It’s that time of year again where we while away nights by the fire with a cool drink in our hands. The only downer about that is that fire pit seasons almost always correspond with the thunderstorm season. Fire pits can be expensive, so when I bought my last one, I wondered if it was necessary to spend the extra cash on a fire pit cover. After the first big storm of the season I started to wonder; do fire pits need to be covered?
The answer is a resounding yes, and not always for the reasons you think. There are several reasons why your fire pit needs to be covered, and each is as important as the last. What is most important is that for the sake of your investment and your safety, your fire pit should always be covered after use.
To find out why it is important to spend the extra money on a fire pit cover, check out this list of reasons along with a few other questions and answers that you will find helpful.
What Are the Risks of Not Covering My Fire Pit
There are surprisingly several risks involved with not covering your pit. Most will lead to the eventual need for a new fire pit, so these are costly mistakes to make.
If you have a wood-burning fire bowl, the biggest issue is rust. Not all fire bowls are susceptible to rust, but a few are, and I have seen fire bowls rust out of the bottom. A rusted out bowl is not only useless but dangerous if you still try to use it.
Metal bowls are not the only types of fire pits that are susceptible to water damage; in fact, they are probably the cheapest to fix or replace. If you have a gas or propane fire pit, the cost of twenty covers still isn’t more than what it would cost to replace the damage water can do to the gas lines. If too much moisture settles where the gas lines come up, it can destroy them making your fire pit worthless, and again, potentially dangerous if you try to use it.
Even too much ice and snow in a traditional stone fire pit can lead to problems. Expansion from freezing water can push out on the stone and cause cracks or structural damage to the stone around the pit.
Are There Different Types of Fire Pit Covers?
There are a few different types of fire pit covers, and they all have unique benefits and flaws. Most covers have a specific fire pit use, and it is not uncommon to have two different covers for the same pit depending on the reasoning behind the cover and what time of year it is.
A spark screen is probably the most common type of fire pit cover because they come with most portable fire pits. They are almost always a metal mesh that is usually the same type of metal used in the fire pit itself. While these covers are great for keeping the burning bits in the pit and any unwanted foreign objects out, they don’t do much in terms of protecting the bowl from rain which will soak your wood and eventually cause wear on your bowl.
Rain covers are so different that they could have a category all to themselves. They come in a variety of different fabrics from cheap vinyl to heavy and more costly canvas. These covers need to be fitted to your pit’s shape and size and have elastic or a drawstring to keep them in place during high winds. If your fire pit is a standard size, you shouldn’t have any problem finding a good rain cover, but even if it’s not, there are places where you can custom order one. Like the name states, these covers are meant to protect your fire bowl and anything in it from the damage that water does.
Lids are much like spark screens in their shape and overall function with a few key differences that set them apart. Unlike spark screens that are mesh so you can still see the fire, these lids are solid and won’t let anything through. They are designed to protect the fire pit from outside elements but also protect the outside from fire pit elements. Firepit lids are most often used for in-ground fire pits that are too big for spark screens.
What Should I do Before Covering?
Covering your fire pit right away is not only bad for your cover, but it has the potential for danger. There are a few precautions you should take before putting your cover on.
First and foremost, you want to make sure that the fire is completely out. The best way to do this is to let the fire burn out naturally and cover it the next morning. If that is not an option, the next best option would be to add sand to the fire to suffocate the ashes. Never use water unless you don’t have any other options after all the cover is there to prevent water from getting in.
Once the fire is entirely out, discard the ashes. If you are using a metal bowl, wipe down the inside with a damp cloth to make it look shiny and new. Once the pit is clean, you can move the pit if needed and put the cover on.
Whether you are storing it for the week or the season, another pro tip is to have wood or another object in the pit before you put the cover on. This makes the water run off the sides instead of pooling in the middle and putting undue stress on the cover.
Are There Other Ways to Protect My Pit?
There is no substitute for covering your fire pit with durable, waterproof material, but there are other items that you can add to the bottom of your fire pit to help protect the lining as well as add character.
