How to Use Lava Rocks on a Fire Pit?

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If you want to use lava rocks for a fire pit but don’t know where to start, you’ve come to the right place.

Everyone knows how cozy nights can get alongside friends or family close to the poolside or hillside fire pit. But firing up that pit is often not easy.

That’s where lava rocks enter into place. They are not only the easiest way to get the pit blazing but also the most attractive.

BUT…

Even when they’re easier than using timber and other alternatives, lava rocks are still something of a mystery for most people.

Here, we want to solve that. Lava rocks are among the simplest things you can use, and we’ll show you why and how below.

Do you Need Lava Rocks in Fire Pit?

Lava Rocks

First and foremost, do you really need lava rocks?

If you’re using a modern gas fire pit, you don’t need lava rocks to produce any kind of blaze. But even then, you can use them for the extra heat distribution if required.

Apart from that, lava rocks are not always necessary. A good-looking alternative like fire glass could be a better choice in your case, given it offers decent blazing results and looks a lot better.

And lastly, if you’re using wood or carbon, lava rocks are almost useless. They will actually interfere with the natural burning and cause slight problems that may translate into less heat.

So, before you get that bag of lava rocks home, make sure you REALLY need them. Otherwise, you may regret the purchase.

Why Use Lava Rocks in Fire Pit?

Now, let’s say lava rocks may come like an excellent investment. What are they for, exactly?

Here are a few benefits to consider:

Protect the Burner

While lava rocks won’t prevent water from getting into the burner, they will reduce how much it does. And in case you can protect the burner in other ways, lava rocks will work as an extra layer of protection.

Also, they help maintain the burner safe when you’re using the fire pit, and it starts to rain (or something similar happens).

Longer Burner Lifespan

In case you’re using a gas burner, it is likely to wear down over time. This happens because the flames and heat can produce enormous amounts of wear, weakening the metal enormously.

With lava rocks, all the heat will stay on top. These rocks work like insulation and shield, ensuring your burners last a lot longer.

Better Heat Distribution

The flame that comes from a burner is often unevenly distributed. It stays in the fire pit center, preventing the heat from spreading around as it should.

This doesn’t happen with lava rocks. These rocks fire up with the flames evenly, helping to distribute the heat all around.

You won’t have cold spots around the fire pit anymore.

Improved Pit Looks

If something you can’t take off lava rocks is their ability to make any place a lot cuter. This includes your fire pit.

The natural rock appearance with unique colors certainly stands out, so your time around the pit is a lot more pleasant.

When to Use Lava Rocks with Fire Pit?

Lava Rocks in a fire pit

Before we go into the nitty-gritty, let’s teach you when it’s WORTH using lava rocks and when it’s NOT. Here are a few factors to consider:

  • In case your burner makes a sufficiently strong flame that distributes heat pretty well, you may also not need lava rocks at all. Unless the flame coming off the burner is small, don’t use lava rocks (even for mere looks).
  • If the fire pit is a well-ventilated area, lava rocks are an excellent choice. Otherwise, avoid them at all costs (they can blow up without enough ventilation in enclosed areas).
  • Far from timber and wooden furniture. You don’t want the sparks coming off the rocks to light up the wood around your home. This also includes plants with foliage. If the fire pit is too close to any of that, try not using lava rocks.
  • When your cooking stuff and need consistent flames, lava rocks can be your best friend. But if you aren’t cooking anything and the flames are decently consistent, avoid using lava rocks (they’re unnecessary in that case).
  • In uneven areas where the fire pit doesn’t stand firmly and securely, it can make it slightly dangerous to use lava rocks. Only use them when the fire pit is leveled and stable, so the flaming rocks don’t fly around eventually, causing probably damage to people or objects,

How to Put Lava Rocks in Fire Pit?

Believe it or not, putting the lava rocks to work is very simple. Follow these quick steps:

  1. With the bag of lava rocks in hand, prepare the place you’re pouring them on. Remember to ensure it is flat and level to prevent any accident later on.
  2. Proceed to open the bag and pour the rocks into a bucket. The purpose is to prevent the dust from getting all-around and possibly into the fire pit burners.
  3. Before placing them on top of the fire pit, we recommend cleaning or shaking the lava rocks. For this, use a brush and/or air pistol. You can also clean them with water (they’ll need at least 5 hours to dry up).
  4. Once the lava rocks are clean, you can start pouring them on the fire pit. Make the lava-rock layer as flat as possible to avoid any issue later on.
  5. If the lava rocks cover the entire burner, then you’re ready to turn it on. The lava rocks should fire up almost right away.

