Building a backyard fire pit on your own can be fun and exciting, but picking the right materials for the job is likely the most important decision you’ll make when planning. One item, in particular, you may not want to leave out, or to skimp on, is a fire pit ring insert, that is if you want your new fire pit to last.
Fire pit ring inserts come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes, levels of quality, and in many cases, unique features that make the fire pit more versatile and/or perform better.
With fire pit ring inserts only available in a finite number of shape and size combinations, the size of the fire pit you plan to build is going to be limited by this number.
You can get custom sizes made to your spec but plan on paying a lot more to have it made than buying one off the shelf or online.
If you can’t find a fire pit ring insert size you want through traditional retail channels or don’t have a vendor nearby that will make one to your liking custom, there is an online you might consider which I’ll talk about later in the article.
For this article, I’m going to cover three specific brands and the fire ring inserts which were selected because they are what I consider the best value for the money.
As I wrote in a prior article Do You Need a Fire Ring for a Fire Pit? there is generally not a whole lot of difference in price from one fire pit ring insert model to the next, however, there is a wide swing in quality and durability.
This guide sidesteps the junk at the bottom of the range and focuses on the next level up, which includes quality fire ring inserts at reasonable prices. There will be one premium option as well and you’ll understand later why I included it in this buyer’s guide.
Before we dive into the list, I’m going to talk a little about why a fire ring is useful, why I recommend using an insert for fire pit projects, what to look for when shopping, and what you should expect to pay.
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What Is a Fire Pit Ring Insert?
In reality, there are basically two kinds of steel fire pit rings commonly available through retailers and metal fabricators (in the U.S. at least). They are fire rings and fire pit ring inserts, at least that’s how I categorize them. Sellers are all over the map with the names, there’s little consistency.
These are steel fire pit rings that are simply a section, or sections, of sheet metal fabricated into a circle (or square). This type of fire pit ring is simply placed on the ground; wood, kindling, and tinder are added, and it’s then lit. Voila!
They have no bottom typically so your fuel, i.e. wood, is going to be sitting directly on the ground. Many feature decorative cut-outs in the metal, scenes from nature, images of college and pro sports team logos, etc.
As great as they are, this is not the kind of steel fire pit ring we are talking about in this article (see below).
If this is what you are looking for, stop reading and head to your local hardware store, home & garden center, etc.
Make sure it’s galvanized fire ring (like this one from Tractor Supply) too – it will take forever to rust. Regular thin, painted, carbon-steel rings will rust out in no time. Most are junk.
If this isn’t what you are looking for and still need a fire pit ring insert, read on…
Fire Pit Ring Inserts
The kind of fire pit ring we are talking about is the kind used as an insert for fire pit projects using brick or stone to make a wood-burning fire pit. Like these in the image below.
A fire pit ring insert is basically a metal barrier that is positioned in the mouth of a stone or brick fire pit (also known as the stone or brick surround).
This barrier slows the damage done to the surrounding stone or brick and masonry adhesive from regular exposure to high-heat and direct flame.
Some fire pit inserts have bottoms that hold the fire pits contents off the ground in a dry, low moisture environment ideal for burning wood.
Fire pit inserts are typically round and often have a 360-degree “lip” at the top that extends out from the opening, allowing the insert to rest on the masonry fire pit’s top layer of stone or bricks. The lip typically measures anywhere from 1 to 6 inches of overhang.
Some fire pit inserts do not have the lip on the top and look much like the type you just drop on the ground and use (see image X above).
These are typically installed below the top layer (or coping) brick at the mouth of the fire pit but I’ve seen some that extend beyond the opening.
The walls of the fire pit insert are typically around 6-12” in height and provide most of the heat protection for the fire pit’s stone/brick and adhesive or mortar.
The steel used to construct fire pit inserts is typically 10 to 16 gauge carbon steel, treated with a high-temperature resistant finish.
The thickness of an insert’s steel is typically greater in higher quality fire pits which helps with durability and the level of protection it provides the masonry components of the fire pit.
