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Can I Use Rust-Oleum on a Fire Pit?

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rusty fire pit

We all love warm summer nights, gathered around the fire pit with friends and family, roasting hotdogs, and sharing old stories. But after a few seasons of enjoyment, your old fire pit is looking like it may need a makeover. Can this be done – and is it safe? 

Painting a fire pit requires a high-heat paint. After researching the best spray paints for high heat firepits I came across several that are supposedly specifically made for grills or firepits, but if you look at their fine print, they say not to use anywhere that is exposed to flames. Several high heat spray paints are rated up to 1200 degrees, which is ok for the OUTSIDE of a grill or firepit.

The best way to get started on any DIY project is making sure that you do it right the first time. In this article, I have compiled everything you need to know to refinish your old fire pit, from what paint to buy to how proper maintenance can prolong your beautiful handy work.

Why is Rust-Oleum High Heat Spray Safe for a Fire Pit?

Rust-Oleum High Heat Ultra Enamel Spray is specifically designed to withstand temperatures up to 1200℉, making it ideal for BBQ grills, wood stoves, and fire pits. But only on the outside and nothing that has direct contact with the flames.

A metal fire pit can reach temperatures up to 800℉, and regular Rust-Oleum paints can only withstand up to 200℉. Rust-Oleum High Heat Ultra Enamel Spray is also designed to be a rust-preventative and provides deep color and sheen for continued protection from the elements. 

How to Paint a Fire Pit with Rust-Oleum 

Figuring out what paint to buy is step zero of your DIY refinishing project. The next steps listed below will help you prepare your fire pit before painting to make sure that the new paint job will last for many more summer evening wiener roasts and fire lit conversations.

You also need to remove rust from your fire pit before spraying.

Acquire Materials for Painting Your Fire Pit

Here is what you’ll need to prepare for your DIY fire pit rejuvenation: 

Clean, Scrub, Rinse, Paint

The next tasks are pretty straightforward. I would highly recommend doing the painting outside, allowing for ample space to not get paint on anything else or breathe in the fumes.

  1. Rinse and wash the fire pit with soapy water and a stripping pad. This is to remove any ash and other debris. Make sure to do the whole entire surface and rinse when done. Let it dry completely.
  2. Use the sandpaper to remove any built-up rust and chipping paint. This creates a rough surface for the paint to stick to. Don’t be afraid of using some elbow grease.
  3. For Heavy Duty Rust removal. Use the wire brush to really clean off all the rust from your fire pit.
  4. Put on your gloves and apply denatured alcohol. Use a washcloth to apply this to the fire pit. Make sure to not get any on your skin; wash the entire surface of the fire pit with the alcohol. This removes any dust from sanding and any other substances that would impede the paint from sticking. Let dry for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Once dry, place the fire pit on the drop cloth. Shake each spray can for 1-2 minutes. Start spraying the paint, moving in a back-and-forth motion 10 -16 inches from the surface, slightly overlapping each stroke. To avoid dripping, apply two or more light coats a few minutes apart. Do not use near an open flame.
  6. Allow to dry completely. It can take up to two or more hours to dry, depending on temperature and humidity. Allow for a few hours of drying time in cooler temperatures before heating. Paint may emit smoke and harmless odor.

What Causes a Fire Pit to Rust?

Oxidation (rust) occurs when metal is wet and exposed to oxygen. Over time rust can eat away the metal until there’s nothing left. Not all metals rust at the same rate. 

Stainless steel or galvanized steel, will take much longer to rust, versus copper or cast iron that will gradually degrade over time starting at first use. Rust will inevitably occur on your metal fire pit, but with these next few tips, you can slow down the process and keep your fire pit looking its best for years to come.

Upkeep for Your Newly Refinished Fire Pit

Give yourself a pat on the back! You turned your rusty old fire pit into a beautiful shiny piece of patio art. Next, let’s go over what it takes to keep your fire pit looking its best for all the years’ worth of summer birthday parties yet to be thrown.

Clean Out Your Fire Pit After Every Use

Leftover ash absorbs moisture right out of the air and sits right on top of the heat exposed metal. That will undoubtedly cause rust. Once the coals are out completely, dump them in a safe place, or use a shop vac to remove the ash. 

Pro tip: Ash is really good for garden soil. It gives you a boost of carbon to make your plants happy. Mix it into your topsoil or compost.

