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Fire Bowls 101

Fire Bowls 101- Everything that you want to know about fire bowls and a few things that you never thought that you needed to know.

Adding a fire bowl is a wonderful opportunity to bring art to landscape, as well as to create a warm outdoor conversation area. To make sure that the right fire bowl for your needs is chosen, it is important to consider a few key issues.

When planning for a fire bowl consider the following:

  • The location and the access to the location.
  • The area size/bowl size.
  • The intended use.
  • The energy source.
  • The type of burner: an automatic shut off system or manual light. What style of burner?
  • Why BTU really matter?
  • What to prepare for, and what to expect? 

Natural gas is the cleanest energy source, and though it requires some professional prep work, you will enjoy the clean burning without the smell of burning wood.

Liquid propane (LP) is used ONLY when you do not have natural gas available in the house, and you use LP for all of your needs around the house. The propane tank CANNOT be placed under or next to your fire bowl! LP is heavier than air and therefore tends to sink, so the fire bowl will require ventilation. Fire bowls used for LP have weeping holes created for air flow, and the LP is routed to them from a big tank that supply's energy to the house. 

A 25 gallon tank, (which is 5 times the size your typical BBQ tank), can run for about 4 hours on a typical 120K BTU burner. Most of our sit-around-fire-bowls offer about 120k-180K BTU, so as you can imagine, storing an extra tank and/or running to a retail outlet to fill up your tanks in the middle of a party is not a good solution.  An LP line should always be run under ground, per code; and never with a hose above ground. 

Gel is great to keep your food warm when hosting outdoors, but not a good option for a fire bowl. 

Ethanol burns for a very limited amount of time and requires that you wait for the ethanol to finish burning, then cool down, and then pour more ethanol, and then relight. We do not supply ethanol, or supply the burner for ethanol. 

Firewood is a wonderful fire bowl option to roast marshmallows, or hotdogs without worrying about the burner. However, firewood smells like firewood, and it emits smoke, so it’s not allowed in some areas. Also, if the fire bowl is close to the house, you will smell the smoke in the house, so remember to shut all of the windows. 

Another thing to remember about wood burning fire bowls is that they produce soot - expect to find soot throughout when it's windy.

Bottom line, while some people love the idea of a wood burning fire, especially men (What is it with men and fire anyway?), the relaxing part is coming home from work and unwinding in front of the flames for 20 or 30 minutes. Can you see yourself building a wood fire for 30 minutes of peace? I cannot... it just takes too much time and effort to build the fire and then wait until it's safely out so you can walk away. You'll use a natural gas fire bowl more often, because it does not demand the effort, time, or thought that a wood burning fire bowl requires. A natural gas fire bowl provides all of the benefit without the work.

One of our customers told me that he bought a cheap wood burning fire pit from Home Depot, and counted how many times a week he actually used it. After one month he was ready to order a natural gas fire bowl. 

Mountain View

Wood Burning fire bowls require a drainage hole. The bottom of the fire bowl should be filled with gravel for proper drainage. A rough sand, such as silica sand #20, should be poured on top of the gravel, filling the bowl until 2 - 2.5 inches below the top of the fire bowl. After the sand is poured the firewood is placed on top of the sand, in the middle of the bowl. The bowl in the photo DOES NOT have enough sand.

As always, when dealing with fire caution is required:

  • Never burn huge pieces of wood.
  • Do not burn when it's windy.
  • Make sure that the flame is completely off when you’re done.
  • A Spark Arrestor is recommended, so that embers do not fly. A Spark Arrestor can be purchased at your local Home Depot, and should sit on top of the sand; NOT on the concrete lip as they will leave rust marks on your beautiful fire bowl. 
 
  • Always create a concrete pad under the fire bowl, and make sure bowl is sitting level.
  • Mark the center of where the bowl will sit and run your gas line 1.5 - 2 inches off of the center.
  • Smaller than 36" bowls will have a 2" hole centered and the gas line should come up at the bowl's center. 

WHY? Our Fire Bowls (44” width and over) have a large 6” hole at the bottom of the bowl to accommodate both drainage and to allow the maximum flexibility for the gas pipe. The gas pipe should be set about 1.5 - 2 inches off of the center of the bowl, as most burners have a hookup in the center, and an off center gas pipe allows the flex line to the burner to enjoy less sharp turns and an easy flow of gas, and therefore less whistling. 

  • The gas pipe should extend about 3.5” above ground, and be capped. 

Gas and LP chart will help determine what size gas pipe you should run.