Metal gauge is a numerical system established to provide a common metal thickness standard for industry.
There is a slight variance in thickness from metal to metal (carbon steel, stainless, aluminum, etc.) with a lower number representing a greater level of thickness.
The 10 to 16 gauge range I mentioned previously, represents a thickness of .141 in. (3.57mm) and .063 in. (1.58mm).
The reason I am boring you with these numbers is that you’ll see them in the product specs when you shop for fire pit inserts.
The bottom line is, the lower the number (meaning thicker) the better.
Does a Fire Pit Need a Ring Insert?
The straight answer to this question is no. With that said, if you want to spend the time and money to prep the fire pit site, buy the materials, build the fire pit and everything else that’s involved AND you want it to last and look good for years to come, you’ve got to have a fire pit ring.
If you like or don’t mind the rustic, dirty, crumbling masonry fire pit look then you don’t need a fire pit ring insert.
Fire pits can generate temps of over 1000℉ and that level of heat will break down the masonry structure and what holds it together over time – in much less time if you are a regular fire pit user.
It’s generally a pretty small investment on the front end of your fire pit build and will give you a fire pit you’ll be proud of for years to come.
What Is a Good Diameter for a Fire Ring Insert?
What size fire pit ring insert you eventually pick up will really be based on your own preferences, how much space you have, your budget, etc. There’s really no right answer to the question.
Commercially available steel fire pit ring liners generally range from 24 to 46 inches in diameter, at least in the U.S. market. The sky’s the limit if you choose to have a custom-size fire pit ring insert made.
If you think it up and have the funds custom metal fabricators will make a fire pit insert as large as you want.
When buying a fire pit ring insert, remember that the diameter measurement provided by the manufacturer represents the inner diameter of the fire ring, not the edge of the lip. This is the measurement that will represent the size of your fire pit’s opening.
If you are still in the planning stages of your fire pit build, I’d recommend planning around the fire ring to make sure you get the right fit, vice the other way around. Pick out the fire pit ring insert you want, at the size you want, and build your fire pit to that spec.
If you already have a fire built, but no ring, you’ll need to find a fire pit ring insert that with an inner diameter that will fit and enough lip around the edge to rest on the top level of your fire pits brick /stone (or coping as I mentioned earlier).
Make sure the lip overhangs the inner edge of the coping all around the fire pit evenly, so the fire pit insert doesn’t become dislodged from the rim of the fire pit and fall in if moved inadvertently.
Personally, I wouldn’t recommend a metal fire ring for your project any smaller than 30 inches, unless space is a concern for you. 36 inches to the high 40 inches is ideal in my opinion.
This will give you a little more room to stack your wood properly in the fire pit when building a fire, allow for proper airflow, etc.
With the smaller sized fire ring inserts you may have to cut your firewood into smaller pieces to get them to fit. Naturally, the larger size will also provide you with a larger circle of warming/seating space.
The depth of most steel fire pit ring inserts is typically in the 10-inch range. Make sure your planned or current fire pit is able to accommodate this depth prior to buying.
Bottom line, get the fire ring insert that’s the largest you can afford, that fits in the space you have.
How Much Does a Fire Ring Insert Cost?
Generally speaking, the fire pit ring insert price range is between $50 and $250 depending on size and quality. There are fire ring inserts that are somewhat far out of this range but the extra price paid brings more options and much better performance.
I’ve included a fire pit ring insert in this range among the three I’ll talk about in detail below. Like I mentioned earlier, there’s not a whole lot of difference price-wise for the majority of inserts but spending a little more can make the difference between a nice fire pit ring insert and the junk at the bottom of the range.
Take a minute to check out what’s out there before you jump in and buy. A few more dollars may make all the difference. You’ll see what I mean as we go on.
Top Fire Pit Ring Inserts on the Market Today
This list is my attempt at hitting the lower, middle, and top end of the fire pit ring insert market to accommodate a variety of budgets and needs, with quality being the primary consideration in the end.