Lava rocks look cool and are an excellent heat conductor which make them a great addition to the floor of your pit. Unfortunately, they are not fantastic at protecting the bottom of your pit. They are porous, which allows water to seep through and their odd shape invites debris to get lodged in and in between rocks. Still, having something lining the bottom is better than nothing.
Glass is a lot like lava rock, but it has a few more advantages. Many say that it looks nicer than lava rock, but that is a personal preference. It is a great heat conductor and is not as porous as lava rock which helps to keep moisture away from the bottom of your fire pit. The shape of the glass does leave room for debris to get lodged in it and to keep its appeal; fire glass needs regular cleaning.
Do not use sand if you have a metal fire pit. Thick sand will keep ash, dirt, and debris from getting to the bottom of any fire pit, but sand is also great at retaining moisture. That moisture held against the bottom of your fire pit for long periods will cause rust.
It may sound weird, but it is safe and can save you a lot of hassle if you have a metal fire bowl. Before you use the pit for the first time or after you, have thoroughly cleaned it, Find a waterproof spray paint that matches the color of your bowl. Spray the inside and outside of the bowl with the spray paint and allow it to dry according to the directions on the can.
Weather Proof Oil Coating
Oil coating is usable with or without the spray paint coating. By wiping a weatherproof, petroleum-based oil on the bottom of your metal bowl, you can prevent most water damage. The only downside is that it needs a coating every few months, so you need to clean your fire pit thoroughly every few months.
How Should I Store My Fire Pit Cover?
Though you should be using your cover whenever you are not using your fire pit, you won’t always be using it. When your fire pit cover isn’t in use, you should always store it in a dry place like a shed. The last thing you want is for your fire pit cover to get wet and bring moisture to your pit when you put it back on.
If you are using a vinyl cover, take care to fold it carefully when you store it. Cheaper covers will lose their shape or even tear if you’re not careful.
If you are only looking to store it for the night and have no place to put it, make sure that you weigh it down with something heavy. The last thing you want is for your cover to fly away in the middle of the night.
Spark screens and heavy fire pit lids don’t need a lot of care or particular storage, but when they are out of use, it is good to keep them someplace where they will stay clean. This cuts down on the work you have to do cleaning and keeps debris out of your fire pit.
How Long Do Fire Pits Last?
There is no single answer to that question. It all depends on how much you use it, what material it is, and how well you take care of it. Metal fire bowls are cheaper and meant to be disposable so even with good care; you can expect to replace them every five years or less. Nicer in-ground and gas fire pits will last a decade or more with proper care.
Can I Keep My Fire Pit Under and Awning?
As long as there is proper ventilation around the fire pit and you have a spark screen on to prevent stray embers from lighting your awning on fire, there is no problem with having a fire pit under an awning. However, an awning is not a replacement for a fire pit cover; heavy winds can still blow water and debris into an open pit.
How Do I Make My Fire Pit Safer?
We’ve learned from a young age that fire should be respected. If you care enough about your fire pit to have it covered you probably care enough to make sure that it is safe for your family and the environment.
Use the right wood – Some people think that they can throw whatever flammable material they want into the fire pit but burning certain materials is bad for your health. Items like pallets and other building woods are often treated with chemicals that will be released into the air when you burn them. The same thing goes for items like magazines. Instead, choose to burn natural hardwoods that will keep you and the environment safe.
Don’t use inflammatory material – I am guilty of this one. It is frustrating when all you want to do it get a fire roaring, but it keeps burning out. It is tempting to douse the wood in lighter fluid and set it ablaze, but that is not a great idea. Not only is it a safety hazard, but lighter fluid can strip the finish of your fire bowl and make it more susceptible to the elements. Try storing your wood in a dry place and using natural fire starters to get it going.
Inspect it regularly – Inspecting your equipment is always the most boring part of being an owner, but it is important for safety. Make sure that there is no rust and there are not any foreign objects in the fire bowl. If you have a gas fire pit, have a professional check it out once a year to make sure that there are no problems with your lines.
Give it space – A fire pit is meant to be a warm place for the family to gather around, but families can get a bit rowdy from time to time. Teach kids and pets to give the fire pit safe when it is and isn’t in use to prevent possible accidents that could hurt them or even hurt the fire pit or tear the cover when you’re not using it.
Want to use this infographic on your site?