With a name that translates from its native Spanish as “chimney”, these little fireplaces are popular decorative firepits. But not every chiminea can be the best chiminea for everyone, so today I’m going to demystify this traditional style of firepit!
Its origins reach back hundreds of years, although it’s hard to pin down precisely when they first appeared. Some believe they were in common use starting about 400 years back, where others say perhaps 600-1000 years.
Popularized by Mexico, these earthen ovens have come a long way since their humble clay origins. Now constructed of cast iron, steel, or aluminum as well as out of adobe or clay, the streamlined little “chimney” is as much artwork as it is a functional piece of backyard furniture.
The 6 Best Chiminea Options
|Best OverallBali Outdoors Black ChimineaBest Overall||Check Amazon Price|
|Best AestheticsDeckmate Sonora Outdoor ChimeneaBest Aesthetics||Check Amazon Price|
|Highest QualityThe Blue Rooster Venetian Style Chiminea Highest Quality||Check Amazon Price|
|Modern LookSunnydaze Steel Outdoor Wood-Burning Chiminea Modern Look||Check Amazon Price|
|Antique LookAntique Bronze Cast Iron ChimineaAntique Look||Check Amazon Price|
|No FrillsEsschert Design Small Terrace Heater No Frills||Check Amazon Price|
Other Useful Chiminea Products:
6 Best Chiminea Reviews
1. Bali Outdoors Black Chiminea
- EASY TO ASSEMBLE AND CLEAN: This chiminea is...
- With round wire mesh screening design enables all...
- Chiminea ideal for use with firewood and...
It’s hard to go wrong with the Bali Outdoors chiminea for the price, which is why it’s our best overall pick. With full 360° fire visibility, you can place it in the middle of a seating area and everyone can enjoy the warmth it provides, as compared to others which must be abutted against a wall.
The cast iron construction is sturdy, and will last around 2 years with year-round use. That’s a heavy use case, so you can expect yours to last longer if you light fires less often. It comes with a sliding door and ash tray, along with a poker and top.
Assembly is easy, build quality is good, and the price is right, making it our top pick.
2. Deckmate Sonora Outdoor Chimenea
- For burning wood and artificial logs
- Designer embossed cast iron construction and high...
- Full 360 degree view of fire with fine wire mesh...
While there are other Deckmate chimineas out there, the Sonora is the only one we recommend. Their cheaper models aren’t as robust as other lower-priced options, but the Sonora both looks good and functions well for its price.
It’s cast iron like our top pick but has a more ornate decoration to the flue. The exterior is even painted with a high-temperature resistant finish to add a little more beauty to it.
It’s also a bit larger than the Bali Outdoors, making it a good option for heating and lighting larger spaces or burning more wood for longer periods of time. If you have a little more to invest, this is your best option.
3. Blue Rooster Venetian Style Chiminea
- SOLID CAST ALUMINUM - Means you never have...
- EFFICIENT DRAFTING - Easy to light, easy to...
- EMERGENCY HEAT SOURCE - Perfect for warmth...
First off, in terms of cast aluminum chimineas, Blue Rooster dominates the market. Their products are sturdy and reliable and are definitely top of the line in general. You really can’t go wrong with any of their models.
But for me, this one stands out amongst the rest. Its shape evokes a Grecian urn, making it artistic and visually-appealing in a garden setting.
The wide chamber has a great wood capacity. It includes not only a fire grate but a grilling or baking insert. A rain lid and a sturdy stainless steel mesh door are also included. And best of all, cast aluminum does not rust.
It’s still up there in terms of weight at a hefty 87 pounds, rivaling cast iron. But you are getting your money’s worth with Blue Rooster products, and they’re definitely some of the best chiminea producers on the market today. It’s well worth the expense!
4. Sunnydaze Steel Outdoor Chiminea
This cold-rolled steel chiminea is neutral enough in appearance to fit in with decor from country and rustic styles through contemporary or modern types. Matte black in finish, it’s surprisingly lightweight at only 30 pounds, making it easier to move than most other models.
The fire chamber is large enough to accommodate many sizes of firewood, although you’ll still want to keep them around the 16″ range or smaller for ease of insertion. A fire grate is included, allowing you to keep the wood up off the base.
You’ll need to provide your own spark inhibitors, and there’s no door on this unit, so be sure to use it on a fireproof surface. Still, if you’re looking for something at a reasonable price-point that will hold up for a long time, this is the best chiminea of the budget-range steel options.
