One of the most commonly asked questions regarding steel fire pits is, “will it rust” or “how long before this rusts.”

In short, while specially formulated high-heat enamel paints with anti-corrosive agents reduce the rate at which rust forms, you will still likely experience surface rusting to varying degrees over the lifespan of your fire pit.

In this article, we will cover what to expect when purchasing a steel fire pit when it comes to rust.  

What is Surface Rust?

Surface Rust refers to a top layer of red/orange rust that begins to form on steel from exposure to water and oxygen. Most steel fire pits are prone to rust over time from exposure to the elements and regular use. While rust is a form of corrosion, structural damage is dependent on the thickness of the steel and can be mitigated with fire pit maintenance.

At Iron Embers, we utilize industrial quality materials when constructing our fire pits which can be left entirely unprotected and used year-round without risk of structural damage caused by rust. Surface rust will form on the fire pit but will not rust through like comparable low-cost alternatives.

Factors That Cause Surface Rust

At a basic level, rust on steel can be attributed to three main factors;
WaterOxygen, and Time/Use.

Weather is the top contributor to surface rust forming on any outdoor patio furniture made with steel. Consistent exposure to rain or snow will drastically increase the rate at which rust can build up on steel products. 

Similarly, when the protective paint coating deteriorates or is damaged, the bare steel exposed to the open air will oxidize, spurring the development of rust.

Over time, as you continuously use your fire pit, the likelihood of rust forming is nearly unavoidable. It is a natural part of fire pit ownership, but with an industrial quality fire pit, surface rust is a cosmetic issue rather than a structural point of failure and should not be cause for concern.

How to Mitigate Surface Rusting

While there is no surefire solution to fully ensure that the steel does not show its true colors, there are methods for mitigating the rate at which your fire pit might form surface rust.

The number one best practice for avoiding rust is to use a fitted tarp cover to protect your fire pit from exposure to the weather when not in use. By protecting your fire pit with a tarp cover, you reduce the exposure to the corrosive impacts of seasonal precipitation in your area. For best results, only cover your fire pit when the unit and surrounding area are dry to ensure no moisture is trapped underneath the tarp cover.

Alternatively, you can preserve your steel fire pit by moving it to a dry storage area like a garage, shed, or outdoor structure when not in use or during the winter months. 

Removing ash can also have a positive impact on reducing rust build-up. When ash is left in the base of your fire pit, it may retain moisture from the surrounding environment and rust the interior surfaces of your fire pit.

The 10-Year Guarantee and Surface Rust

The Iron Embers offers limited paint coverage related to the initial curing process, completed when you apply heat to the paint for the first time. The Iron Embers 10-Year Guarantee is based on the structural integrity of your fire pit and focuses on Workmanship and Burn-Through.

The Guarantee does NOT provide coverage for any surface rust that will naturally form on your fire pit over time. However, surface rust can be easily maintained with our available touch-up paint and maintenance procedures outlined in the next section. 

Repairing Surface Rust on a Steel Fire Pit

When surface rust does appear on your Iron Embers fire pit, you can easily maintain it with simple tools available at any hardware store. To repair rust from your fire pit, you will use a wire brush or wire wheel to gently pass over the affected area until the bare steel is exposed. Then, ensure the spot is free of steel dust, debris, and moisture before applying a light layer of matte black high-heat enamel spray paint.

Watch our two-minute maintenance video on repairing surface rust >

Zero Tolerance? Explore Stainless Steel Options

Everyone has a different tolerance level for how much rust they are willing to let accumulate on their fire pit. With our 10-Year Guarantee on the structural qualities of your fire pit, maintenance is the most cost-effective solution for Iron Embers fire pit owners when rust begins to form.

However, there is a solution for those interested in burning with Iron Embers but have zero tolerance for rust. While significantly more costly, stainless steel material options can be used to construct any of our standard fire pit designs and are backed by an extended lifetime guarantee. As a result, fire pits built with stainless steel materials are unlikely to show any surface rust and can be left exposed to the elements without concern.

For more information on Stainless Steel fire pits, request pricing by emailing our team of fireside experts at