Updated April 21st, 2023
Keeping your outdoor fire pit safe from pooling water should be a priority when setting up your pit. Most of the backyard fire pits we use are made of metal which over time will rust if left exposed to water and wet conditions. Long term exposure to water can rust away any metal fire pit. If the rainy season is about to start, you should be thinking about how to keep your fire pit from filling with water. Here are a few simple ways to keep your fire pit safe from filling with water.
Does Your Fire Pit Need Drainage or Coverage?
Yes, your outdoor fire pit needs to have a drainage system or protected coverage during the rainy season or snowy weather. Let’s have a quick look at why covering up your fire pit and allotting a drainage system is essential. If your fire pit is not protected from water, the water will:
- Rust away your metal firepit making it ugly and greatly reducing it’s lifespan
- Rust and debris carried by the water will clog burners and vents reducing the efficiency of your fire pit
- Water and residual ash will create a difficult to clean up mess in your fire pit
- Rusty and clogged burners are difficult to ignite making your fire pit hard to start
To keep your metal or gas fire pit performing well you must keep the water out of your fire pit.
If you have a wood burning stone fire pit or one built with fire brick that has no metal and nothing to rust, you may not need to worry about covering it. There is nothing there that can be damaged by water. If it’s out in the middle of your yard, nothing is going to happen when ash spreads over your grass.
5 basic ways to keep your fire pit from filling with water
1. Store it in a covered area
You can keep your fire pit indoors or any place that has a cover over it to protect it from rain and sunlight. It can be your basement, garage, storeroom, or spare corner of your home. Lightweight and portable fire pits are easy to move and store in a dry safe location. Wood-burning fire pit, portable propane fire pits, and other portable fire pits can be moved and kept under a roof. An in ground fire pit built into your yard or deck can’t be moved so you need to use other options.
Never try to move a fire pit that is still hot. Make sure your fire pit has cooled down first. If it’s a wood-burning fire pit, let it cool down and clean out the leftover ash before moving it. A fire pit can take up to 24 hours to cool down entirely. Keep this in consideration to avoid any messy mistakes.
2. Use a tarp
Using a tarp over your fire pit is a swift and easy way to protect it from rain and sun damage. Tarps work for virtually any type of fire pit whether it’s a portable fire pit or a permanent outdoor fire pit. This works for a wood burning fire pit, copper fire pit or stone fire pit. Don’t forget to keep your propane tank under the tarp as well. If you are using a wood burning fire pit, use a tarp to cover the firewood too.
You can use any basic tarp from Walmart or Home Depot to cover your fire pit. This is a low cost option for those who don’t want to spend money on a pre-made custom fit fire pit cover. For an in-ground DIY fire pit you may not be able to find a pre-made fire pit cover. You may have to make do with a regular tarp in that case.
Never put a tarp on a hot fire pit. Tarps and canvas covers are flammable and will melt or burn when exposed to high heat. Let your fire pit cool down for a few hours before putting a tarp over it. As a general rule, if your fire pit is too hot to touch, it is too hot to put a tarp on it.
3. Using Pre-made synthetic or canvas cover
Pre-made covers made from canvas or synthetic materials are the choice of modern fire pit users. They look much better than a standard tarp for those who care about the appearance of their fire pit when not using it. They work well for All Types of Fire Pits. These poly-vinyl covers are very popular and available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. The material is resistant to weather, water, and heat. They are lightweight and easy to fold for storage when it’s not raining out.
You can find almost any shape of fire pit cover on this range. You can get matching fire pit and patio furniture covers for a stylish coordinated look.
4. Drilling Drainage Hole
In-ground and metal fire pits need a drainage hole for water to drain out. If you have an open and in-ground fire pit in your backyard, you must have drainage for your fire pit. Otherwise, water will pool inside your fire pit causing it to rust. It can severely damage your fire pit burner making it difficult to light. If you have not already built it, don’t forget to make drainage for your fire pit. You can put a 12 inch layer of gravel under the fire pit. Use a metal grate on top of the gravel to keep debris out of the gravel. This should give sufficient area for water to drain to under our fire pit.
If you built a fire pit on top of a patio slab, you need to consider the drainage. You can use a drainage pipe from the bottom of the pit to drain water away from your patio. If you’re building it over brick or pavers, you can remove them from under the fire pit to create drainage.
If your metal fire pit has no holes for drainage you might consider drilling a few at the bottom of the basin. This will allow rain water to drain. It will also allow any condensation that forms while it’s under a tarp or cover to drain also. You can use a metal shower drain cover to cover the holes so ash and other debris don’t fall out of the fire pit through the holes.
5. Using Lava Rocks or Sand Gravel
Lava rocks and sand gravel enhance your gas fire pit and work as the natural drainage system for your fire pits. Most gas and propane fire pits are perfectly compatible with lava rocks. The rocks cover the burners giving them some protection from the rain. Lava rocks don’t serve much purpose in a wood burning fire pit since they just get covered with ash and you will end up shoveling most of them away when you clean it up.
While building an in-ground fire pit, a 1-inch layer of sand gravel with 2-3inch lava rock will work the best. You can use this water protection on an in-built fire pit too.
However, while using lava rocks make sure they are completely dry before turning up the heat on your fire pit. Moisture trapped inside lava rocks can cause them to explode. If your lava rocks are wet, heat them up slowly and allow them to dry out before allowing anyone to be close to your fire pit. It is a good idea to put a metal grate over the fire pit to contain any exploding rocks until they have had a chance to dry. River rock and river gravel are not appropriate for use in fire pits.
How do I fix my fire pit if it got wet and rusted?
Most fire pits can be cleaned and the rust removed if they got wet. All hope isn’t lost just because it sat out in the rain for a long time. See the below video for some tips on how to clean up your fire pit and remove the rust if it did sit out in the rain getting wet for a long time.
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- Can You Put A Propane Fire Pit On A Wood Deck? 8 Helpful Fire Pit Tips
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About the author
My name is Doug Ryan. I am a homeowner and love having get togethers and finding the best things to make spending time at home easier and more fun. We spend a lot of time at home so why shouldn’t we have a great time there? I decided to start Great Home Gear as a way to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for all things home living with everyone.