Outdoor fire rings are great additions to a property for spending time with your family and entertaining.
Before putting one in, though, you’re asking: are galvanized fire rings safe? What do I need to know when buying, installing, and using an outdoor fire ring?
Table of Contents
- Are Galvanized Fire Rings Safe?
- Is Galvanized Steel Good For A Fire Ring?
- Steps for building any outdoor fire pit
- Will A Galvanized Fire Ring Rust?
- Final Thoughts
Are Galvanized Fire Rings Safe?
A galvanized fire ring is completely safe when used properly. Building a fire pit with a galvanized steel ring is a great DIY project. Putting the ring and pit in a well-ventilated area and 15-20 feet away from buildings, trees, vehicles, tanks or other flammable material are the main safety keys.
Is galvanized steel toxic when heated?
The technical answer here is, “Yes.” Galvanized steel, heated to extremely high temperatures, in areas with poor ventilation and/or someone being exposed to it at very short distances for prolonged periods of time, is toxic.
Think of a welder, doing hours of work, in small, confined spaces. It is toxic to breathe in the zinc oxide – and get what’s called Metal Fume Fever – if you’re exposed to galvanized metal heated to hotter than 1,500 degrees celsius at a range of two feet or less.
A wood fire outdoors burns at a temperature from 600-1,000 degrees celsius.
But don’t worry, you won’t get those temperatures from an outdoor fire pit. You won’t sit that close to the fire in a place with limited oxygen. Even those two things were true, you wouldn’t be exposed to those two variables for long enough periods of time.
While a galvanized steel fire ring is safe to use in a well-ventilated pit, it is not considered a safe surface to use for cooking.
Galvanized steel rings or containers are safe and fine for boiling water, for using as garden troughs or pots, for water collection, and for animal feed.
For food storage, non-acidic foods can be kept in galvanized steel containers. Acidic foods – such as pickles or tomatoes – need to have a liner, such as paper or plastic, if kept in a galvanized ring or bucket.
A wood fire, outdoors, in a galvanized steel ring, is safe.
A study by Eurofins EAG Materials Science in 2020 found using such a ring in an outdoor, wood fire is:
“no danger to people standing or sitting near the fire. If the fire ring is being used in a ventilated area as expected for a wood fire, then exposure to any small amounts of zinc will be insignificant.”
Is Galvanized Steel Good For A Fire Ring?
A galvanized fire ring is a great addition to your homestead, cabin, yurt, or farm. Galvanized rings are durable. They make the pit safer to use and maintain. They can be more customizable than a pre-made fire pit kit.
Is it safe to use a galvanized tub for a fire pit?
A galvanized tub from your local farm and feed store is a great DIY option for installing an outdoor fire pit. Be sure to set the tub 10-12″ into the ground and only use it outdoors in a well-ventilated area away from buildings, trees or flammable materials.
Steps for building any outdoor fire pit
Whether you use a steel ring, another metal ring or a fire pit kit, smart and well-planned set-up leads to years of safe usage and enjoyment.
- Start with space – Location, location, location is a major decision for a new fire pit.
- You want room to enjoy it. You need room to take care of ventilation and safety. The pit should be 20 or more feet away from any building, trees/tree limbs/plants and any flammable material.
- You’ll want to chart out a space with enough room for furniture and for the chairs and tables to be a safe distance from the edge of the pit.
- More on distance
- This isn’t the next step of the project, however, building a stone, brick or lava rock border around the inner ring achieves multiple goals. It can be as plain or as decorative as you like.
- More important, it keeps everyone – especially think small kids and pets – a safe distance from the fire, it keeps the fire from escaping the confines of the ring, and it keeps everyone a safe distance from all fumes – with wood being more of a potential concern than steel and zinc.
- Fine print – If you’re excavating, it’s the law and a good idea to boot to call 811.
- Depending on your neighborhood or zoning, any change to a yard or patio might have to be approved by a council or association.
- Covering the bases
- On a patio, fire-rated bricks are a good start for the bottom of the pit. On grass or soil, steps include removing a few inches of the turf and soil, compacting and leveling the area, putting down a layer of paver gravel, building the outer wall of stone or brick and inserting the steel ring.
- In case of emergency – You should always keep a fire extinguisher and a source of water or sand near a fire pit.
- A fire should be fully extinguished before leaving a pit and leaving small children or pets alone for any length of time near a pit counts as the fire pit being unattended.
- More ideas
- For safety or ease, consider having a way to clean out and easily dispose of ashes from your pit. Building or buying a way to cover the ring and pit from rain or snow
Will A Galvanized Fire Ring Rust?
A galvanized fire ring will rust… in two or three generations or more.
Moisture – as in constantly wet, not just regular old July high humidity – pollution and other chemicals can corrode the zinc on galvanized steel faster. Even then, we’re still talking decades.
Galvanized steel meant for outdoor uses should have a hot-dipped zinc layer. It routinely lasts 70-100 years before there’s corrosion.
Locations with little pollution, drier and cooler climates, and rural areas are the best for the longevity of galvanized steel.
In a 2004 study by the Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering, a zinc layer on galvanized steel protects the surface for
- 10 years in a “wet or soaked” environment.
- 34 years in a environment with a relative humidity constantly at 100%.
- 211 years at a relative humidity average below 60%.
There is something primal, and relaxing about an outdoor fire pit. They keep you warm on those chilly nights and provide a special kind of glow and lighting that is best shared with family and friends.
A galvanized fire ring is perfectly safe for outdoor use as long as you follow a few best practices. Keep it away from buildings and trees in a well-ventilated area. Don’t cook your steak on it (save that for the grill!) and follow all the normal fire safety procedures.
Good luck and thank you for reading.