An ash pan could be classified as a fireplace accessory or tool. As wood burns into ash, the ash falls through the grate or down from the andirons and accumulates into a pile on the fireplace floor. An ash pan, which is merely a pan that collects the ashes, can be set underneath the grate or andirons, making disposal of the ashes easier. Though most frequently seen as a practical accessory for wood burning fireplaces, an ash pan could also be used with barbecues and outdoor fireplaces.
Much like other accessories, including grates, screens, shovels, and pokers, you can purchase an ash pan from fireplace accessory retailers. Some fireplaces found in homes with basements are designed to eliminate the need for this pan because they feature a trap door in the fireplace floor, opening to a chute that can be accessed from the basement. Ashes can then be swept out of the chute and into an ash bucket. For fireplaces where this feature is absent, an ash pan is a practical accessory.
Rather than sweeping and shoveling ashes into a bucket for removal and disposal, which is a messy job, an ash pan is already in place to catch and collect the ashes. This makes for easier clean-up between fires and actually saves time, both of which are benefits to homeowners who frequently build indoor fires. Considering that ash pans are not terribly expensive accessories, they are rather advantageous.
As an accessory to an outdoor fireplace, pit, or barbecue where wood is used, an ash pan serves an equally advantageous purpose. Some barbecue grills have removable ash pans for easy cleaning and disposal, but more often, people build their own outdoor fire pit and try to piece together various accessories. You can purchase ash pans of different sizes, making it easy to complete an outdoor fire pit and barbecue. When purchasing an ash pan for an indoor fireplace, be sure to measure the fireplace opening ahead of time in order to buy the right size.
As with any fireplace accessory, use caution when inserting and removing an ash pan. Since the majority of pans are made of iron or other metal, they become extremely hot and should not be removed and the ashes disposed of until they have cooled completely.