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Do You Need a Fire Pit Insert When Building a Fire Pit?

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By J. Herwick

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A question that comes up frequently when looking to build a backyard fire pit is, do you need a fire ring for a fire pit?

Regardless of which way you go in the end, understanding the benefits of using a fire ring in a new fire pit will help you make the right choice depending on your needs and several other factors.

Generally, if you build a fire pit that you intend to be a permanent fixture in your backyard, a fire pit ring insert is highly recommended. If your fire pit is intended to be semi-permanent or temporary, an insert may not be necessary. 

The use of a fire pit ring will assist in maintaining the structural integrity of your fire pit and the surface on which it sits all while protecting its long-term appearance.

Ever notice that masonry fireplace chimneys (the flue specifically) have metal or ceramic linings? This lining is what keeps your chimney from deteriorating from constant exposure to high-heat (and cooling) conditions.  

While the danger is not the same, the point here is that heat will affect your masonry fire pit over time and a fire pit ring or liner can help it hold together longer.

Image of a large fire pit insert in a fire pit round
Circular fire pit insert under a brick cap

What’s the Purpose of a Fire Pit Ring?

As I mentioned, fire pit rings are designed to extend the life of your masonry fire pit, and in particular, the stone or brick that holds the whole thing up.

Most construction materials are not designed for constant direct exposure to intense heat, and the pavers or bricks you pick up at your local Home Depot or Lowes are no exception.  

Regular exposure to intense heat and cooling degrades bricks to the point that they will eventually fail, due to splitting, crumbling, etc. The heat generated by fire pits can exceed 1,000 degrees, which is way more than enough to cause a problem. 

In addition to breaking down your pavers or bricks, constant direct heat exposure is going to break down the mortar or construction adhesive you use to hold everything together.  

Worst case, you have a safety issue on your hands, best case, you have to repair or replace your fire pit. Neither option is good.

Image of a fire burning in a Breeo smokeless fire pit insert
Breeo's Smokeless Fire Pit Insert | Image Credit: Breeo

Choosing the Best Fire Ring for Your Fire Pit

Not surprisingly, all fire pit rings on the market are not created equal. 

There’s a lot of overpriced, cheap junk out there so if you are going to make the investment in time and your hard-earned dollar to build a nice fire pit, I recommend investing in a fire pit insert that will hold up itself while acting as that heat shield for your fire pit’s structure. 

That doesn’t mean spending a fortune, but you should go into the process with a couple of key “specs” in mind prior to buying, specifically the gauge of the fire pit insert's steel and the number of sections the insert comes in.

Image explaining the meaning of fire pit  gauge
Image Credit for Fire Pit Insert Photo: Bond Manufacturing

The gauge of the fire pit insert's steel 

A quality fire pit ring that will get the job done and not break the bank is in the 10-gauge range, look for that number specifically; the gauge, in this case, means thickness, with the lower the gauge, the thicker the steel; commonly available fire pit insert/ring gauges run from about 20 gauge (.0359 in./.911 mm) to about 8 gauge (.1644 in./4.175 mm) in the U.S. market

Image explaining fire pit inserts
Image Credit for Fire Pit Insert Photo | Firebuggz

The number of sections that make up the fire pit insert

The fewer the sections, the better, with the rare one-piece options, naturally being the best; most options on the market today come in anywhere from 2-4 sections that have to be bolted together to make the fire ring; often times the pre-drilled holes don’t line up well with the other pieces and then you have fit issues with your fire pit, particularly where the lip of the fire ring sits on the rim of the fire pit opening.  

These two suggestions aren’t necessarily the end-all-and-be-all but they’ll get you on the right path and help you avoid the cheap, poorly-made fire pit inserts which currently dominate the marketplace.

Image of a fire pit insert in a fire pit round at night

In Closing: Do You Need a Fire Ring For a Fire Pit?

So, to summarize: do you need a fire ring for a fire pit?

I would say the answer is yes from a long-term investment perspective.

In the long run, your fire pit will look better and perform better with a fire ring.

The price of entry is relatively low and you may save a lot of money and time over the long run especially if you build the fire pit yourself.

For the most part, there’s not much difference price-wise between the cheap crap at the bottom and the well-made fire rings on the market. 

Take your time when shopping to make sure you get good value for your money.

For more on the subject, check out my fire pit ring buyer's guide!

Thanks for reading and take care! : )

John

Image of a backyard fire pit
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