While most people don’t give it much thought, properly installing fire glass is important to how well your gas fire feature performs. If you simply dump a pile of fire glass into your pit, you’re bound to have problems ahead. Improper installation of fire glass can make it difficult to keep the fire lit, create an undesirable flame size or shape, and cause excessive soot.
To install it properly, you need to know how deep the glass should be, how to optimally cover the burner, and other placement considerations. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Simply take a few minutes to look over this short article, and you’ll be an expert in no time.
How Much Fire Glass Do I Need?
Before you can install your fire glass, you have to order it. And for some people, that’s a source of stress because they have no idea how much they’ll need. If you haven’t ordered yet, our handy fire glass calculator makes the process easy.
We always recommend starting with less fire glass than you think you need. (We have found that our customers often overestimate how much glass they’ll need.) That’s where using our calculator can help get you closer to the mark.
We also recommend that you round the amount down to the nearest 10 pounds. For example, if it says you need 3.6 pounds, go with 3 pounds. You can always add more fire glass later if needed.
Fire glass should cover your burner by about 1/2″. Just enough so the burner is no longer visible.
But on the off chance you need more, our free shipping is also quick. So, in the end, it’s easier to order more than to go through the process of returning it if you get too much.
Our calculator gets you in the ballpark, but when you get ready to actually place the glass, let the height of the burner be your guide. For instance, if your burner pan is 2” deep, but the top of the burner only comes up to about 1 ½” from the bottom of the pan, you’ll only put in the amount of fire glass it takes to correctly cover the burner. Do not fill the pan all the way up to the top edge.
The goal is to add just enough glass to hide the burner and distribute the flame evenly. Too much will disperse the gas over a large area causing the flame to jump around resulting in sooting (caused by incomplete combustion of the gas).
Note: You should always wear protective gloves when handling fire glass as there can sometimes be rough, jagged edges.
Drop-In Burner Pan (for DIY projects)
Installing fire glass in a drop-in burner pan is the easiest of all the applications, and it requires the least amount of fire glass. Burner-style pans are designed for fire glass, and they make efficient use of space to minimize the amount of glass needed.
Use our calculator to determine how much to use, or if the unit came with a “spec” sheet, check to see what the manufacturer recommends.
When dealing with a large (and usually deep) fire pit, people sometimes use a filler media like lava rock to pad the space before adding a finish layer of fire glass. With the drop-in burner pan, that isn’t necessary due to the shallow depth of the pan.
With the pan situated properly within the fire feature structure, gently pour the fire glass over the pan and distribute it evenly throughout the pan and to the outer edges. The burner should not be visible, but the layer over the burner should be just enough to hide the burner (usually about 1/2-inch thick).
Too much fire glass over the burner can cause sooting. More is not always better.
If using crushed fire glass, the larger size of this media may mean that you have to use a slightly thicker layer in order to hide the burner. This is not a problem because of the larger space between the pieces of fire glass.
Note: Propane is heavier than air and therefore, needs to be released close to the surface. It could get trapped below a thick layer of glass. An excess of glass over a natural gas burner can create an uneven flame pattern. A centered flame is desirable for both safe operation and visual appeal. Too much fire glass can disperse the flame, causing the edges of the burner pan to get very hot.
Manufactured Fire Pit Table (Propane or Natural Gas)
Since each manufactured fire pit table is unique you should always consult the manufacturer or reseller for information on installing fire glass into their fire pit.
However, some manufacturers may tell you that only their fire glass works in their fire pit table—this is not true.
All fire glass is designed to work in high temperatures and if one brand works in their fire pit, then all the brands work. There is no instance where one brand of fire glass will work, but others won’t – this is simply a sales tactic to get you to only buy from them. That’s great for their bottom line, but it doesn’t give you the flexibility to select the highest grade of fire glass in a variety of colors.
As a general rule, as long as the fire pit (or fire table) uses propane or natural gas, it’s okay to use fire glass.
