by William Murphy
It's hard not to be entranced when one sees a fire flickering in an authentic-looking clay chiminea.
While there are many designs out there, be they modern or rustic, and a variety of different materials used to make your classic backyard chiminea (cast iron being a popular option for metal-built chimineas), there is just something about the look and feel of a traditional terra cotta chiminea that we love so much.
Here's what we will be covering in this guide to clay chimineas:
The traditional terracotta chiminea design has been passed on from our most ancient ancestors who learned to control and use fire, up until present day and is still a great patio or backyard accent that very much loved in many peoples' backyards.
The Mexican and Latin American cultures are most often thought of as the ones who have best mastered the artistry of creating the most beautiful of clay chimineas, and people will come from around the world to visit Mexican just to get a hold of an authentic model.
Some people use a chiminea as a fireplace, while other folks like to have a chiminea on display just as an aesthetic piece, due to the variety of designs, as well as colors, you can get.
It also will depend on the laws in a particular state as to whether you are able to have a controlled fire where you live, so we always suggest you check your local bi-law, so that the long arm of the law doesn't come a-callin', and put the kibosh on your fireside fun.
In any case, whether you're getting a clay chiminea purely for decoration, or are looking forward to setting up a cozy fire in your backyard so that guests might be entertained, a clay chiminea will serve you well, and for a long time, if treated right.
Aside from the distinct earthy look, there are several more features that make clay chimineas quite practical, and special.
For one thing, clay "chims" are arguably more efficient and safer than their metal counterparts. Now you might be thinking, "Does a chiminea pose any specific danger? That's news to me!" Let's just break it down a bit.
Baked clay, as a material, is naturally an insulator which means the body will heat up less than that of a metal chiminea.
This makes it so that the heat emitted by the chiminea is focused out of the opening in the fire chamber and isn't stored throughout the actual body of the chiminea.
This makes it easier to position and manage the flow of the heat, while also making it such that the body of the clay chiminea is less of a risk of burning anyone's hand that might touch it.
That said, this isn't to say it doesn't get hot to the touch, it just manages heat better than cast iron, which stores more heat for a longer period of time.
Clay chims are also lighter and easier to carry from one location to another, while requiring less maintenance and assembly than the metal versions. It's important to keep in mind that every chiminea will still need some amount of care to be able to live happily on your patio for many years.
You should ask yourself what do you want to get out of your chiminea.
Here are a few points to go over when deciding on what kind of chiminea to go for:
The material that a chiminea is made from decides how it will handle and what advantages it will have. Depending on how you answer the questions above, different chiminea materials may be right for you.
Chimineas can be made from clay, cast iron, aluminum, copper, or steel, each type of material having its own pros and cons. In this guide, we will discuss clay chimineas and everything they have to offer as well as everything they need.
Chimineas were traditionally made from terracotta, so getting a clay model is staying true to the original design.
The best way to summarize clay chimineas is that they offer a lot, and also come at reasonable prices. The cost to that, however, is the fact that they will require your love and attention.
Clay as a material has a lot of advantages. However, it is also brittle and porous, making it susceptible to certain stressors like physical forces, extreme temperatures, or drastic temperature changes. Proper setup, ongoing care, and proper storage are all crucial for clay chimineas.
If you think that's something you are up for, then a clay chiminea may be a great option for you. Let's take a look at the pros and cons in more detail.
Clay chimineas are as versatile as they are lovely, and can serve a range of purposes. The obvious one is lighting a fire to add some warmth to your hangout spot or some spark to your evening entertaining guests.
For the foodies out there, a chiminea can come in handy for a lot of things. It is possible to grill, cook, and bake in a clay chiminea. Interestingly, you can also smoke foods and it works quite well. You should always use charcoal if you are making food.
If you want a low maintenance setup that is more about entertaining than providing a source of heat, you can also try lighting candles in the fire bowl.
It looks very soothing, gives you a lot to work with in terms of decor, and is also a lot less hassle than dealing with an actual fire.