Instruction for fire ring burner installation

Instruction for CrossFire burner for NG installation

IMPORTANT: Always use a licensed plumber to run the gas line per local codes, and always tell him how much BTU you will want to run. Any time you get an estimate from us we will tell you the BTU of the burner.  

Mountain View

  • Always create a concrete pad under the fire bowl, and make sure bowl is sitting level. It is especially important when dealing with Propane NOT to have the bottom of the bowl sit on anything that is soft, and to never bury the bowl in gravel or dirt.  
  • A fire bowl that is built by Concrete Creations for LP use, will have extra ventilation holes around the bottom of the bowl to let air in and out. It is important to keep the holes open and to leave the bottom of the bowl without anything blocking the base. 
  • Mark the center of where the bowl will sit and run your gas line 1.5 - 2 inches off of the center.
  • Smaller than 36" bowls will have a 2" hole centered; the gas line should come up at the bowl's center.

WHY? Our Fire Bowls (44” width and over) have a large 6” hole at the bottom of the bowl to accommodate both drainage and to allow the maximum flexibility for the gas pipe. The gas pipe should be set about 1.5 - 2 inches off of the center of the bowl, as most burners have a hookup in the center, and an off center gas pipe allows the flex line to the burner to enjoy less sharp turns and an easy flow of gas, and therefore less whistling. 

  • The LP pipe should extend about 3.5” above ground, and be capped. 

Gas and LP chart will help determine what size gas pipe you should run.

Instruction for Crossfire burner installation for LP

IMPORTANT: Always use a licensed plumber to run the gas line per local codes, and always tell him how much BTU you will want to run. Anytime, you get an estimate from us we will tell you the BTU of the burner.  

Mountain View

The real question is how do you want to use your fire bowl?

Do you want to sit around the fire pit/fire bowl? If so, go LARGE, as large as you can fit in the space. Why? Because with Concrete Creations a large bowl means that you can have a large burner; a LARGE burner = MORE heat. Remember, our fire bowls are designed to give off real heat. 

However, if you want your fire bowl for ambiance or next to the pool, then you can really select any size that is aesthetically appealing. For a natural looking fire bowl that does not resemble a burning candle however, Concrete Creations recommends at least a 28” diameter bowl.

If you have a professional designer/landscape architect, then you are half way there. With that said, visualization is very helpful.

Mock-up the fire bowl


Mock-up


Mock-up the size of fire bowl in relation to the seating.

Concrete Creations advises that you cut a piece of cardboard to the largest diameter size fire bowl that you are considering. Place the cut-out on top of a bucket or a box, to help simulate the size and height. Place some chairs around the cut-out approximately 1.5 to 2 feet away from the bowl, as that is as close as you will want to sit next to the fire bowl. Now you will be able to see if there is enough space; if it’s too big, cut the card board smaller, until it is the right size for you.  

Yes, of course, a valve is necessary to turn the gas on and off, and to adjust the flame height. In most of our fire bowls the valve will be placed on the side of the bowl. 

However, if you decide to set the valve on the ground, or off of the ground on a bench or wall - there are metal covers available to hide the valve; and to keep dirt from getting into the valve when it is placed on the ground. A key is used to turn the shut-off valve on and off, and to adjust volume. 

The main consideration is to make sure that the shut-off valve is near the bowl and a distance that allows ONE person to light the bowl. Lighting the fire bowl should not be a group assignment.

You do want another emergency shut off in case of an emergency to kill the gas going to the bowl, especially if your main line is far away. 

Never leave the key attached to valve especially if you have children.

Mountain View

Mountain View


 

Concrete Creations recommends that the fire bowl sits level. In earthquake or other natural disaster prone areas, it is best to anchor the bowl, and a concrete pad is recommended. There are two additional 3/4" holes in the base of the bowl for the purpose of anchoring. From the holes within the bowl, the pad should be carefully drilled, rebar placed and cemented down. If the fire bowl is on DG, you will need to have the shut-off valve on the outside wall of the bowl.

Concrete Creations creates most fire bowls with a modification on the inside wall of the bowl to hold a pan at the right height. Concrete Creations cuts the pan to fit the fire bowl. The pan is made from aluminum, with either a stainless steel ring burner sitting on top of it, or a crossfire burner attached to it. The pan enables a cleaner installation as well as easy maintenance. Media, such as lava, glass, or fire stones sit on top of the pan, allowing the rest of the bowl to remain empty. Remember that the ring should NOT be covered with anything other than the media (Lava, glass, etc). Never place the ring UNDER the pan.

The photos show the modification made to the fire bowl to hold the pan for: Stainless Steel Ring on top of pan; and CrossFire Burner attached to the pan. Pans are cut to size. The photos are before and during crating.

