By J. Herwick
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You've got a new propane or natural gas fire pit and you naturally want to keep it looking good and working to spec. One of the easiest ways to make that happen is to protect your fire pit or fire table from the “elements,” rain, hail, wild animals, the kids from the neighborhood, etc., by using a gas fire pit cover.
You may have received a cover with your gas fire pit but the ones that come in the box are cheaply made and rarely hold up more than a couple of seasons. That is if you are even using it. Whether you've purchased a gas fire pit for $3,000 or $300, the question of whether to use a cover or not is a no-brainer.
Let's move on…
Generally speaking, gas fire pits should be covered when not in use. Covering protects the burner and structural components from the elements, minimizing oxidation (a.k.a. rust) and other damage to metal surfaces. Covers also keep small animals and insects from making a home in and potentially damaging your fire pit.
Besides keeping your gas fire pit clean and dry, fire pit covers and a variety of other proactive steps will extend the life of your fire pit and keep your overall cost of ownership to a minimum.
Common Gas Fire Pit Problems Related to Weather and Pests
Direct exposure to sun, wind, rain, snow, intense heat, extreme cold, etc., and the presence of common rodents do a number on all your property left outside throughout the year. Some of it is designed for that and some aren’t.
Even if the weather in your area is pretty mild, items you own are breaking down structurally in your backyard and will fail at some point, just at a much slower pace.
Your gas fire pit is one of these items and like most things you’ll start to have problems at some point if you don’t protect it.
Damage from The Elements
Let's cover a few things that are going to give your gas fire pit trouble if don't protect it adequately.
Fire Pit Rust Due to Moisture
Damp conditions, whether in the form of rain, fog, humidity, etc. can wreak havoc on the metal components of your fire pit. Stainless steel doesn’t mean rust-free, it means rust-resistant.
Even the most well-made gas burner assemblies will experience rusting at some point, there's really no getting around it.
In addition, the fire pit’s metal housing, frame, and all the little metal fittings (screws, washers, hinges, etc,) that make it work are susceptible to rust too.
As fire pit parts rust over, they will eventually begin to weaken. For parts exposed to high-heat conditions, the destructive effects of oxidation will speed up.
Fire pit rust is going to be the primary reason you should use a fire pit cover. Rust will literally eat away at your propane fire pit if you let it.
Fire Pit Damage from UV Rays
From the moment you set your new gas fire pit on your patio, the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays will begin to break down the plastics, paint coating, rubber, and any other materials it's made of, that are exposed to direct sunlight.
Combining this with the other environmental elements, it's not surprising how quickly things start to deteriorate and eventually fall apart.
The first sign of this breakdown is the fading of a surface’s original color. It doesn’t get any better from here if fire pit components are continuously exposed to direct sunlight.
Fire Pit Damage from Pests
Two problems arise from the presence of rodents i.e. rats and mice. Besides making their home in your fire pit and leaving their feces and urine wherever they like, rats and mice may decide to chew through your rubber gas line or the insulation covering the wires to your ignitor.
Insects, nesting and accumulating in your gas fire pit’s burner, ports, venturi tube, etc. can cause blockages and other performance-related issues.
Selection and Use of a Gas Fire Pit Cover
Covering your gas fire pit when not in use is just one step in keeping it working right and looking good. Regular inspection and preventive maintenance along with regular use of a fire pit cover are what will give your fire pit a long life.
Just putting a cover on and calling it good is not a silver bullet. More on inspecting and maintaining your gas fire pit in a bit.
With that out of the way, let's talk about selecting a cover and how to use it to protect your fire pit.