Clay chimineas also lend themselves well to many non-fire uses. The main one is being used as decor. Many people arrange them on their patio purely for decorative purposes. You can use one, or even multiple smaller chimineas to decorate and accent your backyard living space.
They are really great for this because they are usually handmade and come in a larger variety of designs. They can also be easily painted which opens up a wide avenue of creativity when it comes to decorating with them.
For those who enjoy gardening, clay chimineas can also be used as planters. The natural look of the clay makes it easy to integrate into any kind of garden setup.
Other non-fire uses involve setting them up as pet beds (size of chiminea and pet permitting).
While they both function in the same way, metal and clay chimineas are quite different from each other and offer different experiences. If you're thinking that clay might not be the best option, you can also switch over to our article on the best metal chimineas.
There are both pros and cons to using a Bali Outdoors Chimenea Fireplace Cast Iron Outdoor Fireplace Fire Pit Antique Bronze Wood Burning Chiminea Dia.22" x H.45".
Some of the advantages include that it is eco-friendly since it uses wood as fuel, it is durable because it is made of cast iron, and it is easy to use. However, there are also some disadvantages to using this type of fireplace. One disadvantage is that it can be quite heavy, so it may not be suitable for everyone. Another disadvantage is that it may not be as efficient as other types of fireplaces in terms of heat output. Overall, the Bali Outdoors Chimenea Fireplace Cast Iron Outdoor Fireplace Fire Pit Antique Bronze Wood Burning Chiminea Dia.22" x H.45" has both pros and cons that should be considered before making a purchase.
The Bali Outdoors Chimenea Fireplace is a great choice for those looking for an outdoor fireplace that is both stylish and functional. This cast iron fireplace is perfect for adding ambiance to any outdoor space, and it also provides warmth on cool nights. The antique bronze finish and wood burning design make it a truly unique piece, and the large size ensures that it will be a focal point in any yard or patio. The Bali Outdoors Chimenea Fireplace is sure to be a hit with family and friends, and it makes a great addition to any home.
The Blue Rooster CAST Aluminum Dragonfly Chiminea in Antique Green is a beautiful and intricate piece that would be perfect for any patio or backyard. It is made out of durable cast aluminum and features an antique green finish. The dragonflies on the sides of the chiminea add a touch of whimsy and make it a unique focal point for any outdoor space. The following is a list of pros and cons for this particular model:
The Blue Rooster CAST Aluminum Dragonfly Chiminea in Antique Green is the perfect addition to any patio or backyard. It's stylish design and durable construction make it a great choice for any home. The dragonfly design is unique and eye-catching, and the antique green finish gives it a classic look. The Blue Rooster CAST Aluminum Dragonfly Chiminea is a great way to enjoy the outdoors with family and friends.
This outdoor fire pit is perfect for chilly evenings spent outdoors with family and friends. The Bali Outdoors Fire Pit is made of durable cast iron and features a beautiful scroll design. It comes with a poker and a log grate, so you can keep your fire going all night long. This fire pit also has a spark screen to help contain embers and prevent them from flying out. When not in use, the screen can be used as a cover to protect the fire pit from the elements.
The BALI OUTDOORS Fire Pit Round FirePits Outdoor Wood Burning Chiminea Outdoor Fireplace is a great product which comes with some minor drawbacks. It is perfect for those who are looking for a chic and stylish fire pit to entertain guests outdoors. It is also very easy to assemble and comes with a poker and screen for safety. However, the price is on the higher side and some users have complained about the paint chipping off after some time.
The Blue Rooster Prairie FIRE Outdoor Wood Burning Chiminea Fireplace is a great addition to any deck or patio. It is made of rust-free cast aluminum and features a 44" firebox that can accommodate up to four logs. The chiminea also has a 12" flue that helps to direct smoke up and away from guests. There is a built-in damper that can be adjusted to control the amount of airflow, and the entire unit sits on four legs for stability.
