How to Maintain a Fire Pit

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Sitting near a warm fire on a cool night is a perfect night for many. Outdoor fire pits allow many to do just that. Entertaining around the glow of a fire creates a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere. To continue enjoying the comfort and coziness of a fire pit, maintenance is necessary. Manufacturers make fire pits from different types of metal including cast iron, copper and steel. Homeowners construct fire pits from natural stone, firebrick or concrete block. Each type requires upkeep to keep the fire pit in good working order, lengthen its life and preserve its beauty.

Things You'll Need

  • Lidded steel bucket
  • Tarp or fire pit cover
  • Screwdriver
  • Wrench
  • Wire brush
  • High-heat paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Masking tape
  • Furnace cement
  • Putty knife
  • Scrub brush
  • Bucket
  • Washing soda
  • Temperature-resistant mortar
  • Trowel
  • Broom
  • Grout bag
  • Grease-fighting laundry or dish detergent
  • Hose
  • High-pressure nozzle

General Maintenance

  • Empty the fire ash 24 to 48 hours after each use into a lidded steel bucket. Fire ash can continue to smolder for up to 14 days after the flames die. Wear heat-resistant gloves and use a small hand-held shovel to remove fire ash.

  • Burn only wood or manufactured logs made expressly for fire pits. Do not use accelerants to start fires or while fires are burning. Accelerants will shorten the life of a fire pit from the generation of excess heat.

  • Cover fire pits with a large tarp or fire pit cover when the fire pit is not in use for an extended period.

Metal Fire Pits

  • Examine the fire pit for loose screws or bolts before each use. Tighten screws and bolts with the appropriate screwdriver or wrench.

  • Check for signs of peeling paint, rust and other corrosion on steel and cast iron fire pits. Brush off peeling paint, rust and other corrosion with a wire brush until you expose bare metal. Apply a coat of high-heat paint with a paintbrush to protect the surface from further rust and corrosion. Allow the high-heat paint to dry for 12 to 24 hours before using the fire pit.

  • Apply masking tape on either side of a crack or split. Press furnace cement into the crack with a putty knife to seal small fractures less than 1/4 inch wide.

  • Scrub the interior and exterior of the fire pit with a dry scrub brush to remove loose matter and then wash the fire pit with a 1/4 cup of washing soda dissolved in 1 gallon of water. Dip a stiff-bristled scrub brush into the water and scrub all fire pit surfaces including grates and screens. Rinse thoroughly with plain water. Typically, this is the only cleaning and corrosion maintenance necessary for copper fire pits. Scrubbing a fire pit with washing soda removes creosote, which is a byproduct of wood burning and is highly flammable if left on the surface.

Masonry Fire Pits

  • Check the fire pit for loose stones, bricks or blocks and cracks or crumbling of mortared joints.

  • Remove the loose brick, stone or block and brush off loose mortar with a wire brush. Mix temperature-resistant mortar with water in a small bucket, wet the masonry surface with plain water, spread the temperature-resistant mortar on the brick, block or stone with a small trowel and set it in place.

  • Pick out loose pieces of mortar from between masonry units by hand. Brush the joint vigorously with a wire brush and sweep away dust and debris with a small broom. Wet the mortar joints with plain water. Load temperature-resistant mortar into a grout bag, place the grout bag tip into the joint and squeeze in new temperature-resistant mortar. Let the mortar set and dry for two to three days before using the fire pit.

  • Fill a bucket with warm water and add 1/2 cup of grease-fighting laundry or dish detergent. Submerge a scrub brush into the mixture and brush onto the masonry surface. Direct a hose with a high-pressure nozzle at the fire pit to rinse off the cleaning solution.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wear rubber gloves, eye protection and a dust mask when cleaning fire pits.
  • Do not position fire pits within 20 feet of buildings, trees, shrubs or accelerants.
  • Do not burn pressure-treated wood as it emits noxious fumes.

References

  • "2,001 Amazing Cleaning Secrets"; Jeff Bredenberg; 2004
  • "New Fix-It-Yourself Manual: How to Repair, Clean, and Maintain Anything and Everything In and Around Your Home"; Reader's Digest Editors; 1996
  • Asia Direct, Inc.: FAQ
  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
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