With our current situation where most of us should stay at home, it seems like the best way to interact and connect with each other is to huddle around a warm fire pit and safely socialize by keeping our distance.

However, in some communities, burning logs in their own backyard or using a wood-burning fire pit is not permissible. That is the reason why gas fire pits are highly recommended. No need to worry about that though because it still produces the same atmosphere and promotes the growth of good fellowship.

Which is better, a gas fire pit or wood?

A lot of people might ask what makes a gas fire pit more preferable than those that use wood. Well, when we talk about convenience, it is undeniable that the gas fire pit sets the bar high because it can be easily turned on or off using a switch.

Another point is that you will not be putting a lot of effort in chopping, gathering, and hoarding wood. And lastly, whether you try to use natural or propane gas, your fire pit will always burn cleaner over wood fire pits for the reason that using gas does not produce unpleasant clouds of smoke.

What are lava rocks?

Lava rocks are igneous rocks, sometimes called magmatic rocks, that are formed naturally when volcanic magma from an erupting volcano rises to the surface, hardens and solidifies. The formation process of lava rocks is responsible for its coarse appearance. They are able to tolerate high temperatures which makes them a better choice in using gas fire pits.

Lava rocks composition

Iron (Fe), Magnesium (Mg), and Calcium (Ca) are the key composition of a lava rock.

The Iron helps in the lava rock’s heat resistant property. It has a melting point of 2800 F.

Magnesium allows the rock to be lit with a brighter burn and has a melting point of 1202F. 

These two are known as the ferromagnesian group with a trademark of having a fast-cooking rate. Lastly, Calcium is responsible for its fast-cooling rate with a melting point of 1548F.

Lava rocks also contain various mineral components. Some of them are pyroxene, olivine, amphibole and plagioclase feldspar. These minerals also aid in the heating abilities of lava rocks. Occasionally, lava rocks also include biotite mica, quartz, magnetite, and homblende.

Types of lava rocks

Before we dive into the crux of the matter, we need to know additional information regarding lava rocks. Lava rocks can be classified based on color or size. Various lava rocks usually come in four colors: red, brown, black, and grey.

When we talk about the size, the rock can be classified into three: (a) crushed gravel size; (b) small (diameter can be up to 1 inch); and (c) large (diameter can be 4 inches or larger). Most lava rocks that are used in gas fire pits range from one to three inches in diameter.

When do we utilize lava rocks?

Here are some of the things we need to ponder when we think of utilizing lava rocks in our fire pits:

  • If the flame that is coming off from your burner is above average in intensity, use lava rocks.
  • If your fire pit is located in an area with proper ventilation, the use of lava rocks is allowed.
  • Always remember to put your fire pit away from wooden furniture because it might cause sparks which can lead to a bigger fire.
  • You can use lava rocks if you need to have steady flames for cooking.
  • Avoid using your fire pit in uneven areas because it would be unsafe if it does not stand steadily.

No need to use lava rocks if:

  • You have a modern gas fire pit. Lava rocks are just optional for extra heat distribution
  • You use wood or carbon as lava rocks will just interfere with the natural burning

Advantages of using Lava Rocks

Aside from having a rustic visual aspect and being popular among an increasing number of crowds, lava rocks still have a lot to offer. It would not be safer to use natural rocks, river rocks, gravel and sandstone because they might cause an explosion due to the high temperature from heat. Here are some of its notable characteristics:

  1. Heat Retention – This is the ability of an object to store heat over time. This is one of the most advantageous characteristics of lava rocks because it distributes heat evenly in the fire pit area for a prolonged period of time and has no cold spots.
  2. Weatherproofing – As the word suggests, a layer of lava rock, which is about three to four inches, helps the gas fire pit in resisting the effects of bad weather. It can ward off corrosion, loss of material or any sort of retrogression by reason of extended exposure to harsh environmental and weather conditions. Lava rocks aid in directing water to the drainage system of your pit since it is water-resistant.
  3. Long-Lasting – Lava rocks are economical, friendly to the environment and lightweight. Aside from that, lava rocks do not need a high maintenance and they are also very sturdy. This is due to the fact that lava rocks come from volcanoes which make them hold out against high temperature and gives them the ability not to easily deteriorate and impair. Despite the ability that allows them to be used repeatedly, lava rocks still keep their color well over time.
  4. Protect the Burner – You might be asking how lava rocks protects your burner. Lava rocks have exceptional insulating properties which does the job. This helps in making the burner to have a better performance and a longer service life. Also, in the moment of lighting your fire pit, the gas proceeds along the gaps in the lava rocks which keeps the heat and flame at the top of the fire pit.
  5. Easy to Clean – You can clean lava rocks by just simply soaking them with water and adding a small amount of mild soap. This mixture can aid in getting rid of any dust and other debris that could be accumulating in the porous structure of lava rocks. Just make sure not to forget your regular cleaning to make them safer to use.

How to properly set up and use the lava rocks?

In order to make the most out of the protection that the lava rocks offer, we need to know to properly set it up and arrange it. Bear in mind that once you procure a bag of lava rocks, dust in the bag will also be present due to its collection process from lava fields. The number of rocks you need to buy depends on the fire pit’s shape and the lava rock’s depth.

