How to Maintain Your Outdoor Furniture & Fire Pits
With backyards and patio retreats getting more attention and use than ever before, we’ve seen a rise in questions regarding how to maintain the materials—such as wood, metal, and concrete—popularly used in patio furniture and outdoor fire features. In this article we’ll highlight a variety of these materials and provide ways to protect them from the wear of weather and regular use.
- Teak, Acacia, Bamboo, & Other Woods
- Iron, Steel, Cor-Ten Steel, & Copper
- The Power of a Fabric Cover
Teak has been a popular material for patio furniture for years, but is quickly gaining popularity in fire features as well, with styles such as this EcoSmart Fire Gin 90 Teak Low Height Fire Table.
With a variety of compatible styles and looks, natural woods are an increasingly popular material for outdoor furniture, and in recent years, even fire pits. The greatest traits of these woods—their natural texture and color—can also be their most troublesome traits. If left untreated, these natural woods can turn gray; their color changing from a vibrant shade to a much more subdued hue. This is especially the case with the most commonplace type, Teak wood. That isn’t to say the fading is undesirable. Some enjoy this more subtle look, particularly in coastal stylings. However, untreated wood will degrade in durability over time, as moisture seeps into it. If you prefer to maintain the rich color of your wood, or wish to hold onto it for many years, using sealant is a fantastic way to prevent weathering.
There are two types of sealants: clear sealers and colored stains. When applied to your wood furniture or fire feature, sealers do a good job of locking out moisture and protecting the natural tones from fading due to the sun and other harsh weathers, such as rain and snow. They create a thin barrier for a few years that will provide much better protection than just leaving the wood untreated. Meanwhile, colored stain can be partially or fully pigmented, and because it offers an additional layer—not just a clear coat—it is more effective at protecting the wood and will more significantly extend the life of your furniture.
Pro Tip: If you choose to utilize a colored stain, whether partially or fully pigmented, it is best to test it on the bottom of your wood, or somewhere else that won’t be too visible if the color doesn’t end up being to your liking.
We recommend visiting your local hardware store to pick up either type of sealant, as they’re likely to have a good variety to choose from. And for both the clear sealer and the stains, before you coat the wood you should give it a thorough sanding, moving with the grain. This will open the wood up more to the sealant, ensuring a complete and long-standing application. Once sanded, use a rag or a specialized brush to apply your stain; again going with the grain. Make sure to get all parts of your wood, even the bottom and hidden areas, to ensure all around protection. Then give your furniture two or three days to air dry, and it should be well-protected for a few years at least. Make sure to read the label on the specific sealant or stain you select, as their instructions and guarantees may vary.
Pro Tip: In addition to reviewing the guarantees on the sealant or stain you use, also be sure to check the warranty details on your furniture or fire pit. There might be guidelines on what alterations you can make without voiding the warranty. And, your product might already be treated with some sealant or similar finish, so be sure to read through the owner’s manual or reach out to the manufacturer to find out. You don’t want to mess with it if there is already a protective coating—otherwise you risk inadvertently damaging the product.
There are a variety of metal materials used for furniture and fire pits alike. Pictured here from left to right: Starfire Designs Largo Moreno Copper Fire Pit, OW Lee Chat Height Basso Iron Fire Pit, and Bentintoshape Cor-Ten Steel Fire Pit.
Metals of all kinds are loved for their versatility of design and impressive durability, so it’s no wonder that they remain the most popular material for both patio furniture and fire features. Unlike stainless steel, which is renowned for its innate rust and corrosion resistance, iron, steel, cor-ten steel, and copper are all materials that do weather over time—if left untended to.
Iron and steel for the most part require little preventative measures if pre-treated by the manufacturer—especially if they are coated in a zinc finish—but they can still age if not taken care of. To maintain the appearance of the metal and prevent rusting, we recommend simply making a habit of washing dust and dirt off your product with a mix of water and mild soap, and ensuring the pieces air dry quickly. Do this at least once or twice a year; preferably when the weather is warmer so the water doesn’t stick around for long. If you do end up with rust, chipped paint, or scratches, most manufacturers do offer touch up kits.
Pro Tip: Most mid to high end furniture and fire pits are pre-treated by the manufacturer, but consult your owner’s manual to confirm. If it’s already finished, then you’re free and clear. If you’re not sure, reach out to the manufacturer to confirm. And if it turns out it isn’t finished, you might want to consider going to your local hardware store and checking out what options they have for metal sealers.
Cor-ten steel (sometimes called corten or weathering steel), exceptionally popular for fire pits, will begin showing a patina of orange and brown when left out. This is, for the most part, desirable. One of cor-ten’s selling features is that when weathered, it creates a one-of-a-kind piece. As such, we don’t recommend any maintenance for them. But because of the constant change in their hue, if your item reaches a specific color that you’re quite fond of and want to keep, you can use a clear sealant to help prevent further patina from developing. As with iron and steel sealant, try your local hardware store for a variety of options. For fire pits specifically, however, we do recommend maintaining the inner burner area with routine cleaning—just clear out the ashes and wash with some water and mild soap—to ensure your fire stays fully functional and safe.
