great addition to your wood burning fire pit if you enjoy the rustic experience of grilling food over an open fire.

Some wood burning fire pits come with a cooking grate included, like the Evening Sky Fire Pit by Patina Products.

For DIY masonry fire pits, you can purchase a steel insert with a swivel cooking grate already attached, like the Necessories Steel Insert and Cooking Grate for Ring Fire Pit.

Fire Pokers & Tongs

Fire pit tongs are made of durable steel that can withstand intense heat. They enable you to add more logs to the fire and adjust their positioning while keeping a safe distance away.

Fire pokers are also made from heavy-duty steel and allow you to move your wood logs around and stoke the fire without having to get too close.

Fire Pit Covers

Covering your fire pit when it’s not in use will keep it safe from the elements, preventing damage and unnecessary wear and tear.

Standard fire pit covers are made from weather-resistant fabrics, like vinyl and polyester, and feature a fitted design with corded or elastic edging that stretches to encompass the fire pit base.

You can also find heavy-duty aluminum, copper, and steel fire pit covers. For masonry fire pits, consider a durable, galvanized steel cover, like the Necessories Fire Ring Slotted Cover with Grate Opening.

For more customized protection, look for a coordinating cover that can turn your wood burning fire pit into a smooth and sturdy tabletop, like the Steel Table Top Lid by Fire Pit Art.


FatwoodFatwood is a natural fire starter made from small pieces of wood that are about 8-10" in length. The material for fatwood comes from tree stumps that contain resin, making it perfect for starting fires efficiently and safely.

Break 'n' Burn Fire StartersBreak 'n' Burn fire starters are made up of wood chips, recycled newspaper, and paraffin wax that have been compressed into small squares. The squares ignite incredibly fast and are a non-toxic and safe alternative to natural kindling.

Lightning Nuggets – Lightning Nuggets are small pieces of pitch wood that are used in place of kindling. They light very quickly for a hassle-free fire every time.


Have any questions about wood burning fire pits? We'd love to help! Contact one of our NFI Certified experts at (800) 919-1904 today.


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