Modification inside most fire bowls designed to hold pan.

Stainless Steel ring attached to the pan.

Crossfire burner attached to the pan.

Concrete Creations' fire bowls are custom made and are not mass produced; therefore do not require an UL number. We have been using our fire bowl in our backyard for wood burning, which is much hotter flame than most burners without any issues. As long as the safety guidelines on the burner size and location are followed, there should not be any issues. Media inside the bowl should be fire rated.

The short answer is, yes. 

Bowls that are covered will accumulate less dirt, leaves, etc. During rain the cover will keep water out of the bowl's burner and gas line; and during snow it is part of the winterizing process to cover the bowl.

Concrete Creations offers Marin type water resistant fabric covers that have ties around the bowl near the base of the bowl. Covers are made to fit each of the bowl sizes and are, Made in the USA.

Mountain View

Cover with tie down.

We also offer a wood top cover; however, since it is made of wood, you should still use the the Marin type cover on top... especially during rain.


Wood top in one tone wood

We actually starting making fire bowls totally by chance. Our first fire bowl fabrication was wood burning and for our own home usage… that was back in 2002.

Friends began to ask that we build fire bowls for them as well, and we said yes. We soon realized that there may be a market, so we added them to our Concrete Creations online, and the rest is history. Of course, we first did our due diligence and learned everything that we could in order to give our friends and customers not just the best looking fire bowls, but also fire bowls that would give real heat, and be safe to use.

In the early days, we didn't want to sell the burners and fire media, so we would send our customers to other sources to buy what they needed. It wasn't too long before a nice lady from Maryland insisted that we sell her the entire thing: the bowl, the burner... and all. That's when we realized the importance of offering a one stop shop so our customers didn't have to run all over town to buy all the pieces, and began to sell everything needed. It made a lot of sense - thank you, Sue for making us see the light.

While you're looking for the right fire bowl and doing your homework, ALWAYS check out the BTU rating. Most companies offer 55K - 75K, a few companies offer 100K; and this results in a very small, and inactive and blue flame. Our Concrete Creations are 120K - 180K BTU/hr for our smaller sit around fire bowls, and 250K BTU/hr or more for our larger fire bowls. The reason for our higher BTU is simple - we know what customers want in a fire bowl AND we know what our fire bowls can handle. The burners we provide with our fire bowls are made specifically for the size of our bowls - the flame can always be lowered with a key valve if you want less heat, but you can never have more heat once you have committed to a smaller burner.

If you plan to sit around the fire bowl/fire pit it is very important to have enough pressure to run 150K - 250K BTU/hr, or at least 180K BTU/hr. When running your gas line, always ensure that your licenced plumber is aware of how many BTU's are needed for optimal performance of the burner.

More about burners will come later; however, this is an important issue as we had a customer who realized only after installing his fire bowl, that he did not have enough pressure to run the burner. In the case of too much pressure, a regulator will need to be added to reduce the pressure.

The Electronic Ignition System allows you to light your fire bowl from a remote location NEAR to the bowl; and have an on and off switch; put the fire bowl on a timer.  An automatic shut-off system requires an 110v run to the bowl, or for smaller burners the system can be battery operated.

The Electronic shut-off system also acts as a safety measure. If a sudden gust of wind or rain blows the fire out, the system will attempt to re-ignite itself up to 3 times; if unable to reignite, the Electronic Ignition system will shut off the gas supply to the fire bowl.


Simplicity Edge with 24V Premium Electronic Ignition System, and crossfire burner. We also offer the 24V Honeywell Electronic Ignition. 

Warming Trends Installation Instructions

Some areas DO have local codes that require an Electronic Ignition system. In addition, it is best to use the Electronic Ignition system in commercial applications, as in a commercial application unlike in your home, the fire bowl might be on a timer, and not always closely watched.

It makes sense to consider an Electronic Ignition System for your home if you have a few fire bowls, as it will enable you to light them and turn them all off with just one switch.

For just one home usage fire bowl, which will be sat around and watched, it may not make as much sense to spend the money. On the other hand, the peace of mind knowing that if the fire is blown out for any reason, then the gas or LP supply will be shut down after 3 attempts, might make it worthwhile.

In windy conditions, or during rain, the fire bowl should NOT be operated; and Concrete Creations advises to cover the fire bowl.

Never leave the fire bowl unattended. A fire bowl is a feature designed to enjoy WHILE sitting around it.

Concrete Creations offers two types of burners: the standard stainless steel ring and the crossfire burner. Each of the burner types offer multiple BTU strengths and different sizes.