Pro Tip: When left untreated, your weathering steel is left exposed to the weather, but also to damage such as scratches and chips. This can add more to the rustic appeal, but if that isn’t something you want to see, definitely consider using a sealant or selecting another metal type.
Copper, another popular material for fire pits, is available sealed and sometimes unsealed. If unsealed, it will behave similar to cor-ten, only instead of a brown patina it will develop a green one. As with cor-ten, if you prefer the more rustic look there’s little for you to do—just let nature happen. And if it reaches a specific patina appearance that you like, or if you want your unfinished fire pit finished, give us a call. We offer a specialized copper cleaner and beeswax sealant that we use on our own copper fire features. For the most part, copper fire pits are shipped pre-sealed to resist weathering. These pre-sealed units, such as our own Copper Canyon and Moreno fire pit lines, should be cleaned with a mix of—you guessed it—water and mild (non-alkaline) soap on a semi regular basis. The same specialized cleaner we sell for unsealed copper fire pits can be used for sealed ones, as well. The cleaner you keep the copper, the more you’ll be able to enjoy the unique look.
Pro Tip: Sealed copper fire pits, depending on the sealer that was used, should not be used with certain cleaners. For example, our own Copper Canyon and Moreno fire pits should not be used with Brasso or other standard copper cleaners, as they will strip the sealer. Specialized cleaners are a must!
Less popular for furniture, but increasingly favored for fire pits, concrete features such as this Prism Hardscapes Tavola 1 Gas Fire Pit bring texture to any outdoor space.
An increasingly popular material, for furniture and especially for fire pits, concrete is easy to keep in tip-top shape. The key to maintaining a pristine appearance is quite straightforward: regular cleaning and a concrete specific sealant. You can certainly get away without a sealant, but regular cleaning is a must. A mix of water and mild soap, paired with a rag, make for a quick 10-minute cleaning session that will do wonders to keep your concrete like new. The more frequent you can do this the better, but aiming for at least twice a year will be adequate—we recommend at the beginning and end of fire pit season.
It’s also worth noting that if you or your guests accidentally spill anything atop your concrete fire feature, it’s best to get that cleaned right away. You don’t want anything seeping into the porous material and becoming a permanent stain. Additionally, if you’re weary of any damage or discoloration befalling your concrete furniture, utilizing a specialized concrete sealer would be a good option. Such a sealant can be obtained at your local hardware store.
Pro Tip: Concrete is the most porous material on this list, so when we recommend cleaning spills right away, we really mean it. If you spill wine on untreated concrete and let it set, your natural tone concrete will quickly turn a light red, and it’ll be darn near impossible to get rid of.
Fabric covers, such as these by Treasure Garden, are available for all types of patio furniture, umbrellas, and fire pits, and are an easy way to protect your investment during off-season.
Perhaps the simplest and most popular way of protecting your furniture or fire pit is to purchase a fabric cover. Utilizing a fabric cover when you aren’t using your product will protect it from sun damage, dust, water, and just about any other element occurring outdoors. Many brands offer specialized covers for their individual products, which provide a snugger fit around your favored piece. If a specialized cover is not available, however, there are many generic ones on the market—just make sure to precisely measure each piece that needs covering. Covers should be tight enough to keep debris out, but not too tight as to retain any moisture.
Pro Tip: Keep an eye out for higher quality fabric covers that include some form of vent or mesh, as well, as those will help prevent mildew.
The Art of Maintenance
Finding the right material for your space can be easy if you have the right help. If you're interested in something like this OW Lee Luna Chaise Lounge, or any outdoor living items, give us a call.
Whatever material it is that you’ve selected for your outdoor furniture or fire feature, being aware of the maintenance required is definitely a good idea. Knowing your options for maintenance allows you to weigh costs and benefits, and to determine what the best option is for your and your space. We hope this guide helps provide some insight, but please also make sure to read the specific recommendations provided by the manufacturer of your exact product. If you have any further questions on maintenance, or have finally decided on the material you want and are ready to begin shopping, please feel free to reach out to our helpful staff via our live chat, by calling us at (866) 578-8538, or by completing this contact form.
Main Image: This all steel OW Lee Pacifica Dining Set provides a modern yet rustic look to this outdoor entertaining space. Mixing metals with woods can bring even more character to a yard.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Starfire Direct's Product Manager, Emily manages the ecommerce team responsible for all of the products on the website. When not working, she enjoys tending to her many indoor plants, spending time curled up with a good book, and going on adventures with her dog, Sophie. She is an NFI certified Hearth Design Specialist.