What Type of Maintenance Do Lava Rocks Need?

Maintenance of Lava Rocks

Given lava rocks receive direct flames, they get burned. Because of that, they’re likely to start wearing out within a few months. After a year or two, you may need to replace them altogether. 

That’s why the main and only maintenance you will need to do is scrambling them around before using. This would let the rocks that don’t often receive direct flames do so. As a benefit, you will make your lava rocks last longer.

But apart from that, there’s no real maintenance to do.

Fire Pit with Lava Rocks Safety Precautions

Fire Pit with Lava Rocks

Are there any safety precautions to consider when using lava rocks in a fire pit?

OF COURSE THERE ARE!

Here are some of them:

Don’t Use Wet Lava Rocks

You may think that wet lava rocks won’t light up. And well, you’d be surprised at how they don’t only light up but BLOW UP. It is not always the case, but it’s common for lava rocs to explode when they’re wet.

Keep an Extinguisher Close

This is critical. A fire extinguisher, especially if your fire pit is close to wood or flammable objects, can be a life-saving item.

Wear Safety Gear When Handling

While lava rocks are not dangerous when they’re turned off, they are when the flame is going. In that case, you’ll want to use sticks and gloves to handle the rocks. A wrong hand movement without protection can cause severe skin damage.

Avoid Pouring Liquid Fuels

This includes anything from kerosene to gasoline and even liquid propane. You should stick to the fire coming off the burners or the wood/carbon below. Pouring fuel over the lava rocks can cause serious dangers.

Don’t Let the Fire Grow

The flame coming off the lava rocks shouldn’t be too high. Anything from a couple of inches to a foot should be enough. If you see the flame going higher than that, try dialing the burner down or removing some of the lava rocks.

Stay Away from the Fire

Seems obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people think lava rocks are harmless. They’re not. Staying away from the flame, regardless of the source, is always wise. This includes flaming lava rocks that could cause severe harm.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Feel like there are still some things you could learn about lava rocks and fire pits? If that’s the case, check our answers to common questions:

Is lava rock good for fire pits?

Generally, they’re good as long as you need them. For example, they provide a layer of protection from the elements and help distribute the heat. And as an additional upside, they make your fire pit look better, even after several uses. So, yes, lava rocks are suitable for fire pits.

Are lava rocks safe for fire pits?

To use over and around fire pits, few things are as safe as lava rocks. Not only do they control flames but they also prevent explosions by protecting burners from external factors. Having said that, lava rocks can explode when they’re wet, so it’s worth letting them dry up before using them.

How to light lava rock fire pit?

The obvious way would be to just turn the burner on and let the lava rocks receive some of the flames. Eventually, they will light up.

What size lava rock for a fire pit?

It depends on what appearance you’re looking for and how much of a flame you need. For example, extra-small lava rocks are about 0.25 inches in diameter. These are ideal for small fire pits, as they give a gravel-like appeal.

For large fire pits, you can go for the biggest rocks, often up to 6 inches in diameter, that produce huge flames.

Most people, though, medium lava rocks between 1 and 2 inches should be more than enough.

How much lava rock for a gas fire pit?

There’s no definite amount you could pick for. To know what works best for you, it’s worth measuring the size of your fire pit first and then dividing by 19.

As an example, a rectangular fire pit has a depth, length, and width. Multiply them and then divide them by 19. The result would be the number of pounds you’ll need.

In the case of circular fire pits, you should do the same but multiply the depth by the diameter twice. Then divide by 19, and that should give you the result in pounds.

Example:

A rectangular fire pit of 4 inches deep, 10 inches wide, and 15 inches long would give you 600. Divided by 19, you’ll get 31. That should be the amount of lava rocks to get in pounds.

Can you burn wood with lava rocks?

Yes. You can always burn wood with lava rocks. But because it makes the lava rocks and wood more dangerous, it’s worth doing it carefully.

For that, you should always place the lava rocks under the wood. Otherwise, you will struggle either to keep the wood burning or the lava rocks igniting. 

Conclusion

So, are you ready to use lava rocks for a fire pit on your patio now?

It is not a piece of cake as you may guess. But it is not rocket science either.

As long as you follow our advice and recommendations, take the right precautions, and be sure you’re doing the right thing from the start – then you should have no problem.

What are you waiting for then? Get that fire pit glowing!

 

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