Some assembly required
Can be difficult to keep lit in windy conditions
The Blue Rooster Prairie FIRE Outdoor Wood Burning Chiminea Fireplace is a great choice for anyone looking for an attractive and functional addition to their deck or patio. It is made from high-quality materials and features a large firebox that can accommodate several logs. The built-in damper makes it easy to control the amount of smoke and heat, and the four legs provide stability even in windy conditions.
The Blue Rooster CAST Aluminum Dragonfly Chiminea in Charcoal is a great addition to any outdoor living space. It is perfect for entertaining guests or simply relaxing in your own backyard. The dragonfly design is unique and sure to be a conversation piece at any gatherings you host. There are many pros to owning this type of chiminea, but there are also a few cons. Keep reading to learn more about the pros and cons of the Blue Rooster CAST Aluminum Dragonfly Chiminea in Charcoal.
The design is unique and eye-catching
It is made from durable cast aluminum
It has a large firebox that can accommodate logs up to 18 inches long
The cast iron door is airtight, which helps to keep the fire burning brightly
It comes with a spark screen and poker
It is one of the more expensive chimineas on the market
It is heavy, so it may be difficult to move around if you need to change its location
The cast iron door can get very hot, so use caution when opening it or touching it during operation
the Blue Rooster CAST Aluminum Dragonfly Chiminea in Charcoal is a great addition to any outdoor living space. It is perfect for entertaining guests or simply relaxing in your own backyard. The dragonfly design is unique and sure to be a conversation piece at any gatherings you host. There are many pros to owning this type of chiminea, but there are also a few cons. Keep reading to learn more about the pros and cons of the Blue Rooster CAST Aluminum Dragonfly Chiminea in Charcoal.
The Lakeside Collection Outdoor Wood Burning Small Clay Chiminea with Metal Stand - Terra Cotta can be a great addition to any outdoor living space. Here is a list of pros and cons to help you decide if this is the right choice for you:
The Lakeside Collection Outdoor Wood Burning Small Clay Chiminea with Metal Stand - Terra Cotta is a great choice for those who want to add a touch of ambiance to their outdoor living space. The compact design and durable materials make it a good investment, and the included fire poker and cover make it easy to get started. Just be sure to follow the instructions carefully and take care of the clay material to avoid any problems.
While there are many varieties of clay chimineas available out there, few are quite as captivating as this model by Gardeco.
It is a well sized chiminea at 4 feet tall with a 1.6 foot radius for the chamber, however it does not compromise on portability as it is still fairly light.
Each Gardeco chiminea is hand made and hand painted for the best quality and to achieve that perfect rustic feel.
The cool thing we've found about them is that every single hand made chiminea is unique, carrying slight differences that set it apart from the rest.
This does mean that the measurements seen here may vary but only by very small amounts.
The Gardeco requires very little set up as it comes with simply an iron stand and a clay lid. No complicated install required! All you need to do is set it up on the stand and light your fire.
The lid provides protection from some of the elements, however it is always a good idea to bring it into your garage or shed during heavy storms or winters to avoid damage to the clay body.
If this is your first chiminea you should take a look at our article regarding chiminea maintenance which details fuels that can be used as well as what to do before first usage.
These are some wonderful choices for your backyard patio or deck. They'll distribute heat evenly without becoming too blazing hot. They can be tucked out of the way when they're not being used since they're lightweight.
We definitely recommend one of these clay chimineas for your limited space since they're compact and portable. It's great for people that don't have huge spaces.
Once you get your chiminea, there are a few steps to take to get started. The first thing you need to decide is where to place it.
Placement is very important for fire safety, but you should also figure out how it's placed relative to seating and walking areas.
After that, you will have to seal and cure your clay chiminea. These steps will help protect the clay body and ensure a longer lifespan.
The first thing to decide on is a good spot to place the chiminea. Always carry clay chimineas by the base and not by the chimney.
They are made from two parts that are glue together, so carrying it by the chimney can cause the base to break off and fall. Not a great spin on your afternoon.
Clay chimineas are not as heavy as cast iron chimineas, but they can still be inconvenient to carry around all the time.