There are many more options out there and I encourage you to look around and do your research. On to our three ring inserts…
The Titan Fire Pit Ring Insert:
Titan fire ring inserts (link to Titan 38″ model) are made by Titan Outdoors, a Collier, Tennessee-based producer of outdoors and fitness products, and the only fire pit ring producer in our trio that is not exclusively in the fire pit business.
- Available sizes: Titan fire ring inserts – link to Titan Outdoors, come in 33, 38, and 46-inch diameters – each with a depth of 10 inches
- Features: 19 gauge (1 mm) carbon steel used for the ring cylinder, and 16 gauge (1.5 mm) used for the lip; high-temp/corrosion resistant coating (black); comes in four sections to be assembled;
- Warranty: 1 year against defects in material and workmanship
- Solid entry at the low end of the fire pit ring market
- Sizes offered larger, on average than most of the market
- Good value at under $125
- 1-year warranty against material/workmanship defects
Not a fan of fire rings that come in multiple pieces – the holes for hardware don’t always line up and when it’s finally get together you often get larger than normal gaps on the seams where the pieces come together.
Once the fire pit ring insert is fully assembled, you often get some “torquing” (twisting) from ill-fitting shapes working against each other. As a result, the fire ring doesn’t fit flush with the top of the fire pit all the way around.
I’m not saying all of this is the case here but it’s common in mass-produced fire rings that come in pieces.
The steel used on the Titan fire pit ring inserts is on the thin side and will most likely break down faster than those ring inserts using thicker sheet metal once exposed to regular high-heat conditions.
It’s fine for a fire ring insert in this range but don’t expect it to last for any more than a couple of years with regular use. For reference, higher-end fire pits use 10 gauge (~3.5 mm) or higher sheet metal, almost three times as thick.
In the end, the Titan fire pit rings are generally well-regarded in the market, are easy to assemble, and come at a reasonable price. If you are looking for an entry-level fire ring insert, this is a good place to start.
Pro Tip: Take your time assembling these kinds of fire rings – don’t cinch down too hard on the nuts provided until you have all of the pieces together – tighten a little bit on each section as you go around the fire ring insert – keep turning and tightening until all fasteners are snug (much like tightening lug nuts when changing a tire).
If you do it one piece at a time, tightening each section fully and independently of the others, you may have a difficult time getting the last piece of the ring to fit right.
The Ohio Flame Fire Pit Ring Insert
Update (September 2020): In August, I had an email conversation going with the President & Owner of Ohio Flame, Mike Skillman, on the status of their legacy fire pit ring insert model. He relayed that they’ve discontinued this model (the one mentioned below) due to a recent sourcing issue with their metal supplier.
They were preparing to release their new model right around the time the COVID-19 lockdown started (February/March 2020), but due to a dramatic increase in orders for other products in their extensive line (link to Ohio Flame on Etsy) at the time, they were focused on taking care of those orders.
Mike stated they are planning for a Fall 2020 release and I will keep you updated as I get new information from Ohio Flame. I plan to review the new model as soon as it’s available and I’ll link to that review here. – John
Ohio Flame, located in Columbiana, Ohio, is a manufacturer of handcrafted steel fire pits and accessories.
- Available sizes: 24, 30, and 36-inch diameters – each with a depth of 10 inches
- Features: 10 gauge (~3.5 mm) carbon steel throughout; high-heat resistant coating; comes in one piece (no hardware needed)
- Warranty: Lifetime warranty covering the “the structural integrity and durability of the steel bowl and welds”
- Top of the basic fire pit ring insert heap
- Good at its price point considering the craftsmanship, thickness of the steel, and the lifetime warranty behind it
- One-piece fire ring insert; no hardware or assembly necessary
- Decent range of sizes;
What I like in particular about this fire pit ring insert is that it comes in one piece and the welds that hold it together are very clean.
Not entirely surprising – Ohio Flame has earned a reputation for quality and durability during their short 10-year plus existence.