5. Antique Bronze Cast Iron Chiminea
For those of you that want a more rustic, classic look but still want 360° fire visibility, this is a great low-budget option. It’s one of the cheapest on our list, which means the build quality isn’t quite at the level of some of our other chiminea recommendations.
If you need something small and simple to add to your backyard for heating, go with this antique, rustic bronze finished cast iron chiminea.
6. Esschert Design Small Terrace Heater
- Small black cast iron terrace stove with lid on...
- Pipe measures 7 to 8.5-inch round
- Great addition to any patio or deck
I spent quite a lot of time going over the various options out there for budget-priced cast iron chimineas. Overwhelmingly, these budget chimineas were constructed of multiple sections that bolted together, and very few were of solid traditional design.
While there is something to be said for a 360-degree view of your fire, it also means it’s not a true chiminea – it’s a firepit with a chiminea-shaped top. Smoke will pour out the sides rather than vent through the chimney stack as intended, and the airflow is not regulated.
Esschert has provided a solution for that with the FF109. While small and not particularly elaborate, it is a true chiminea in terms of how it functions rather than a glorified firepit. And that’s important if you want to use it as a cooking device!
However, it’s not without its drawbacks. Long-time users report that the chamber is very small, allowing logs of no more than about 8″ in length. It’s also short, so you’ll probably end up burning logs one at a time to avoid top flames.
But for a budget-range chiminea, this is the best chiminea in the category. It functions as a chiminea should, keeping the smoke funneled upward rather than out the sides, and it can be used for both fireplace enjoyment and cooking functions.
Other Useful Products
There are other items that you might find useful when investing in your chiminea, so here’s a shortlist of some of them as found on Amazon!
Flameproof surfaces are absolutely required for fire safety. If you don’t have a tile, brick, concrete, or hard-packed dirt surface available for your chiminea, it’s important to use a fireproof pad to prevent damage to your deck or patio.
I personally trust Blue Rooster’s products, so I recommend The Blue Rooster Co. Flexible Fire-Resistant Chiminea Pad as a great option. There are other shapes available as well. If you don’t want to get this, at least place a sheet of solid aluminum or something safe down!
A chiminea cover will protect your fireplace from the elements, and in the case of clay, it’s a necessity. The Bali Outdoors Patio Chiminea Cover lineup offers a variety of sizes that will fit different designs. You may also be able to order a custom one from your manufacturer.
Finally, a set of fireplace tools makes adding wood to the fire simple, and a wood rack allows you to keep a supply right at hand. I’m fond of the Amagabeli Garden & Home Log Rack With 4 Tools, which is a great package purchase for fire stoking and wood storage purposes.
Why Do You Need A Chiminea?
If you, like me, enjoy roasting a marshmallow over an open flame without having to go camping, you probably want a chiminea.
Oh, certainly there’s a wide variety of fire pits available as well, and in a fit of desperation, there’s always the barbecue. But there’s something just fun about having a small-size fireplace with decorative appeal.
In the fall months, a chiminea can provide warmth in cooler weather, making an otherwise-chilly patio into a hub of activity. It can provide ambiance to a seating area, a central gathering place amidst a party, or a comfy and warm place to relax at dusk.
When not in use, your chiminea is an inexpensive piece of artwork that can handle the weather like a champ. Many are ornate in design, a lone holdover from their time in Mexico – it is not simply utilitarian, it is beautiful at the same time!
Its distinct pear-like shape helps funnel smoke or sparks from your small fire upward, directing it easily away from where you might be relaxing. In contrast, sitting next to a normal fire pit can rapidly become a smoke-filled affair.
These outdoor fireplaces were traditionally used to bake bread and cook food as well as provide warmth and decoration, so they serve added purposes. You can bake, grill, or even smoke food with your chiminea! The wide-mouthed varieties are even popular as pizza ovens.
No matter whether you’re looking for something rustic and traditional or something streamlined and modern, there is a chiminea that will work for you. These wonderful devices are well worth the investment.
Features Of The Best Chimineas
Such a simple thing would not seem to have a lot of options. However, finding the best chiminea for your space may be more difficult than you would think! Let’s go over some of the different types available on the market.
Clay or Metal?
While clay is traditional, it depends on the type of clay as to how sturdy it will be. The sturdiest variations are made of terracotta or El Barro clay, shaped by hand and kiln-dried to harden them.
These are often carved, painted or adorned with bright colors or patterns. Their rustic charm can be a centerpiece for your patio decor or a stylistic piece of functional artwork.