They're also more likely to break or shatter. Because of this, it's a good idea to find a place where you don't have to move it too often (other than into storage for the season or due to weather).
Fire safety should be top priority. Chimineas need a radius of space around them so that they don't accidentally set something on fire.
The great thing about clay models is they mostly channel heat out through the mouth of the chiminea.
This means the safety radius needed around a clay chiminea is smaller than that of a metal chiminea. Nevertheless, you still need some amount of buffer space.
This also applies to anything above or below. The area above should be free of anything that can catch fire like awnings, gazebos, or tree branches.
The surface it's placed on needs to be completely flat and level. Ideally you will want to place it on concrete, stone, bare ground, or on a chiminea pad (more on this later).
Aside from that, consider the flow and layout of your backyard living space when deciding on a location. It should be somewhere where it can distribute heat evenly among all of the sitting spots.
It should also be somewhere away from high traffic areas so people don't accidentally bump into it or knock it over.
Once you've found a suitable place for your chiminea, you can tackle the process of sealing it.
Clay is naturally porous which makes it susceptible to the elements. Sealants do exactly as the name suggests, and seal off the clay, protecting it from moisture and temperature changes.
While this helps a great deal, it certainly does not make chimineas invincible against weather. It's still recommended to use a cover or bring them inside during bad weather and especially during the winter.
Here's how sealing works:
the last step before you're ready to go is curing. Curing helps strengthen the clay and conditions it to withstand high temperatures for long periods of time. This step is mandatory for ensuring a chiminea can keep doing its job.
Curing instills temperature resistance by starting with a small fire and building up from there. The key to this is the natural cycle of heating up and cooling down, along with the gradual increase in size of the fire.
Here's how to do it:
Now that you have found the best spot for your chiminea, and also sealed and cured it, you're ready to start enjoying it.
We've talked about how to position your chiminea, but what about the surface you place it on? Most clay chimineas will have a stand which you can place them on to lift them up off the ground.
Using a stand to elevate it off the ground is a start, but there are a few more considerations to keep in mind. Chimineas radiate large amounts of heat for extended periods of time. This means that, aside from space around and above your chiminea, you also have to pay attention to what surface you place it on.
First and foremost, the surface needs to be flat and level. Secondly, you need to be careful with what kind of surface it is.
The sustained heat from the chiminea can wilt away grass or any other plants in your backyard, and also damage any wooden surfaces it's placed on. Concrete, stone, or bare ground are the ideal picks because they hold up to the heat.
It's worth noting that clay chimineas are a bit more forgiving than the metal models because they don't radiate as much heat around them. The clay insulates better and channels the heat out through the firebowl opening. This means that you have a little more flexibility on this front, however, you still have to be careful with your placement.
If you are using a clay chiminea on your deck, you should always make sure it's placed on a stand or a chiminea pad. Never put the firebowl directly on a the deck because that is a recipe for disaster. Most clay models do come with their own stand, so it should be no issue. If your model did not come with a stand, then a pad might be the way to go.
Some clay chimineas also have tiny legs to support themselves, which gives them some height from the ground. You should consult the manual to see if your particular model can get away without a pad. However, as a rule of thumb, we always recommend using a protective surface when placing it on your deck.
Some options also exist for making your own pad or platform, if you are more of a diy-er. All that is needed is a sturdy insulating surface to block the heat from reaching the wood on the deck. Either way, make sure you have some sort of protection set up at the end of the day.
Fire is at the heart of the chiminea. Therefore, how you treat the fire can really make or break your chiminea experience. Let's talk about what fuels to use and how to start and tame a fire.
Charcoal or any dry, non-chemically treated wood are the fuels you should be using. Burning woods like applewood, red cedar, and ocote will add a pleasant scent, while woods like Pinion can actually keep the bugs away.
Charcoal is another great option because it's quite straightforward and it's also the go-to for cooking, baking, or smoking.
There are a few big no-no's when it comes to what fuels to use in a chiminea. Never use any petroleum based fuels like gasoline, diesel, lighter fluid and so forth. That would be a recipe for a swift and uncontrollable inferno.