Like most inserts, Ohio Flame fire rings offering comes with a high-heat resistant coating to protect the fire pits finish and resist corrosion and breakdown.
Just a small observation, but I was a little surprised when I read this as Ohio Flame had stopped using high-heat coatings on their traditional fire pits not long ago. None really held up very well over time. It leaves me wondering why they bothered with it on this product. I wrote them a note asking why and I’ll update this section when I hear back.
Temperature resistant coatings commonly used for products in the consumer market tend to burn off pretty quickly, with some faster than others. It really depends on the surface, how you prep the surface, number of coats, quality of paint and other factors.
I’m sure there are more rugged heat-resistant coatings available but there’s probably an issue of cost and they don’t want to pass that on to the consumer. Just my two cents
Anyway, they’ve kept their lifetime warranty on corrosion in place so I presume they’ve done their homework.
With the grade and thickness of the steel used, the one-piece configuration, and the lifetime warranty, it’s hard to beat Ohio Flame fire rings at this price point, which is in the $150 to $250 range depending on what size you choose.
The Breeo Zentro Smokeless Fire Pit Insert
Breeo, located in Lancaster, PA, is probably best known for making hand-crafted smokeless fire pit inserts, portable smokeless fire pits, and accessories. They’re not the only company in the smokeless fire pit space but they are the leader in using the technology in fire pit ring inserts.
- Available sizes: The Breeo Zentro smokeless fire pit insert is available in both square and circular configurations in 24, 28, and 32-inch sizes; all with a depth of 12 inches
All shape and size configurations are available in either carbon steel with black high-temp paint or stainless steel (304 stainless)
- Features: Smokeless fire pit design; engineered to be used for grilling as well as heat; comes with a lid
- Warranty: The company’s site says lifetime warranty in one area and limited 3-year in another; I’m checking with the company on what’s what and will update when they respond
Bottom Line: Breeo smokeless fire pits are among the most solid, well-performing fire pits available in the American market.
Breeo brought the smokeless design used in their portable Double Flame models (see my review here) to their Zentro insert models, and as of now, they are the only company that makes smokeless inserts that I know of.
What is a smokeless fire pit? In a nutshell, a smokeless fire pit is designed using a special airflow system that aids in the re-burning of smoke before it leaves the confines of the fire pit.
There is one other company, Solo Stove, that is making products that use this technology but as I mentioned, they’re not making fire pit inserts currently and I don’t know if they ever have plans to.
For more information on smokeless fire pit technology, check out my article 5 Incredibly Easy Ways To Reduce Fire Pit Smoke.
I don’t have the gauge of steel used in the Zentro fire pit insert models but it’s on the heavier side. These fire pits are shipped on pallets and weigh anywhere from 104 to 120 lbs!
Another thing that stands out about Breeo fire pits is that they are designed for grilling from the ground up. Most of their fire pits, the Zentro fire pit insert included, is not ready “out of the box” for grilling, but their fire pits are designed with a post-hole near the edge of the fire pit’s rim where a grill post can be inserted (another Breeo item). Once you’ve got the grill post and grill grates set up you can get to it.
A lot of fire pit makers avoid design features catering to customers who want to cook over their fire pit, often recommending against it.
Breeo has gone the complete opposite direction, not only designing their fire pits for outdoor cooking but offering a line of grilling accessories (sold as add-ons) to go with their fire pits as well.
The combination of smokeless technology, near grill-ready design, and heavy-duty construction, the Zentro smokeless fire pit insert is definitely a contender at the high end of the insert market.
Also…Check Out Etsy for a Fire Pit Insert…Yes, Etsy
I haven’t found many vendors on this site yet that make custom-sized fire rings for sale but there are so many size options available you should be able to easily find a size that would fit into the fire pit design you have in mind.
Check out Etsy sellers HigleyWelding and FiveMetalDesign – they’ve got a wide set of options that should accommodate your fire ring insert size needs.
If the sizes they offer don’t work for you, they’ll make a custom fire pit ring insert for you.