But clay has drawbacks. Since it’s shaped by hand, no two are alike. Lower priced models use less-sturdy clay or are poorly made, and there may be weak points or thin joints. They require more maintenance. And clay models are heavy and fragile to move, so you have to be careful.
Metal chimineas are constructed of copper, aluminum, steel, or cast iron. Some are lighter weight than clay models, where others (especially the cast iron) can weigh much more.
These chimineas have the perk of being constructed of fireproof material. Stylistically, they can be modern, traditional, or even a bit eclectic. Often they will have more accessories available with them, and they don’t break as easily.
However, there are drawbacks to these too. Some are painted to protect against rust damage, but the paint will bake off with use. Metal can have sharp edges. Also, it conducts heat well, so you can burn yourself on hot metal. And they’re typically more expensive.
Both varieties can last for years with proper care and maintenance. A lot of the choice between metal or clay is aesthetic or price-based, and you’ll need to decide which is best for your needs.
Shape Is Important
With clay chimineas, the shape is absolutely essential. While traditional handmade ones are wonderful, they can also have unexpected deformations in their shape. If, for instance, it’s too rounded on part of the base, too much wood weight could cause it to lean.
Needless to say, you’ll want to examine your chiminea carefully. Commercial chiminea makers may also circumvent the normal shaping process by using a mold, but this can create unsightly flashing that you will have to sand off the sides.
Be absolutely sure that there are no thin spots in the clay and that it’s not warped or deformed. The upper part of the chimney should be secured tightly to the chiminea’s lower oven portion and shouldn’t have weak points or patchy seams.
Metal chimineas should also be thoroughly inspected to be sure that they are not dinged or dented. Examine the upper pipe to be sure that it’s securely attached either via weld or included bolts. Check the legs to be sure that they are flush to the ground and not bent.
Due to the way chimineas work, these aspects are critical. A warped chiminea will not draw air as effectively as a properly-shaped one, and in addition, it may not burn your fuel correctly.
Size Of Burn Area
There are some adorable tabletop chiminea styles out there, but most of us will want something that can actually handle a larger fire. The mouth or opening of the chiminea should be wide enough to fit your preferred fuel inside easily and without difficulty.
Taking this into effect in advance will spare you the effort of breaking out your log splitter and trying to reduce your firewood size. While it’s still a good idea to keep a wood axe on hand for the occasional oversized chunk of wood, try to minimize your chopping requirements.
Fire And Safety Features
Do you have small children or pets that might try to venture into the confines of your chiminea? If so, you’ll want something with fire safety built-in.
Many of the metal chiminea varieties have screened hatches or doors which will keep tiny hands or paws out. Some are fashioned from fine mesh, preventing coals from popping out of the crackling fire as well.
If you live in a windy area, spark prevention may be important to you. Those finely-meshed screens come in handy! So do spark inhibitor caps, specialized caps that sit on top of the pipe end of your chiminea.
Even some types of clay chiminea include some fire safety aspects. Thicker and less likely to become excessively hot (unlike metal), these are often a better choice around small children provided that they have some form of safety door. They’re also less likely to have sharp edges.
Keep in mind that your dog or cat may try to go underneath your chiminea if it’s raised up on a base, and be sure to check that nothing harmful resides there as well. Even toddlers could try to crawl underneath. Be sure it’s steady and secure and that it’s not easy to knock down.
Your chiminea itself is the most important part, but let’s talk about additional accessories that may be of use.
Inside the chamber of the chiminea is often some form of grate upon which to build the fire. Often very short, this still provides some airflow beneath the fire to help keep it burning evenly, as well as a space to collect ashes.
While having a backup grate is not necessary for quite a while, it’s good to be able to get replacement grates for when it is needed.
Other accouterments may include racks that allow you to cook, grill, or smoke, as well as specialized smoker top attachments that allow you to use your chiminea as a smoke source for cold smoking.
In addition, some chimineas are bare-bones when sold, but may have add-ons such as spark inhibitors for the chimney pipe, mesh covers for the opening which prevent embers from escaping, or even covers to protect them from moist conditions.
Finally, there are stands specifically designed for certain clay chiminea manufacturers. These keep your chiminea off the surface of the ground where moisture can seep into it. Moisture is risky for chiminea owners, as it weakens the clay and can cause it to become more easily damaged.
Can’t Burn Wood?