The manual for your particular fire pit should give you recommendations on the placement of the fire glass. With manufactured fire pits, there will usually be a cage located next to the burner. This cage keeps the fire glass from interfering with the flame sensor (called a thermocouple).
The flame sensor is a safety feature, which will shut off the flow of gas if it doesn’t sense a flame. So, you want to be sure to keep the top of the cage and a bit of space around the upper edges clear. This allows enough air to flow into the cage so the flame inside can burn properly and come in contact with the flame sensor.
If your fire pit won’t stay lit, this cage is the first place to look. Start your troubleshooting by looking inside the cage to see if there’s a flame in contact with a metal rod. (It’s easiest to see if there is a flame, when the sun isn’t shining.) Also, check to see if there is fire glass inside the cage – if so, clear it out.
If you still have problems with the flame staying lit, clear the fire glass away from the cage on all sides. (Not to worry, this is only for troubleshooting purposes.) If the flame now stays lit, slowly move the fire glass towards the cage. Move enough fire glass so that your fire pit looks good, but not so much that the flame begins to falter.
Round Paver Style Fire Pit
A fire pit fashioned from patio pavers or blocks tends to be large. Since this style of fire pit requires a large amount of fire media, it requires a lot more glass than needed for a fire table.
Some people like to fill the greatest void of this space with lava rocks, which are bulky and less expensive. Then they finish with a layer of fire glass thick enough to cover the lava rock and hide the burner.
However, if they are using clear fire glass, it will be more difficult to hide the lava layer. In that case, selecting a darker color for the fire glass is probably in order.
Fire glass does not absorb moisture, but lava rock can. However unlikely, there is always a chance that if the lava rock is holding moisture within it or if some has puddled in its crevices, it could pop at high temperatures.
This happens when moisture within the lava rocks heats to the point of steam. This rapid expansion of a gas can cause the lava rocks to pop, sending hot pieces flying into the air. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to keep your fire pit covered when not in use, but particularly so if using lava rock as a filler—just to be on the safe side.
If you have lava rocks, you can simply replace the lava rocks with fire glass. Clean any dirt or debris left by the lava rocks. Distribute an even layer of fire glass in the same place where the lava rock was.
If your fireplace features “burning embers,” this cannot be replaced with fire glass. They are not interchangeable. The fire media categorized as “burning embers” is actually an airy, fiber-type of material. The gas flows through it causing it to look like the burning embers of a wood fire.
Note: Any fire feature with a thermocouple (ignitor box looks like a metal cage), must be kept free of fire media. You can artfully arrange glass around it, but do not cover the box.
Alcohol/Ethanol Fire Feature
Fire features fueled by alcohol/ethanol can use either liquid alcohol or a gel form of ethanol in a disposable can such as those made by Sterno. They range in size from a large fire pit (or fireplace) to a small tabletop accent.
Popular styles fueled by ethanol gel often include fire bowls used as tabletop accents. Linear designs are also popular and if large, may use liquid alcohol.
Installing fire glass into these features is much different than gas-powered units because the fuel must have direct contact with the flame. For this reason, you cannot cover the fuel source with fire glass. Instead, the glass is added as a decorative bed around the fuel source to hide the can or fuel well, while allowing the alcohol/ethanol to burn uncovered.
It’s also important to keep in mind that these types of fire features don’t have a turn-off valve. The flame is typically extinguished by placing a metal cover over the flame to snuff it out. When you place the fire glass, be sure you don’t interfere with the ability to place the cover effectively over the flame.
Even if you have a gas fire pit, you may enjoy getting creative with ethanol gel cans. It can be a lot of fun to make a dramatic centerpiece for your outdoor table. It’s as simple as placing an ethanol gel can in a decorative bowl and surrounding it with fire glass up to the same level as the top of the can.
The possibilities are endless. It can even be a source of family fun. Finish off your next outdoor dinner party with Smore’s by roasting marshmallows over your tabletop fire feature!
Happy to Help
As always, if you need help, we’re here!