If you are looking to have a fire pit built or installed in your outdoor space, what should you consider before diving in? Do you have all of the materials you need, including fire pit sand? Fire pit sand can be a valuable addition to any fireplace, gas, wood, or otherwise! You may not have even considered purchasing sand for your fire pit, but many backyard enthusiasts and homeowners speak to the perks and benefits of adding sand to your outdoor fire pit. Why might this be, and what types of sand are best?
The most common fire pit sand is silica sand, which is sand made from quartz. Naturally, silica sand is white and tan, but you can buy silica sand in a variety of colors. Adding silica sand to your fire pit helps evenly distribute heat from your fire and it also prevents any damages underneath the firepit surface.
We’re here to help you get that fire pit built properly and set up for long-term outdoor use- whether fire pit sand ends up being right for you or not. Let’s dive in and take a look at why sand might matter to your backyard makeover.
Table of Contents
- Why Put Sand in the Bottom of a Fire Pit?
- How Much Sand Do I Need in My Fire Pit?
- How to Use and Install Fire Pit Sand?
- What Kind of Sand Can I Use in a Fire Pit?
- Can You Use a Fire Pit Without Sand?
- Advantages and Drawbacks of Fire Pit Sand
- Where Can You Buy Fire Pit Sand?
- Sand in Fire Pit FAQs
- Do I need to Clean Fire Pit Sand?
- Does Fire Pit Sand Ever Need to Be Replaced?
- Dirt vs Sand in Fire Pit | What’s the Difference?
- Is Silica Sand Needed for a Gas Fire Pit?
- Should I Add Sand to My Outdoor Metal Fire Pit?
- Does Sand Get Hot In and Around the Fire Pit?
- Can I Use Fire Pit Sand as a Fire Pit Base on Grass?
- Can’t I Just Use Rocks Instead of Sand?
- The Verdict – Should You Put Sand in Your Fire Pit?
Why Put Sand in the Bottom of a Fire Pit?
Sand has many benefits when used in an outdoor fire pit. While not all manufacturers will recommend using sand in the bottom of their fire pits, you will find that some products insist upon adding sand as part of your fire pit set up or user manual.
But why put sand in the bottom of a fire pit? You will do this primarily to create an insulated layer across the bottom of your pit. Doing this will prevent the extreme heat from the flames from burning away at one particular spot of your fire pit. The sand ensures that the heat is evenly distributed!
While fire pits are designed to handle extreme heat and for long periods of time, putting sand into the base of the pit isn’t a bad idea. It will no doubt prevent long-term fire damage and uneven heating. Sand is an affordable and effective solution to this issue.
Sand is also useful for ember dowsing and containment. Having a fire-resistant material in the bottom of your fire pit can help prevent embers from scattering where they don’t belong- namely outside of your fire pit!
You can also consider sand a nice anchor point or helpful holder for setting up the beginnings of a fire. With enough sand in the bottom of your fire pit, you can set up kindling, small sticks, and more with ease. Simply stick them into the sand and let it hold your small pieces of wood!
How Much Sand Do I Need in My Fire Pit?
You don’t need very much sand in the bottom of your fire pit in order to achieve an even heat and protective layer. While fire pit sand manufacturers and fire pit manufacturers may have their own specific recommendations for you to follow, the average amount of sand needed is 1-2 inches.
Make sure the layer is even and the same thickness throughout for the best results. When in doubt, more sand is probably better than less! This will also create a deeper sand pit to tuck kindling or small wood into for stability.
How to Use and Install Fire Pit Sand?
Installing fire pit sand is very easy, and shouldn’t take you much time at all to accomplish, so long as you aren’t building your outdoor fire pit from scratch. All you need is your set up fire pit, and a bag of fire-appropriate sand!
- Ensure that your fire pit is set up in the location you want it to be- it will be far more difficult to move once you add sand to it!
- Open your bag of fire-appropriate sand carefully (learn more about different types of fire pit sand below)
- Pour your sand into the fire pit, creating an even layer roughly two inches deep
- Take care to uncover any fire pit holes that might have been lost beneath the sand. These holes are important for air flow and the overall success of your fire
- Light a test fire once your sand has been evenly spread. See if the amount of sand is useful for holding your kindling. Alternatively, make sure you haven’t put in too much sand- the height of your fire matters in terms of fire safety!