Shopping for a Gas Fire Pit Cover
Unless your fire pit came with a cover made just for it, you will most likely have to buy a third-party pre-manufactured or custom fire pit cover.
|“…look for fire pit covers that offer a weather-resistant material, such as plastic, metal, or outdoor fabric. A cover should fit tightly enough that strong winds won’t work it loose and send it sailing.” (Source: HGTV)|
Let’s go over some of the basics of selecting a cover that’s right for you:
- Remember when shopping, a larger cover is better than one that is too small and doesn’t fit properly
Looking at the quote above from HGTV, I would replace the word “tightly” with the word snug, if that can be achieved – if your cover fits and it's a little oversized, it can be cinched down with its adjustable straps and/or elastic drawstring, if those features are present
- Measure and record the height of your fire pit from the uppermost edge to the ground, as well as its length and width; if you have a round gas fire pit, record the diameter (i.e. edge to edge, not around) since that is how they are typically sold; see “how to measure” graphics below for more
- Narrow your options down by round, square, or rectangular cover depending on your situation; a round fire pit cover will work on smaller square gas fire pits so consider them an option as well – be careful though about fit on the corners, as they will chafe through over time if the cover is too tight
- Select options with bottom edges that do not touch the ground when placed over your fire pit; you don’t want a cover that will bunch up at the bottom causing the edge to chafe, moisture to accumulate, etc.
- Look for covers with a shock-cord drawstring and spring-loaded cinch for tightening, and/or adjustable straps that click together to keep the cover secure to the fire pit in high wind situations, and to prevent moisture, critters, and insects from getting inside
Using Your Gas Fire Pit Cover
Let’s go over a few pointers you can use each time prior to when you plan to cover your fire pit.
These tips will help your fire pit continue to perform well and save you time on the next occasion that you use it.
- Common sense here, but make sure your gas fire pit is completely cooled before covering it
- Turn off the gas supply
- Wipe down all surfaces and make sure your burner pan is clean and dry and that all drain holes are clear of obstructions
- Consult with your manufacturer or installer before using a general-purpose cleaner on your fire pit’s surfaces
- Remove metal surface rust as needed from unpainted metal surfaces with metal polish or other methods prescribed by your manufacturer;
- Remove your fire pit’s wind guard (if applicable) and store it safely until the next use; you risk damaging it when covering and uncovering your gas fire pit
- Consider placing a moisture-absorbing product/desiccant like DampRid (Amazon link) in the cabinet portion of your fire pit prior to covering – this will help keep the internal space drier and help prevent the rusting of internal metal parts; recommended only if your gas fire pit has a completely enclosed “cabinet” space underneath
Some Final Gas Fire Pit Cover Tips
- Take your time when measuring your gas fire pit for a cover. You know the saying in woodworking, “measure twice, cut once?”; the saying applies here as well, but instead of cutting you are buying your cover
- Save yourself the trouble of having to return a non-fitting cover to the store or online supplier; see the gas fire pit cover measurement how-to graphics above
- If you’ve bought an expensive fire pit, don’t go cheap on your cover; check to see if your manufacturer/installer makes or can point you to a cover specifically made for your model fire pit – they may even give you one if you ask nicely (they should, especially if you just plunked down a lot of money)
- If you buy from a third party, don’t overpay, but make sure to focus on fit and good construction; there are a lot of cheap junk covers on the market that will fade and have wear holes in a matter of weeks
- If you can’t make up your mind or are waiting for a custom cover to be made in the interim, a nylon tarp with a few bungee cords will work in a pinch – it won’t look that great but it will protect your fire pit until you have a long-term solution
- If you have trouble finding a solid gas fire pit cover locally or through traditional online channels, check out the Coverstore or Covers & All for a wide variety of pre-made and custom fire pit covers; both make a good product, offer lots of options, ordering is easy, and they have sales all the time
- I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at the pricing both of these vendors provide; if you have other items on your patio to cover (a grill or smoker, patio furniture, etc.) they can help you there as well
- Use your cover; get in the habit of using it every time you have a fire
Conclusion: Do Gas Fire Pits Need to Be Covered?
So, to conclude, do gas fire pits need to be covered? They do if you want your fire pit to run well, retain its good looks and stay low-maintenance.
It's a small and relatively inexpensive tool for keeping your fire pit in good working order.
Consistent, long-term use should give you many more years of strong performance, regardless of nature’s attempts to put your fire pit out of commission.
For more tips on protecting your fire pit and property check out my article Fire Pit Placement: Picking the Right Spot for Your Fire Pit.
Thanks for reading!