Equipment and tools needed

For you to effectively set it up, you need the following tools: a geological hammer, lava rock grate, tong and a cover. 

The geological hammer is used to even up the lava rock sizes by crushing or carving it. When cooking, you need the lava grate to replace the hot lava rocks, and also a tong to move those hot rocks. A cover, preferably a polyvinyl, helps ensure that lava rocks do not become wet. Lava rocks when they may pop and accidentally hit you. The cover has dual purpose as it is also for the pit’s dust protection when not in use.

Setting up the lava rocks

The commonly used size of lava rocks for fire pit use are 1-3 inches. Do not be overwhelmed with the variety of sizes you see ranging from ¼ inch to 6 inches. Choose the ones for gas fire pit use, and beware of the synthetic rocks made for gardening.

In order to build a good foundation, most lava rocks owners fill their pit just above the burner with either, pea gravel, sand, or small fire rocks as the first layer at the bottom of their fire pit since they will fit tightly together. 

In lighting your gas burner, use a poker in order to change the position or place of the rocks that produce the flame you are most satisfied with. If it is your first time lighting it, do not go near the pit for around 30 minutes for safety purposes.

Always remember that using wet lava rocks in your fire pit is strictly prohibited because they can fly out or worse, explode and can harm anybody close to the area.

Important reminders:

For a rectangular fire pit, to know how much lava rocks you need to multiply its depth, width and length. After that, divide the product by 19. That is the estimate lava rocks in pounds you should get.

In deciding the lava rock size, for small fire pits go for rocks with 0.25 diameter. For large fire pits, rocks up to 6 inches in diameter are the perfect size.

Maintenance and safety precautions

  • Replace the lava rocks after a year or two of usage
  • Avoid using wet lava rocks because these will explode and blow up
  • Place your fire pit away from flammable objects and keep an extinguisher in close range.
  • Wear safety gear such as gloves and use tools and sticks to handle the rocks.
  • Never pour liquid fuels such as kerosene, liquid propane and gasoline in the lava rocks.
  • Keep the flame minimal, ideally a few inches to a foot. 
  • Keep a safe distance from the fire.
  • When burning wood with lava rocks, do it cautiously and put the lava rocks under the wood.

Best lava rocks for gas fire pits

Now that we’ve discussed why lava rock is a wonderful choice for gas fire pits and other alternatives, let’s have a look at some of our favorite lava rock selections for your fire pit:

Venetian Princess Lava Rocks - Decorative Landscaping Rocks or Gas Fire Pits Rocks, 3/4" (.75") (10 Lbs, Red Lava Rock)
  • Lava Rocks size ranges from 1/2" to 1-1/2" - Available in Black or Red - 10 Pounds or 40 Pounds
  • Lava rocks can be used with Fire Pits, Fireplaces, or Decoratively
  • Lava Rocks is heat proof and ideal usage in Indoor and Outdoor Gas Fire Pits and Fireplaces
  • Calculating How Much Lava Rocks You Need - Circular/Round Fire Pit - To calculate how many pounds of Lava Rocks you'll be needing for your project, simply: Radius (Inches) x Radius (Inches) x 3.14 = Square Inches / Then Divide the Square Inches you have by 16 = Number of Pounds you'll be needing (This is calculated for the optimal depth for Lava Rocks of 2" Deep)
  • Calculating How Much Lava Rocks You Need - Square/Rectangular Fire Pit - Width (Left & Right) x Depth (Front to Back) = Square Inches / Then Divide the Square Inches you have by 16 = Number of Pounds you'll be needing to get how many pounds of Lava Rocks you'll be needing (This is calculated for the optimal depth for Lava Rocks of 2" Deep)

This Venetian Princess Lava Rock is certainly a fantastic choice for gas fire pits, as seen by hundreds of rave reviews. This listing is a cheap alternative because it comes in a pack of 10 pounds of lava rock for less than $20. This option is also available in a 40-pound bag if you have many gas fire pits on your property or a really large gas fire pit.

These fascinating lava pebbles are from Asia and have a lovely gray, oval shape. They’re shockingly cheap, and they come in 20-pound packages. You can buy these lave pebbles in a single bag, two bags, three bags, or four bags (for a total of 80 pounds of rock).

What are the alternatives to lava rock?

If you are still not satisfied with lava rocks or if it is really not for you, you may want to consider the following alternatives:

  • Fire Glass – This is not your typical glass. Fire glass crystals have undergone a tempering process in order to make them safe and heat resistant. It can withstand extreme temperature as these do not burn, melt or discolor.
  • Tumbled Lava Rock – You can use this tumbled lava rock as a base in your fire pit. They are more smooth-edged and uniform in shape than your traditional lava rock.
  • Sand – If you are on a budget, sand can provide you a good quality of heat distribution. It might not be as attractive as lava rocks but it is cost-effective.
  • Dirt – This is low cost, still heat resistant, and easy to install on your fire pit. However, you need to scoop it out and replace it once ash from your fire mix with it.

Final Thoughts

Lava rocks are perfect for your gas fire pit not just because of its looks but also because of the characteristics mentioned in this article and the protection it can offer. However, the decision is still up to you. Just be certain that there is really a need before you buy that bag of lava rocks and bring it home. Otherwise, you may regret the purchase.

Last update on 2021-10-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API