Today, we’re providing an update on our DIY outdoor mid-century fire pit conversion and rounding up our favorite fall fire pit accessories.
We’re frequently asked about how our DIY Preway outdoor fire pit has held up over the years. Originally designed for propane operation in 2016 and then converted to natural gas in 2018, the fire pit transformation has been a fun journey that has provided countless cozy evenings outdoors with friends. Myself and a group of neighborhood dads even braved the elements and hung out around the fire pit almost every Friday last winter. We sometimes found ourselves in ski pants and long johns, but the fire pit certainly took away the sting of the bitter cold so we could interact safely with other humans, if even for a couple hours. Below, we’re answering our most frequently asked questions, followed up by a roundup of our must-have accessories regardless of your fire pit’s fuel source!
What Type of Powder Coat Did You Use?
First, I think it’s important to mention that we initially tried to DIY a high heat paint job on this salvaged Preway fireplace. We picked it up for a steal on Craigslist, and wanted to give it a facelift that would match the style of our yard and home. Here’s a quick glimpse into the original finish and our attempt at a high-gloss black:
We loved it, but the first extreme temperature dip in Chicago (which is certainly not uncommon!) caused the finish to crack. We needed a more permanent solution, so we decided to give powder coating a try!
We used a high heat powder coat that is often used in automotive applications and for mobile BBQ pits. If memory serves correctly, it’s rated for direct flame contact up to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. We used Fox Valley Sandblasting & Powder Coating and if you’re in the Chicagoland area, we highly recommend them. They were affordable and easy to work with and even offered pick up and delivery services. This is how it looked after the initial assembly. (Hi CC!)
How is it Holding Up and How Does it Look Now?
The coating is incredibly durable and still does the exact job it was intended to do, but it’s not 100% perfect forever. After 5 years of use, where it was covered every winter except for last year (since we used it all throughout quarantine) it’s developed a patina that we love! We’re believers in the fact that as things age, they develop character and soul (shoutout to my graying temples) and that it’s near-impossible to keep most things looking brand new forever. As long as the functionality isn’t effected, we’ll keep the fireplace as-is. If it starts to develop rust where it shouldn’t, we’ll take her in for another powder coat.
How is the Natural Gas Conversion Working Out?
The natural gas conversion was a game changer! The initial setup using standard propane tanks usually worked well, but each tank would only hold up for around 4 hours of use, so we found ourselves keeping a few spares on hand for longer gatherings. During cooler weather, we also had issues with the tank valves frosting and freezing up, rendering them nearly useless and killing the vibe.
When we renovated the garden apartment a few years ago, the kitchen walls and ceiling were all opened up, so we had access to nearly all of the gas lines in the house. Our contractor agreed with us that this was likely the last time we’d have easy access to the interior gas lines, so it was now or never to run a line out to the backyard. Since the access was easy, we only paid for supplies and a couple of hours of labor and it was well worth the expense! The natural gas burns hot and clean and warms the whole patio without the interruption of swapping tanks for as long as we need.
How Do You Keep It Protected In the Winter?
We knew that even with the specialty powder coat, Chicago winters would take their toll on the on the steel fire pit. After tons of research, we found a local company that professionally repairs bounce houses and party rental tents. We sent them precise measurements of the fireplace and they sewed a custom cover for us that fits like a glove! We usually put the cover on in early December and remove it on the first nice day of spring. It cost $175 or so and was completely worth the investment!
Anything You Would Change?
Not now! We’ve already implemented the changes that we wanted to make. We learned a hard lesson with our first failed attempt at high-heat spray paint and eventually landed on powder coating. Here’s how it looked after our first DIY paint job, which unfortunately didn’t last long:
We also learned that propane wasn’t quite right for our needs, since we tend to keep the fire burning for a few hours at a time, so natural gas was a great fit for us. Overall, the conversion from indoor wood-burning fireplace to outdoor natural gas-fueled fireplace has been exactly what we hoped for. The fire pit has been a fantastic addition to our backyard and worth every bit of the $1000 or so (not including the cover) that we’ve invested. Chicago summers are extended, and it always fills us with joy to sit with our friends around the fire.
Below, Kim rounded up the coziest accessories we use year-round around the fire pit. Think of it as a fire pit starter kit!
- This s’mores caddy was a gift from our friend Hannah and her family. It even has a gasket to keep contents fresh and ready to roast!
- These Turkish cotton throws are the perfect weight for cozying up next to the fire. (Kim is obsessed with hers!)
- Storing a bundle of cozy throws in a blanket basket makes it easy to grab them all at once and look great doing it.
- Yes, it’s true. These Yeti Rambler mugs make their way onto every roundup we make somehow. They’re just that good. Coffee, cider and hot chocolate stay warm for hours in these hunky mugs!
- Bamboo roasting sticks are necessary for safely toasting marshmallows. We keep a box of these on hand in Chicago and in Michigan!
- Unbreakable wine glasses look great and eliminate the possibility of broken glass. These are stackable for easy transport, too!
- For the cocktail or whiskey fan in your life, unbreakable lowball glasses are also a great option!
- You’ll need a sturdy tray to transport everything outside, and this one fits the bill.
Now that fall is in nearly full swing, you can find us cozied up by the fire with drink in hand and marshmallow on stick! What are your favorite fire pit accessories? Feel free to link to anything that we missed!