A chimenea can be a great way to keep warm when the winter comes with chilly days or spend an outdoor summer night. Even more, it can add a touch of beauty and elegance to your living space. That’s why you can see them as very striking centrepieces in many neighbourhoods. But to achieve long-lasting use, you have to exercise proper caution and safety. Keep reading our guide to learn more about how to use chiminea and enjoy their benefits.
What is a chiminea?
Chimineas are charming terracotta fireplaces that you often see in Mexico and some western countries. While many people use them for decorative or artistic purposes to bring a rustic look, they could also be functional fire structures in outdoor spaces.
Dated back to the 16th century, chimineas can be used both for warmth and cooking surfaces. They are traditionally crafted clay, but modern units also come with other durable options such as cast iron or steel.
Most chimineas look like a wide-bottom vase, with a vertical, narrow chimney through which smoke can be released. That’s why you can use them to heat up the space in the rain without extinguishing the fire.
Where to place a chiminea?
To ensure safety, it is better to put your chiminea in an area where the flames can be visible from the inside of your home. With this factor in mind, some obvious spaces might include a deck, courtyard, or patio.
Most chimineas work more effectively when their back faces a wind or breeze – which is not always predictable. For their funnel-like chimney to operate correctly, the unit should be set up vertical and straight in a position that ensures soothing in the fire chamber.
You also need to consider the surface on which chimenea would be placed. Stone, granite, gravel, brick, or concrete are fire-safe options. If your patios or decks are constructed from wood, then place brick, flagstone, or pavers in a small area, around 0.9×1.2 meters, to serve as a patio hearth or platform.
Avoid placing the chimenea under overhangs or trees to prevent the flames from reaching them and causing a fire.
Start and maintain the fire
1. Start the fire
The simplest way to light and keep a fire in the chiminea is to sort tinder, kindling, and wood. Sort materials by size because you do not need so many large-sized logs for this process.
Avoid filling the chimenea with too much fuel or wood. The flames should be small enough so they don’t ascend to the smokestack. The safest way to start a fire is to use a lighter or match. You would also shove newspaper balls under the large logs and light them with the tinder. Never use flammable liquids such as gasoline to light fires because it would easily lead to an uncontrolled fire.
2. Maintain the fire
As the wood starts to burn down, it would create coals, which can be used for cooking or maintaining the fire with new logs. When adding logs, just gently set them on top of the coals. Just add 1 or 2 logs at a time to avoid getting a too high fire. If necessary, move the embers and coals together with a large stick or poker. You can also blow to add more oxygen and heat.
What this short clip for more useful tips on starting a fire in the chiminea:
Prevent the chiminea from smoking
Many people fire up their chiminea just to find it smokes crazily. Chances are you might do something wrong because these fire pits are specially designed to be effective and efficient in burning. Here are a few tips to help you minimise smoke.
1. Use seasoned wood
The key is to use seasoned wood because it is typically drier than we or green variety, thus burning more efficiently with less smoke. When purchasing firewood, you can pay attention to the smell, appearance, and weight of the logs to find seasoned wood. It should be light and produce hollow sounds when hitting against other pieces. Also, green wood might have a lighter tone and fresher, stronger smell.
2. Choose the right types of wood
The kind of wood you use can also play an important role. Some woods might burn slowly, extremely clean, and very hot. Others release acrid and unpleasant smoke. Some recommendations for a smoke-free experience with your chiminea include hardwoods like maple, cherry, beech, ash, apple and oak, which would burn effectively with less smoke and last longer than other softwoods. Oak and pine are both low-smokers. Pinewood can also a good option since it smells pleasant, helps ward off insects, and burns well with less smoke. Consider heat logs made from compressed and recycled sawdust as well.
In contrast, make sure to stay away from the following types of wood if you don’t want to have too much smoke: chestnut, cedar, doughlas fir, elder, poplar, horse chestnut, sweet chestnut, spruce, and acacia. All of them would smoke crazily. And never use laburnum wood because it can be poisonous.
Put out the fire
Once you have completed enjoying the fire, make sure to put out the fire properly. In most cases, it is advisable to let the flames go out gradually rather than using water, particularly when you use a clay unit. The shock causing by the temperature changes could break your chiminea. Place a lid over the unit to restrict the air flow. Also, you can dump the sand on the embers to speed up the process. Spread remaining fuel around the crate so that the source of heat would decrease.
Care for a chiminea
Unlike other forms of fire pits, best chimineas require more attention to keep them in good shape. Clay chimeneas are often susceptible to cracking. To keep them in good shape, you should apply a sealer or acrylic finish before using a new unit and reapply every 4 to 5 weeks during the seasons. This layer will protect the exterior from moisture and water, which might soften the clay.
Also, it is advisable to invest in a waterproof cover or store your chiminea in a basement or shed to keep it dry in rainy conditions. Steel and cast iron chimineas won’t crack unless you damage or drop them.