Protect Your Fire Pit for Extended Periods of Time

Unless you live in the middle of the desert, you most likely experience a wet season. During times that you are not using your fire pit, it’s best to keep it out of the elements in a garage or under a patio. If these aren’t options, you can buy a weatherproof cover from your local hardware store.

Apply Oil to Exposed Metal

After removing the ash, take vegetable oil (or any cooking oil) and apply it lightly to any exposed metal on the fire pit. The best way to apply the oil is to take a cloth and put a few drops on it, then wipe lightly onto the metal. 

Make sure that the oil isn’t dripping off. The oil will fill the pores of the metal, preventing water from coming into contact and forming rust.

Repair Minor Damage

This step is exactly like the whole process of doing a complete refinishing, but only as a spot treatment. When you start to see small rust spots, follow the same step-by-step process as listed above. This will undoubtedly keep your fire pit looking fresh year after year.

Can You Use a Rusted Fire Pit?

Some amount of rust is harmless and is going to happen no matter how hard you try. If your fire pit is completely rusted out the bottom, resulting in fire escaping and causing harm. The best thing to do with that is taking it to your local recycling center and saying goodbye. 

Other Brands of High Heat Paints

The major issue to keep in mind when shopping for high heat paint is what surface you are using it on. Not all of these high heat paint brands are rated for the same heat resistance. Many of the paints below are advertised as automotive paints used on engine parts that are subjected to very high heat.

When working with direct flame heat, like a barbecue, fire pit, or wood stove, it’s best to get the highest heat-resistant enamel paint. A fire pit or wood stove can get as hot as 800℉ to 2000℉, which renders any other paint insanely flammable and useless. 

Can You Use Regular Spray Paint on a Fire Pit?

The only paint you should be using on an indoor or outdoor fire pit is one that is rated for high heat, typically around 1200℉. The high heat enamel spray paints are specifically designed to withstand extremely high temperatures and are rust preventative, ideal for wood stoves, radiators, barbecues, and fire pits.

How Long Are Spray Paint Fumes Flammable? 

To err on the side of safety, you don’t want to spray your fire pit in the morning and roast marshmallows the same night, for sure. Give the paint time to settle. Overnight should be enough. 

If working indoors, it can take up to 2 -3 days before the paint fumes will air out enough to not be flammable. That is why it’s best to work outdoors, as opposed to inside of your garage or shed, during this project.

Final Thoughts

Beginning a new DIY project can be daunting. Luckily Rust-Oleum has come to the rescue with an inexpensive and easy-to-use fix that will leave your party guests wanting to know all your secrets.

Be sure to checkout our other articles on fire pits, such as how to safely put out a fire pit, and figuring out why your fire pit may be whistling.

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Jena Slocum Co-Founder

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  1. I have a copper “bowl” fire pit with a black powder-coated domed screen that sits over it. We do not use a grate in the fire pit –the burning wood sits right inside the copper bowl. And of course, the flames sometimes lick the fire screen. Can I use the Rustoleum rated for 1200 degrees to paint both the bowl and the screen? It says not to use it if the surface will be in direct contact with the the flame. Yet, it continues to say that it can be used for fire pits and fire screens. I’m confused. What is the worst that can happen if we use the Rustoleum Ultra High Heat? Thank you in advance for clarifying this for me.

    1. Hi, thanks for the comment. Honestly I’m not sure what happens when that particular paint is in contact with direct flames, but if it was me, I would call Rustoleum customer service to get their expert opinion. Here is their customer service number 1 (877) 385-8155. Thanks and hope you have many wonderful nights enjoying your fire pit!

  2. Thanks for the information, since you note that Rust-Oleum is only for the outside of the fire pit, is there anything we can use to paint the inside of the pit? Thanks!

    1. Hi, thanks for the question. Unfortunately we’ve only been able to find high heat paints up to 1200 degrees Fahrenheit. Firepits burning wood can burn at over 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. The paint may be ok inside the firepit or it could burn off giving off toxic fumes, which is why Rustoleum advises not to use it on the inside. Good luck with your project!

  3. What do you think about spray painting the top screen that covers the fire pit? Mine is rusted. I put CLR on it and the rust came off. However I need to now paint it so it doesn’t rust again. But it will be directly over the flame and if the flame gets high it will touch it or go through the screen.

    1. Hi Brian. Thanks for the question. I would try the high heat rustoleum on the screen. It may or may not flake off again, but it’s worth a shot and might save you some money rather than buying a new screen.

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