Aside from that, one should definitely avoid materials that produce toxic fumes or excessive amounts of smoke. This includes any kind of chemically treated wood or wood pellets. Green wood is not specifically toxic, but it will produce a lot of smoke while yielding little heat and a very small fire.
Lighting a clay chiminea works the same as any other wood burning stove or fireplace. As always, be sure to keep children and pets away from the fire. Pay attention to the flames and do not leave the fire unattended until it has been fully put out.
Here's what you need to do:
Keep the fire small to medium in size. Large fires can overheat and damage your chiminea. A smaller fire is not only safer, but it also burns fuel more efficiently which means more heat is created and distributed.
The best way to control the size of the fire is by controlling how much fuel you put on. If the fire is getting to the right size, stop feeding it for a while so that it doesn't grow past that point. Refuel later on when the flames are starting to die down.
If needed, you do have the option of adding a bit of extra sand or soil to cover up the flames in order to slow down the fire. However, most people recommend simply managing how much fuel you put into the fire and giving it time to cool down.
The best way to put out a fire in a clay chiminea is to stop feeding the fire and to let it burn out on its own. This process can take a few hours, so be sure to anticipate it ahead of time.
Never splash water to put out the fire as it may crack the chiminea. Instead, simply let the fire take its natural course and burn out. Be sure to supervise and pay attention until the fire is fully out. Once it is out, allow up to 6 hours for the chiminea to cool entirely before covering, moving, or lighting it up again.
If you need to put out the fire sooner rather than later, you can add a few handfuls of sand or soil to smother the flames. Same as above, supervise the fire until it's fully out and allow time to cool properly.
It's always a good idea to have a fire extinguisher handy in case of emergencies. Ideally it doesn't come to it, but it's better to be prepared.
Regular maintenance is important for the health and longevity of your chiminea. Protection from the elements and regular cleaning are essential to keeping your chiminea happy. If you treat it well, it will treat you well also.
Make sure to clean out the ashes regularly and replenish the layer of filler in the bottom of the bowl as needed.
Use a rain lid or cover to protect from rain. Allow up to 6 hours for the chiminea to cool before putting the cover on. During the winter, or in case of stormy weather, you should bring your chiminea inside or put it into storage
Aside from the above, there are a few miscellaneous points to consider. Protect the bowl of the chiminea and don't allow water to pool at the bottom or creatures to climb into it. Make sure it's placed in a safe spot where it's not at risk of falling or being bumped into. Lastly, as mentioned before, make sure the fire isn't too large as a roaring fire can cause cracks.
Clay chimineas need protection from the elements as well as the changing seasons. We will go over how to prepare and store your chiminea for the winter, as well as some weather proofing that is ongoing.
Clay has many great properties, but weather resistance is sadly not one of them. After use (and allowing time to cool down), it's a good idea to put on a rain lid or a cover.
If it's looking like stormy weather is incoming, it's recommended to bring clay chimineas inside or into storage temporarily.
Clay chimineas are sensitive to extreme temperatures or drastic temperature changes. Clay is porous, so moisture can easily infiltrate the body.
When the temperature drops, the trapped moisture will freeze and expand, causing cracks. Because of this, you have to keep your chiminea dry and at a reasonable temperature.
Similarly, clay chimineas cannot be used in the winter as the sudden temperature change will strain and break the clay body.
All in all, the best course of action for the winter is to bring your clay chiminea inside or place it somewhere in storage. Either way, a few rules will apply.
You will need to make sure it's stored somewhere that is dry, not too cold, and has good airflow. Do not store it on its stand, but also not directly on the shed or garage floor either.
Ideally, put it on a piece of wood or cardboard. Using a cover is still a good idea even if it is stored somewhere inside.
If storing it inside is not an option at all, some people use padded covers to protect their chimineas as they brave the winter months outside.
Make sure the chiminea is clean and dry before going into the cover, then make sure it is wrapped up properly so the moisture and cold air don't get in.