Does your HOA or landlord prevent open wood fires? Insurance company prohibits fire pits? There’s a solution which might work for you as well. While they run significantly more expensive than standard chimineas, propane chimineas exist.
Typically, a propane chiminea will be constructed of metal and will have some form of disguising base that hides its tank. They cost more than other gas-fueled fire pits, but if you want that traditional look, they do exist!
Chiminea Care And Maintenance
Even the best chiminea will require proper care and maintenance to extend its lifespan. Here are some basic hints for keeping yours in tip-top shape year-round!
First, only burn the proper material in your chiminea. Most manufacturers recommend burning hardwoods, as this provides a long burn that does not get excessively hot. Don’t use lighter fluid or other quick-starters, as that can become somewhat explosive.
Before lighting your fire, ensure your chiminea is in a safe location to build a fire. A good base is constructed of brick, concrete, or other fireproof material. A sheet of metal can also create a fireproof area around the chiminea. Do not light it on wooden decks or in grassy areas.
Never use your chiminea under an awning or a low-hanging tree. The heat and stray sparks can cause a fire risk. Similarly, don’t place it directly in a garden bed surrounded by plants, as the heat will scorch your plants.
Place some sand or lava rock inside the base of your chiminea. This offers two great benefits. It insulates the base of the chiminea from the fire’s heat, and it makes it much easier to remove ashes and charcoal bits.
To empty the ashes from your chiminea, simply remove the sand or lava rock with its built-up ash deposits. Hose the sand/rock off thoroughly to eliminate the ash and pick out any charcoal bits that remain. Spread it on a tarp to dry out fully before placing it back inside.
Clay chimineas will require regular re-sealing to ensure they stay safe from the elements. An acrylic deck sealer is fine for this. Lightly sand the exterior surface of the chiminea, being sure to smooth the surface, then apply an even coat. Let it dry per the sealer manufacturer’s directions.
Often, clay chimineas will be unsealed on the interior, or if they are sealed they will use fireproof paint. While you can use it when it’s unsealed (and most do), you will need to protect unsealed ones from the elements so the clay does not degrade.
Use a cover over your chiminea to keep it dry in inclement weather, or carefully empty it out and bring it inside for the winter if you don’t plan on using it during the cold months. Clay chimineas should be moved indoors in frosty conditions, but metal ones can be used year-round.
If you do not have a cover or unexpected rain has moved in, you can quickly make a cover from a tarp and a five-gallon bucket. Place the tarp over the chiminea, then set the bucket over the chimney top as an added moisture barrier. Tie down the edges of the tarp to keep it secure.
For metal chimineas, check the soldered joints regularly to be sure that they have not weakened. If you find signs of rust, carefully sand it off and paint your chiminea with a coat of rust-proof paint to prevent damage.
To prevent winter moisture from building up inside your chiminea whether it’s made of metal or clay, you can clean out any ash or sand inside of it and then fill the base with dry cat sand. This will absorb moisture that gets inside. Place a cover over it to deter any further moisture.
How To Light A Fire In Your Chiminea
Whether you’re using a clay or a metal chiminea, it’s important to warm it up before trying to light a normal fire inside. This will help to dry out any moisture that might be lurking inside as well as pre-warming the surface. This is doubly-important for clay, which is prone to cracking.
It’s also good to prime a new chiminea by building 2-3 smaller fires this way before regular use. It causes a buildup of soot along the interior which can help protect your chiminea from moisture damage, and ensures that the clay is fully dried out.
Begin by using pine cones, kindling, newspaper/cardboard, or other small fuels to ignite a small fire. Do not use lighter fluid, as this can heat the chiminea too quickly. If you are using charcoal, you can add it later on a grate once your small fire is successfully burning.
Once your chiminea has warmed up, you can add hardwood fuel to the fire. Do not add too much. If fire is coming out of the top of your chiminea, your fire’s too large, and you are risking cracking or other damage to the chiminea.
Keep water nearby to douse stray embers, but never try to put out a fire inside your chiminea with water. If you must put out the fire more rapidly, use a bucket of playground sand to smother the flames. This prevents damage to the chiminea.
Finally, keep a set of fireplace tools and fireproof gloves on hand. This will allow you to safely tend your fire without burn risks.
With good care and maintenance, your chiminea can become a great addition to backyard living. And just think, on a cool fall evening, you can relax by the fire while watching leaves drift down from the trees, warm and comfortable!
What’s your favorite of this list? Do you like more traditional designs or something a bit more modern? Share your cozy chiminea tales in the comments below!