Fire pit sand is designed to be a simple, affordable, and effective solution to even fire dispersion and heating. Let’s see what types of sand are best when used in conjunction with your fire pit.
What Kind of Sand Can I Use in a Fire Pit?
There are many different types of sand that are appropriate for use in a fire pit. You can even use dirt, if you’re in a pinch! However, some sand is better than others. One of the best sands to use in your fire pit is silica sand.
But what exactly is silica sand, and what other sands are safe to use in a fire pit setting? Let’s take a look now.
What is Silica Sand?
Silica sand is a type of sand made from crushed up quartz. It is a highly refined sand, and can only be classified as silica sand if it has a certain level of silicon dioxide in it. This is why silica sand is a beautiful and clean white color: the quartz in it makes it so.
Silica sand is a perfect choice for an outdoor fire pit because the sand retains heat very well. It is also attractive to look at, and affordable. You can purchase silica sand in a variety of colors other than white as well!
Can You Use Beach Sand?
Beach sand is possible for use in a fire pit. It will retain heat well, but it is important to sift the sand first and make sure there aren’t any unexpected surprises in the batch of sand that you have taken from the beach.
This option is more affordable than silica sand, but given the many possible impurities, it may not be worth it. The fire may spark and struggle with standard beach sand. It is similar to dirt in that it will do the trick, but it won’t necessarily assist your fire pit as well in the long run.
Is Colored Sand Safe for Fire Pit?
Colored sand may be safe for fire pit use if it is colored silica sand or lava rock-based sand. However, many play sands or manufactured color sand contain plastic particles or substances that can’t handle the high heat of a campfire or fire pit.
You will need to ensure that your colored sand does not contain any materials that will melt and ultimately damage the finish of your fire pit. No matter how pretty the color might be, you run the risk of incurring more damage than colored sand is worth!
Always make sure that the sand you are looking to purchase is fireproof, or can at the very least handle high heat exposure. This is key to ensuring your fire pit lasts a lifetime.
Can You Use Polymeric Sand in a Fire Pit?
Polymeric sand is unique in that it contains fine sand grains and additives- this is because polymeric sand is used primarily in between bricks and pavers to make paths. Given the variety of glues, adhesives, and other additives to polymeric sand, it is not recommended for use in fire pits.
The primary reason for this? Polymeric sand can contain potentially flammable substances and additives. The last thing you need is to cause an explosion by starting a fire on top of polymeric sand! Keep yourself safe and avoid using polymeric sand in a fire pit setting.
Can You Use a Fire Pit Without Sand?
If you are installing a fire pit in your backyard for the first time, you may be wondering if you can use a fire pit without sand. The answer is, yes, you can absolutely use a fire pit without sand! However, it is important to read the manual for your fire pit and make sure that sand isn’t something the manufacturer recommends.
Some fire pits will even specify that you shouldn’t use sand in them- this is usually because of the way the pit is designed. For example, smokeless fire pits have many holes for air along the bottom and sand will easily cover these up, hindering your fire from reaching its full potential.
If you choose not to use sand with your fire pit, know that you should consider purchasing a rust or heat proof spray or finish for both the outside and inside of your fire pit. This will help with any uneven heat distribution or long-term fire temperature issues!
Advantages and Drawbacks of Fire Pit Sand
Still wondering if fire pit sand is right for your backyard setup? Here are some pros and cons for putting sand inside of your fire pit.
- Evenly distributes heat throughout the fire pit
- Helps with the overall life of the fire pit
- Allows you to easily build a base for your fire
- Affordable and easy to clean
- Can add a unique visual element to your fire pit
- Traps and smothers embers
- May cover necessary air holes in your fire pit
- Can be dangerous if you use the wrong type of sand
- Too much sand can raise the height of your wood and fire too much
- Makes your fire pit heavier and less portable
- You won’t be able to sort your ashes out of the sand easily
Where Can You Buy Fire Pit Sand?
You can purchase fire pit sand from many different places, including your local hardware or general supply store. You can also purchase bags on Amazon- this option from KAYSO INC comes highly recommended and will ship right to your door!
Sand in Fire Pit FAQs
Still have questions about sand in your fire pit? Let’s take a look at some frequently asked questions for this fire pit sand guide.
Do I need to Clean Fire Pit Sand?
Fire pit sand will need cleaning periodically, and it should be removed with your campfire ashes when your fire pit gets full. If you are placing fire pit sand into a gas fireplace, it will need replacing or cleaning less frequently.