Just like any other pottery, chimineas are prone to cracking or shattering. It's an inherent characteristic of clay. The main causes for cracking are extreme temperatures (either hot or cold), drastic changes in temperature (from very hot to very cold or the other way around), and physical factors like being dropped or hit accidentally.
If your chiminea is completely shattered, it might be best to get a new one. It's not recommended to try to rebuild them piece by piece as they will always be at risk of falling apart or shattering again. Aside from that, if your chiminea is just cracked, there are some options for repair.
First thing to do is look at the size and nature of the crack. If there is a visible gap or if chunks are missing, it may once again be best to buy a new chiminea. Gluing pieces back in is not a viable long-term solution. Otherwise, if it's a regular or hairline crack, then we might be in luck!
For regular, non-hairline cracks, the best way to go about it is to use fire clay or heat resistant epoxy glue to fill it up. Make sure the glue or filler you use is heat resistant and sandable as well.
Before applying, be sure to wipe off any dust or dirt from your chiminea. You will also have to make sure the chiminea is fully dry before proceeding.
Once you have all of that figured out, all you have to do is fill in the crack. After that, let it dry and come back to sand it down until it's smooth. Lastly, you can paint over the spot with any kind of water-based paint.
Hairline Cracks - There is another option which is most useful for hairline cracks (although it works with regular cracks as well). You will need a drill and some copper wire. The first thing to do is check the crack and find out where it ends.
Drill a hole at the very "tip" of the crack. This will prevent it from extending and getting worse. After that, drill a hole on each side of the crack, a few inches apart, about halfway along its length.
Bend the copper wire into a U-shape and run it through the holes. Take the tips on the other side and twist them together.
This will tighten the wire and will bring the two sides of the crack back together. The tying, along with the stop drill at the tip of the crack, will contain it and prevent it from getting worse.
|Redi-Flame Woodshed Renewables Chiminea Kit|
Here we have a very quaint and well rounded chiminea kit by Redi-Flame. The 14" handmade clay chiminea comes with everything you need to get going as it includes fire starters and even an all natural insect repellant.
The first thing you will notice about this one is that it is particularly small compared to most chimineas that can be several feet tall.
This not only makes it extra portable, but also allows it to be much more versatile in terms of how it meshes with the rest of your backyard.
It goes without saying that these features, along with the accessory kit and the affordable price, qualify it to be one of the best options for anyone looking to get started in owning a chiminea.
It's a safe and small investment that goes a long way and lets you try out the joy of having a fire placement in your backyard without it being too much of a hassle.
One interesting note for the chiminea buffs out there, however, is that the size and price of this kit also lend themselves to purchasing several.
As an alternative to having one big chiminea, there is always the option of having several smaller ones arranged tactfully throughout your backyard.
The smaller fires scattered around, along with the traditional hand made clay design are sure to create a magical mood for yourself and your guests.
B H & G C0. Better Homes and Gardens Antique Bronze Cast Iron Chiminea, Durable cast Iron - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Chimenea Fireplace Cast Iron Outdoor Fireplace Fire Pit Antique Bronze Garden Treasures - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Casita Wood Burning Chiminea Outdoor Fireplace Grill and Oven. - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
If you're looking for a great way to enjoy your backyard, a chiminea is a great option. They provide warmth and ambiance, and can be used for cooking or simply enjoying the outdoors. When choosing a chiminea, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, choose the size that will best fit your needs. If you plan on using it for cooking, make sure it's large enough to accommodate a pot or pan. Second, think about the material you want. Chimineas are typically made from cast iron, ceramic, or clay. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks, so choose the one that's right for you. Finally, consider the price. Chimineas can range in price from around $50 to over $500. If you're on a budget, there are still plenty of great options available. By keeping these things in mind, you're sure to find the perfect chiminea for your backyard.
About William Murphy
William has worked as a general contractor in the city of Fremont, CA for over three decades. During that time, he's written articles about architecture, construction, and environmental protection for various publications. He is an expert on green building and sustainable design. When he's not writing or working, William enjoys spending time with his wife and two children.