Among the many choices you have when selecting a fire pit is an equally abundant variety of fire pit materials. From traditional copper and cast iron to higher end materials like stainless steel, powder coated steel and granite, making a decision can be daunting if you don’t know where to start. You can begin by thinking about how you want your fire pit to complement the distinctive quality or character of your backyard decor. Maybe it’s just a simple warm shiny accent you can take in from a lounge chair or maybe you want something more elaborate yet durable for entertaining. Either way, you must first learn what options are available to you.
The most economical way to build a fire pit. Guages will vary from lightweight to heavy. The high heat paint finishes will usually last a year or less and your fire pit will require refinishing after time with a high heat paint readily available from your local hardware store. For those on a budget, this is a good starting point.
A fire pit with a natural rusted patina finish is typically made by treating the surface of high carbon steel with a rust antiquing solution. The solution actually rusts the steel very quickly and various depths of texture can be accomplished depending on application. Because the rust only penetrates a small amount into the metal, the overall integrity of the fire pit isn’t compromised much. However, weathering can take its toll on rusted steel over time. Keep this in mind when choosing rusted steel as a material. It makes for a great authentic western look without the need to paint but won’t last as long as other materials.
Stainless steel’s high resistance to staining and corrosion make it an ideal material for fire pits. The metal also has a naturally high melting point so a fire pit bowl made from stainless steel is very durable and resists weathering quite well. Various types of stainless steel appearances can range from an unpolished mill finish to a very shiny luster. Many fire pit designs use a combination of stainless steel types and other metals to achieve just the right look that is both tough and easy to maintain, using just soapy water and soft scouring pad to clean or with wipes available for kitchen appliances.
Powder Coated Steel
Powder coating is a finishing technique where powdered paint is actually melted on to the surface of a metal. This creates a chip-resistant coating which is typically used on the metal frames of fire pits but may raise the cost of the fire pit as compared to other fire pit materials as it is one of the most durable coatings. Available in a multitude of colors vary from black to brown. Sometimes a manufacturer will allow you to order a custom color if desired. Powder coated steel is also easy to maintain and can be cleaned with a soapy water solution and a soft cloth.
Like stainless steel, copper has high resistance to corrosion and is very durable. It is also a great conductor of heat. Combined with its high luster appearance, it is the most popular among fire pit materials. Copper is primarily used for the fire bowl because it is soft and malleable, being easily formed into various bowl shapes which gives you a variety of designs to choose from. But be aware that copper fire pits are generally more expensive than other fire pits because of the cost of copper. They also require some maintenance because a thin patina can form on the surface over time from oxidation, which requires buffing to return the surface to its original luster.
Cast iron is a very heavy metal that comes in a several colors, typically dark gray and white. Used in chimineas or as a stand for other fire pit styles, cast iron has great heat retention, perfect for those cold evenings where radiant heat is a priority. Cast iron resists corrosion better than regular steel and can be coated with special heat resistant paint, which may be needed to restore the original look due to weathering over time. Because of it’s weight, consider whether or not you want a portable fire pit made from cast iron. It may be difficult to move around easilybut if you don’t want it to blow over or want more permanance, this is a good choice.
Low maintenance cast aluminum has the advantage over most other fire pit materials because of its very light weight. Larger fire pits are easier to move around since although they might be bulky, the fire pit is easier to lift than steel or copper one. Cast aluminum is typically used as the stand or frame of a fire pit and can be shaped into a variety of forms due to its ease of manufacturing. While some aluminum stands or frames are left with a natural finish as it does not rust, some are powder coated for improving resistance to scratching and weathering. Some chiminea bodies are also made of aluminum up to 3/4″ thick: preventing warping or cracking from the heat.
Ceramic is a versatile material which works great for fire pits because it can be made into many shapes, is very resistant to heat, and can be colored during the manufacturing process. Table top fire pit bowls, chimineas, fire table surfaces and fire logs can all be made of ceramic. The material weathers very well and requires little or no maintenance. But they are not very durable when struck because like pottery, the material is brittle, chipping or cracking easily.
Usually made of glass fibre reinforced concrete to lighten the weight, concrete can be molded to intricate shapes. You will find it forming the top surface or base of fire pits. It is fire resistant and cool to touch. One of the heaviest materials but at least your fire pit won’t blow away any time soon.
Poly resin is a unique material in that it is a special liquid that is poured into a mold which when cured can simulate other material textures such as stone or wicker. Used for the base of gas fire pits, which hides the propane or LPG tank, resin is very durable,sturdy and lightweight requiring little if any maintenance. And because it is lightweight, a resin-based fire pit can be moved around the patio or backyard with ease.
Granite is a very heavy rock-based material used for the table tops of fire pit tables and bars. It is an expensive, highly durable stone, resistant to scratching and provides a beautiful addition to any backyard decor. Granite comes in a variety of colors and can be finished either naturally or polished to a shiny luster. Because of its weight, it should not be used if you want to move your fire pit around. But it weathers very well and can be cleaned with stone cleaner or stone polish found at any of the big box stores.
Take Your Pick
This material list covers the most common materials used in prefab fire pit construction. Most fire pits are made from a combination of fire pit materials, each adding a little something to the overall look. Powder coating is best used for frames and bases for ultimate durability while copper and stainless steel are used for a nice shiny metallic look. Aluminum is great for its lightweight and resin is a must if you want alot of design options. With all of these materials available and in combination with your style choices, you should be able to have the perfect and distinctive fire pit that fits your needs.