Concrete Creations provides the burner pricing and BTU options with your fire bowl quote. The crossfire burner is not made out stainless steel, but rather brass, and mixes air with the gas, therefore burning 50% less gas than the stainless steel ring.

We use Warming Trends LLC., located in Colorado, for the crossfire burner - for both Manual Light and Electronic Ignition. We find that most of our clients LOVE the way the flames look and feel.

Our stainless steel burners are made by Hearth Products Control based in Ohio.

No. The flame from the stainless steel ring has a different appearance than the flame from the crossfire burner.



Please watch our short video comparing the stainless steel ring and the crossfire burners.

Concrete Creations' fire bowls are made out of concrete and are therefore heavy. If you are considering a large fire bowl, measure the access to the area where you plan to place the fire bowl. Make sure that you can have a pallet jack on-site to wheel the bowl to its placement location. Talk to us... Concrete Creations is happy to help you with the assessment of the situation.

Our fire bowls are designed to do what a fire bowl should do... keep you warm when sitting around the bowl with friends and family. We want you to enjoy the same options that we wanted in our own family fire bowl - a great design, a natural look, and real heat. If you're not warm when sitting around your fire bowl, you won't use it as often as you should; and you'll miss out on the hours of chatting with friends and family, or just sitting quietly absorbing the ambiance.

Most of our smaller, 36 - 40 inch fire bowls are intended for sitting around - like you would sit around a fir pit, and have a least 120K - 180K BTU/hr, unlike most other companies who offer 55K -75K BTU/hr, and this results in a very small, inactive and blue flame. Our larger bowls have up to 250K BTU/hr. The burners we provide with our fire bowls are made specifically for the size of our bowls. Make sure that you take a minute or two to read more about why BTU matters in Fire Bowls 101.

It is an honor and validation of our hard work to have customers call on us for advice, on how to shlep their 54 inch, 1000 pound fire bowl from California to the east coast. You see, this particular customer accepted a job offer, but loved his Concrete Creation fire bowl so much that he just couldn’t leave it behind. Can you imagine? We can, because it wasn’t the first time that we took a call like that... or the last.

We are very proud to offer such a quality product that customers need to take their fire bowls with them, or purchase another fire bowl for the new house, even after many years.


In a process similar to ancient clay pottery techniques, our concrete pots and bowls are hand turned on a large wheel while layers of cement are applied onto iron reinforcement. When this process is utilized with cement as well as fibers and other additives, it increases the strength and durability of the pot or bowl tremendously. All Concrete Creations' products are enhanced with a clear interior and exterior sealer protection for water feature usage, as well as for the freeze and thaw process.

Our Products are not made by machine, nor are they poured into molds. They are handmade - a hand thrown process that is unique to Concrete Creations. The finish and coloring is not always uniform because it is hand sponged. You can expect slight variations in the finish or color; this is normal for our handmade products and enhances the beauty of each piece.

Concrete Creations appreciates your business and works hard to ensure that the process of specifying and or purchasing our beautiful products is pleasant and seamless. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of any assistance. We are here to answer your questions and help.

Over time the concrete will patina and age with natural character. Sometimes the concrete might develop small hair line cracks, or surface cracks. This is normal for concrete, however, in our products these changes over time will not break the bowl. We use different additives to reduce cracking and shrinkage, and are constantly working with new materials that are being developed.

Concrete is easily scratched or chipped; if rubbed or hit against metal or other concrete it will damage.

Pots and bowls will need to be sealed every 1-2 years depending on exposure. Sealer is available from Concrete Creations.

Concrete Creations warranties its products, when purchased new, to be free from defects in Materials and workmanship under normal use and service for one year from the original provable date of purchase. Replacement or repair at the option of Concrete Creations of the defective part shall be the sole remedy of this warranty.

Concrete Creations' products are packed and crated in specially built wooden crates. We make every effort to pack and protect all shipped products, including the purchase of shipping insurance; nonetheless, damage does rarely occur during shipment. In the effort to avoid unnecessary problems please adhere to the following simple guidelines:

  • A designated person should always be present at the project site to receive the pots, even if the shipping company suggests that it is not necessary.
  • Have a person with power tools to make the opening of the crate easier.
  • The shipment should always be inspected carefully for exterior damage to the box at the time of delivery.
  • Please call Concrete Creations if there is any damage.
  • Please write all damage onto the bill of landing and have the driver sign the bill; and take photographs.
  • Whether there is damage to the exterior box or not, please open the boxes carefully while the driver is still present. The walls of the crate are nailed together and the top is screwed down onto the walls.