Conclusion: Buying a Fire Ring Insert
If you are looking to preserve your fire pit investment for the long term a fire pit ring insert is a smart addition to your project.
You don’t have to spend a fortune to get the benefits a fire ring provides to the structure and looks of your fire pit.
If you opt for a fire ring on the lower end of the scale, you can always replace it for not a whole lot of money when it starts showing its age.
Remember though, for a little more money, there are fire rings that may outlive your fire pit in the end.
If you are having a masonry wood-burning fire pit built for you, chances are your contractor will include a fire ring in the estimate or they may offer it as an option.
If you are having the project done professionally, including a fire pit ring insert should be a no-brainer to keep the fire pit looking good and working well for a long time.
If you are a fire pit DIY’er, do your homework and decide what’s best for you, your plans and your wallet. You’ve got a wide selection of fire pit inserts to choose from at a number of sizes, capabilities, quality levels, and price points.
There’s one out there to do the job for your specific needs, you just have to find it.
Consult with your fire pit builder, local fire pit specialty store, or home and garden center for additional guidance on which way to go.
You can drop me a line as well if you need a hand at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more on the subject of fire ring inserts, check out my article Do You Need a Fire Ring for a Fire Pit?
Thanks for reading and good luck!
I want someone to build my backyard fire pit for me. How can I find masonry fire pit builders in my area?
Check With Someone You Know. If you are interested in having a masonry fire pit built for you or at least having an estimate done, the best thing you can do first is to get a recommendation from someone you know and trust. It sounds like common sense but that’s not always what happens.
If you know someone who had a walkway or patio done recently and you really liked how it looked there’s a good chance the masonry/hardscape contractor who did the work also does backyard fire pit construction. This isn’t always the case but with the rapid growth in the popularity of fire pits, more and more contractors are getting in on the act.
These services provide connections with pre-screened contractors in your area, contractor reviews, project tips, etc. Pre-screenings usually include contractor criminal background checks, licensing verification, bonding/insurance verification, etc.
These online options are usually free but sometimes offer additional services for a small monthly or annual fee.
Using a service like this can save you a lot of trouble particularly if the project goes wrong in any way. They’re definitely worth checking out in your search for a masonry contractor for your fire pit project.
Is a smokeless fire pit insert really smokeless?
The straight answer on this is no. Smokeless, in this case, means reduced smoke, not smoke-free. No fire pit maker will claim they’re manufacturing and marketing a smoke-free fire pit insert, but they will claim more efficient combustion in their fire pits which does keep smoke to a minimum.
Smokeless fire pits use a double-wall design which funnels cool air into the fire pit’s walls where it is heated and transported to the exit holes inside the fire pit, immediately below the rim. This heated air aids a secondary burn that incinerates excess smoke before it is able to leave the fire pit.
Smokeless technology works best when the fire pit fire is nice and hot after burning for a few minutes. All fire pits are going to have some smoke when new wood is added and the initial moisture is burned off (moisture is the main cause of smoke from burning wood).
Smokeless fire pits are far more forgiving than regular fire pits when using firewood with higher moisture content, i.e. unseasoned wood. Once the fire pit is burning well, smoke should be minimal to non-existent and any wood added after will smoke for far less time than if the fire was just getting started.
Will a Fire Pit Ring Insert Rust?
Yes, over time your fire ring insert will develop some rust, including inserts made from stainless steel. The longer the fire pit is used and the quicker the rust/heat resistant coating is burned off, the faster rust will start forming.
How badly depends on where you live, whether you use a fire pit cover, etc. A fire pit ring insert in dry Arizona won’t rust nearly as bad or quickly as one in a humid climate like New Orleans.
Using a well-fitting fire pit cover can keep water/moisture from settling on its surfaces and collecting in its bottom (if it has one).
Also, clean out fire pit contents (ash, unburned firewood, etc.) after each burn to remove anything that might retain moisture after cooling.
Finally, make sure your fire pit ring insert is completely dry before you cover your fire pit. If it’s wet when you cover it you’ll only be speeding up the rusting process.