Updated: Sept 15, 2016
- What is a chiminea?
- Benefits of using a chiminea
- How much do chimineas cost? Which should I buy?
As more people put money into their homes and yards, backyard fire pits and chimineas are becoming a popular fixture. Chimineas were first introduced 100's of years ago by the Mexicans and they were used as bread ovens.
Today, you see them as a centerpiece to patios and outdoor decks providing heat and ambiance to backyard gatherings. If you like outdoor fires, then owning a chiminea could be the ticket to a long and warm summer outdoors with your family and friends.
The original chimineas were made of clay and stone which worked fine in warmer climates with less rain but those designs don't hold up so well in wetter, colder climates. Keep that in mind when purchasing your chiminea - do you live in a dry, warm climate or one were precipitation and cold weather are prominent?
There are other materials for those living in states that are more north. You will find chimineas made from cast iron, metal, copper, aluminum, and iron.
The video below shows a Blue Rooster Chiminea and what to expect:
What to look for in a chiminea?
If you do go with the a clay chiminea, keep in mind that the quality and craftsmanship can vary dramatically. The cheaper clay chimineas are made from terra-cotta clay which often has not been baked or kiln dried. It's always a good idea to weatherproof your clay chiminea so that rain and damp conditions won't effect it.
The clay stone chimineas do have a tendency to crack in severely cold weather, especially if moisture has already damaged them. The clay models should have about 3 to 4 inches of sand or pea stone placed at the bottom to help keep the direct heat of the fire away from the edge. It's a good idea to place a few bricks on top of the sand and then put down a grate for cooking if you wish.
Many of the chimineas we looked at have a removable neck which makes grilling easy. Some models also feature a spark arrestor neck insert to keep hot embers from flying upward which could be a fire hazard. You will also find some with a hinged mouth safety screen to keep "popping" embers from coming out the front yet still allowing for plenty of heat to be released.
Start with small fires first to season your chiminea and then progress to larger ones. They are definitely not designed for bonfire type conditions, a few logs in the chiminea are plenty to keep everyone warm.
For safety reasons, don't place your chiminea under umbrellas, awnings, or branches and always position it away from structures. In terms of durability, the cast iron chimineas are better than the clay models. Proper care can also add longevity to your outdoor fireplace - get a chiminea cover to help protect it and move it into a garage or shed when not in use.
As for buying them, one of the sites most recommended was Blue Rooster Company - they have an online catalog with a nice selection of cast iron chimineas and those that are run off of propane and natural gas as well. Many of their models are over $300, but customers and contractors swear by them. You can browse the top selling chimineas online here.
Cast Iron Chiminea:
The Firepitshop.com carries fire pits, patio heaters, and chimineas. Their inventory of cast iron chimineas is extensive and well worth the look. You can read reviews by actual owners which is priceless when researching any product. Their Hummingbird Chiminea ($595) is a decorative piece that holds up to 5 logs.
The larger size makes it great for warming up a large crowd. The cast iron materials will last you for decades and at 168 lbs it's quite sturdy. For a smaller version, consider the Elite Jr. Chiminea which sells for $160 and works perfectly in smaller places like apartment patios or balconies. Owners say the Elite Jr. is easy to clean and very durable.
RECOMMENDED - we think the Landmann USA 28254 Pawn Chiminea is worth a look. Reviews are very positive for this model. The one negative review was for a product that had shipping issues so that really can't be counted as a "bad product".
To check out how to use a chiminea - click the image below to go to video.
Target sells a chiminea made with solid copper for around $300. It resembles a fire pit with a chiminea top and you can burn fires made with wood or charcoal. It's rust resistant making it a good buy for those in a wet climate. A few of our friends have recently bought this particular model and they use it for making smores in the evenings and keeping warm after the sun goes down during the summer months.
Wal-Mart offers a similar model that sells for $150, but reviews say that the overall construction is shoddy and the copper is not rust resistant making for an ugly chiminea after the rainy season. BEST - See the Unique Arts Solid Copper New Chiminea Combo With Screen which converts from chiminea into grill or a firepit. The 3 in 1 combo is perfect for most homeowners. The copper will patina over time so don't be alarmed.
What kind of Wood can I burn in the Chiminea?:
Many people think their chiminea is going to act much like a fireplace would that is situated inside. Firstly, never burn anything in your chiminea inside unless it is something like candles (recommended). Secondly, don't ever burn pressure treated wood or pellets (for wood burning stoves) in your chiminea.
The most popular type of wood that people put into their chimineas is Pinion Pine. It has two elements that make it the perfect choice - it smells incredible and it fends off mosquitos. The aroma of apple wood makes it another popular choice as well as alligator juniper, hickory, and mesquite.
Everyday firewood like oak can be used as well but remember to break it down into small pieces of kindling since the chiminea has a hard time accommodating large pieces of wood. The best size, per experts, is 9-14 inches in length and 4 inches in diameter.
Clay Stone Chiminea:
Chiminea.net offers some decent quality clay chimineas that are made in Mexico. Many are priced below $200 and come with stands or covers. We read on many websites that the clay chimineas have a tendency to break, even while in transit or develop cracks that need repair. We aren't picking on Chiminea Express, it's all stores or websites that sell clay and terra-cotta style chimineas.
Be sure to inspect the product when it arrives at your house. If you are going to do the transporting, many people suggest removing the top and moving the unit in 2 separate pieces for the best results. Lowes offers the Garden Treasures 40" Clay Stone Chimenea ($79) which measures 40 inches high and has a 20" diameter. The electrostatic paint helps keep stratching to a minimum and it will burn regular firewood.
These are best for those in dryer climates since the rain and elements will eventually ruin the clay chiminea even if it is well treated for weather conditions. Clay chimineas are cheaper in price than cast iron, but you won't get more than 3 to 4 years out of them in a cold, wet climate. See firepits here.
More videos and resources are here on our Chiminea Resource Page.
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