If Concrete Creations delivers the fire bowl, and you provide 1-2 people for man power, as well as easy access, we will HELP place the bowl on top of the gas line.

Please make sure that the access and clearance is wider than the width of the bowl, and let us know of any obstacles such as steps, etc. There is always a solution to every obstacle, but we need to know about it ahead of time so we can prepare.

We sometimes need to use a Sideway Jig to help place the bowl on its side in order to fit through smaller openings. Please watch this Youtube video example: How to put bowl on its side jig The customer will need to supply 4 strong people to help for 20-30 minutes in this case.

Always talk with us prior to delivery.

Many customers send us photos or videos of the path to place the bowl so we can advise them on the best approach.

  • Make sure that your walk-way and/or gate is wide enough, and that the way is paved. If the path is not paved, be ready with some pieces of 3/4" plywood.
  • Measure all access and all gates where the bowl will pass through. DO NOT guesstimate. MEASURE the narrowest point.
  • The easiest way to move the bowl into place is to rent a pallet jack and wheel the bowl next to its designated gas line. If you do not have a pallet jack, an option is to request to use the driver's and tip him.
  • Do not strap the bowl or pot directly; if you need to lift the bow with a crane of some type make sure to strap the crate, NOT the BOWL. Talk to us ahead of time if you plan to crane the bowl or pot into place, as it will require that we build special crating.
  • Concrete Creations has a video on our Concrete Creations You Tube Channel showing how to place the bowl at the gas line without real lifting, or damaging the bowl. Please be sure to watch the video and "like" us while you are visiting.
  • The fire bowl should be installed by a licensed plumber, and per local codes.
  • Support for the burner is available from the burner manufacturer.
  • Many possible issues can be avoided by talking with us, and preparing accordingly. We are happy do help with whatever you need; and are available to Facetime or Skype any time.
  • Installation of a crossfire burner and an automatic shut off system.
  • Please watch the Installation instruction video.
  • VERY important DO NOT PLACE PAN on edge without something soft in between the burner and the concrete. Concrete scratches and chips easily.
  • Any questions about the CrossFire burner please call MIke from Warming Trends at: 877-556-5255

*For a manual system, ignore the electrical part of the instruction. 

  • Gas line approx. 1" off the center of the bowl for an easier installation


    Always protect bowl from scratches. Metal will scratch bowl.

Gas and LP chart will help determine if your gas line pressure is sufficient for the BTU.

Instruction for fire ring burner installation

Instruction for CrossFire burner for NG installation

Instruction for Crossfire burner installation for LP

Warming Trends installation instruction




NEVER place your face or any body part over the fire bowl when turning it on. Make sure other adult, child, or animal is above or near the fire bowl when lighting the fire.

ALWAYS LIGHT a long Match lighter FIRST and hold it above the fire bowl very close to the fire glass or lava - Make sure it is still lit BEFORE you turn the gas key to light your fire bowl.

Remember: SAFETY FIRST, if the fire on the match lighter did not stay lit on the first try, close the valve wait a few minutes prior to trying again. 

Do NOT light your fire bowl when it's windy outside as the flames travel from side to side. 

NO!

You must ALWAYS be present when you fire bowl is working, whether your system is automatic or manually controlled.

Our fire bowls will not get too hot to touch on the outside. Only the portion of lip close to the fire may become too hot to touch.

If your fire bowl stands outside in the sun on a hot summer day, it will get hot... just like concrete floor. 

Always Use Common Sense: do NOT allow children touch the media (such as lava, glass, fire stones, etc.), or the lip close to the fire, and never leave your fire bowl unattended by an adult while it is on.

Regular cleaning of dust can be completed with a clean damp sponge and a mild detergent.

All of our Concrete Creations, including our fire bowls will age, and might get water marks. Most people view the water marks as part of the natural look of aging concrete; however, if it bothers you there is a way to clean the water marks.

1) Prepare and Mix: 5 parts water to 1 part white distilled vinegar. (Adjust the strength as needed. You can also use commercial grade hydrochloric acid for cleaning).

2) Wet the outside surface of the bowl thoroughly with clean water.

3) Use a plastic brush with soft bristles to brush affected areas with the cleaning solution, to remove whitening or staining.

4) Hose the affected areas off with clean water immediately once the whitening or staining has cleared, or when a change in appearance is observed.

5) Repeat the process at least two times to ensure efficiency of the acid solution. If only slightly improving, reduce the ratio of water to acid and repeat the same process.

6) Once the surface is clean, let dry for 24-hours, and then reseal immediately for protection.

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