Sifting through your fire pit sand for any debris is a good idea before you choose to light another fire. This is the best way of cleaning it, as water will no doubt just wash your sand away. Sifting your sand will ensure that nothing pops or snaps as you enjoy an evening blaze!
Does Fire Pit Sand Ever Need to Be Replaced?
Yes, fire pit sand should be replaced from time to time, in both gas or wood fire pits. You will notice your sand getting discolored, or perhaps it has started washing away in rain or windy times. You should plan to replace your sand whenever you notice it getting dirty or low.
There is no hard and fast rule for when fire pit sand needs to be replaced- it should be done when you think it should be done. However, if you have a wood burning fire pit, you should replace your sand when you dump your ashes, as you won’t be able to tell the two apart.
Dirt vs Sand in Fire Pit | What’s the Difference?
Dirt and sand have similar properties in a fire pit, but there are a few key differences. This is especially true if your primary use for sand in your fire pit is to achieve even heating. Dirt will not be nearly as effective as sand in this capacity.
Dirt may also contain flammable materials, such as grass, twigs, and bugs. Sand is less likely to contain these things, especially if you purchase silica sand. Dirt also has a much higher chance of containing moisture, and this could make your fires difficult to start.
When in doubt, choose to purchase silica sand or other fireproof sand options. While dirt is cheap and easily accessible, you never know what might be hiding in dirt!
Is Silica Sand Needed for a Gas Fire Pit?
Silica sand isn’t needed for a gas fire pit, but it does come highly recommended. You may find your gas fire pit lacking both in substance and appearance when you first light it. Using silica sand as a base for this design can lead to a more attractive fire pit- and the heat will radiate better!
Silica sand is a popular base for gas fire pits, and fire glass is often placed atop silica sand for a more artistic effect. This can be useful for those of you hoping to achieve a certain aesthetic or design with your gas fire pit.
Should I Add Sand to My Outdoor Metal Fire Pit?
Adding sand to your outdoor metal fire pit can be a good idea, especially if you are concerned about radiating heat. Metal fire pits can often concentrate the flames and the fire in one particular section of the base, leading to more uneven wear.
Choosing to add fireproof sand to your metal fire pit can help with this aging process, and can even lead to more effective fires overall. However, don’t forget to check with your fire pit manual and make sure you don’t cover up any vital air flow holes in the process!
Does Sand Get Hot In and Around the Fire Pit?
Yes, sand can get extremely hot in and around a fire pit- this is because the heat is radiating through the sand! I do not recommend touching any part of a fire pit while a fire is actively lit or running inside of it. However, using sand in a fire pit acts as insulation in many ways.
You may find that the underside of your fire pit is less hot due to the layer of sand that is found inside of the pit. I don’t recommend you touch this while a fire is lit, but the sand is there to act as a barrier between the metal and the flames.
Can I Use Fire Pit Sand as a Fire Pit Base on Grass?
You can use fire pit sand as a fire pit base on grass, but you will still run the risk of damaging the grass beneath the sand. Whether it happens through smothering or burning, grass can easily die if you choose to light a fire on top of it.
Fire safety is very important, especially if you are choosing to build your own fire or fire pit. You should always take the time to build adequate walls and heatproof surroundings around your fire, not simply build an open flame on top of some grass.
Can’t I Just Use Rocks Instead of Sand?
You could potentially use rocks instead of sand. However, rocks will not offer as much even heating and distribution as sand will, especially since rocks can’t rest completely flush against the interior of your fire pit. Rocks are also prone to absorbing moisture- this means they can explode under high heat!
Some rocks are suitable for use in fire pits, but very few. You can’t just toss any garden rock into your fire pit and expect it to work well. Some rocks can crack or break from the heat; others can make for adequate heat distribution. It’s important to do your research before jumping into anything.
The Verdict – Should You Put Sand in Your Fire Pit?
Sand can be a useful tool in many fire pits, especially if you want the heat evenly distributed throughout the base of the pit. However, always check with your fire pit’s manufacturer for their recommendations, and consider the overall air flow of your fire pit before committing to a silica sand purchase!
Jamie is the founder of The Backyard Pros. When he was 15 years old he started working at a garden centre helping people buy plants, gardening products, and lawn care products. He has real estate experience and he is a home owner. Jamie loves backyard projects, refinishing furniture, and enjoys sharing his knowledge online.