Tips for Maintaining Your Fire Pit
Keep your fire pit functioning perfectly this season with these simple suggestions.
Adding a fire pit to the yard or patio creates a cozy focal point for your outdoor living space. Available in a wide range of sizes and styles, fire pits are great for outdoor entertaining or a quiet night at home any time of the year. But maintenance is key! Use these tips to keep your pit in tip top shape.
Choose a Good Location
To start, choosing the right spot for your fire pit strongly impacts how easily it is maintained. Consider finding an area that has some wind protection to avoid scattered ashes or smoke problems. Any nearby trees should be pruned regularly for safety. It is recommended that a distance of at least 10 feet in diameter around the pit should be kept clear of yard debris.
Reduce the Risk of Cracking
A hot fire in cold weather conditions can put stress on your fire pit. To avoid cracking, a common issue, masonry fire pits in cold regions should have footers extended to the frostline or be built on a reinforced concrete base. In addition, all cracks in your fire pit should be evaluated, even if some are only of cosmetic concern. Patch any severe cracks before continued use.
What to Burn
While wood burning pits are considered pretty forgiving, avoid burning trash or pressure treated wood, as they can release harmful toxins that are unhealthy to breathe and can damage pit surfaces. Dry, split wood is best to burn, with broken pallets or leaves and sticks found in yard used as kindling to help get the fire started. Do not burn green wood, and try not to use accelerants, which can be dangerous and can damage or discolor the fire pit.
If at all possible, flames should be allowed to subside naturally. While it is imperative to keep water available for emergencies, keep in mind that dousing an active fire by pouring water on it can result in rapid temperature changes that can crack or damage the pit.
Shoveling ashes from the pit should be done regularly due to the acidic properties of the ashes that can cause long-term damage to fire pits. Consider keeping a metal ash can closeby to collect ashes the day after having a fire. Keep in mind that embers can smolder long after a fire has subsided. Use caution when clearing ashes and douse any ashes with water that may contain hot embers.
Cleaning Masonry Fire Pits
Residue buildup may become an issue over time with masonry fire pits. If that’s the case, they can be cleaned using a solution of one part muriatic acid to nine parts water. Scrub the interior and when clean, rinse with water and allow to dry 48 to 72 hours before using
Since gas pits are fueled by natural gas or propane, easy to use, safe and considered low-maintenance, they make an excellent choice for patios. They generally produce less heat than wood fire pits, but are an “instant” fire and alleviate any messy ash issues. To keep a gas fire pit in good working order, check fuel lines regularly and keep the burners clean to encourage proper gas flow.
Metal Fire Pits
The most common issue with metal fire pits is rust buildup. Remove surface rust by scrubbing with a stiff wire brush and wiping away the residue. To minimize rust development, consider applying a protective coating like oil or silicone. Choose one that is appropriate for the type of metal you have, and be sure to consult with manufacturer instructions before applying any surface treatments.
Using a Cover
An easy way to extend the life of your backyard or patio fire pit is to shield it from the elements. Whether a simple vinyl cover or something more substantial and ornate, covering your fire pit can add years to its life.
While it’s true that using a screen can take away from the beauty of an open flame, many prefab fire pits include flat or domed screens to reduce the spread of embers. This not only reduces char and clutter, but increases safety.
Be sure to clean any grates or other cooking surfaces promptly if you plan on using your fire pit to cook. Grease, juices and food residue can build up on the inside of the fire pit over time, causing stains and encouraging deterioration.
Tools for Fire Pit Care
A simple fireplace tool kit goes a long way in keeping your fire pit looking and functioning in top form. Must-haves are an ash scoop, a long poker, and some tongs for moving logs around and keeping them burning evenly.
A permanent fire pit can usually handle year-round weather conditions without a lot of maintenance. However, if you have a portable one, it should be stored under cover, or in a garage or shed during extended periods of time when not in use. This will save a lot of cleanup time and help you avoid any mechanical issues from being exposed to the elements.