- 1 Why Do You Need A Chiminea?
- 2 Features Of The Best Chiminea
- 3 Chiminea Care And Maintenance
- 4 How To Light A Fire In Your Chiminea
- 5 Best Chiminea Reviews
- 6 Other Useful Products
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.
Best Chiminea Options:
- Clay: 37 in. Clay KD Chiminea with Iron Stand
- Cast Iron (Budget): Esschert Design FF109 Small Terrace Heater
- Cast Iron (Standard): Oakland Living AZ8025-AP Outdoor Iron Chimenea
- Steel (Budget): Sunnydaze Steel Outdoor Wood-Burning Chiminea
- Steel (Standard): La Hacienda 56075US Oxidized Corten Steel Tacora Chimenea
- Cast Aluminum: The Blue Rooster Co. Venetian Style Cast Aluminum Chiminea
- Copper: Deeco Consumer Products Cape Copper Chiminea
- Propane-Fueled: Blue Rooster ALCH027GK-LPG – Prairie Gas Chiminea Outdoor Fireplace
Other Useful Chiminea Products:
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 which can handle the weather like a champ. Many are ornate in design, a long 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 breads 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 Chiminea
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 a 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’s drawbacks with 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’s 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 which 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 accoutrements 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’s 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 a 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.
Best Chiminea Reviews
Due to the nature of clay chimineas and their variability, I have to strongly recommend that you examine your chiminea before purchasing it. Even the best chiminea is partially handmade when you’re dealing with clay, and therefore you need to be there to inspect it before buying.
However, I’ll include one popular source for a clay chiminea, and then proceed into reviews for metal chimineas ranging all over the spectrum!
Best Chiminea: 37 in. Clay KD Chiminea with Iron Stand
As stated above, you’ll want to check out your clay chiminea before buying it. But for a commercially-available clay chiminea, the Clay KD manufacturer produces a reliable and solid product.
There are no bells and whistles included with this chiminea – it is a cast iron stand and a clay chiminea with no add-ons. There is no included grate, no cooking grates, no spark inhibitors or mesh doors. It is a purely traditional style, the same type that’s been used for hundreds of years.
But these typically are thick enough to hold up for quite some time if well cared for, and they’re worth the visit to your local big box store to inspect. If you’re going to opt for a traditional-style clay chiminea, these are some of the best chiminea options out there currently.
Cast Iron (Budget):
Best Chiminea: Esschert Design FF109 Small Terrace Heater
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.
Cast Iron (Standard):
Best Chiminea: Oakland Living AZ8025-AP Outdoor Iron Chimenea
Weighty at 91 pounds, this heavy-duty cast iron chiminea is much larger than its budget counterpart. But it can also handle a larger fire, and includes a lot of great features.
Oakland Living’s AZ8025-AP model is powder-coated to weatherproof the cast iron finish. It’s detailed with a nice vine and leaf pattern for aesthetic value. But the functionality is also much better than the budget model.
Included with this chiminea is a log grate, a stack cap/lid, and a pair of spark guards. It also has a safety door to prevent embers leaping out of the fire chamber. There’s a pair of handles on either side to help with maneuvering it if it needs to be moved.
Settled onto a nice base to raise it above ground level, this chiminea is far more than decorative. It will work well and for years if properly maintained, and is definitely worth the name of best chiminea.
Best Chiminea: Sunnydaze Steel Outdoor Wood-Burning 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 accomodate 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.
Best Chiminea: La Hacienda 56075US Oxidized Corten Steel Tacora Chimenea
Do you want a fiery art piece? Because in many ways, this oxidized steel chiminea is precisely that. Its unusual rectangular shape makes it a perfect addition to a modern-style patio environment, and it burns with the same functionality of more traditional designs.
Aesthetically and literally, this will add warmth and vigor to your outdoor environment. It does lack spark safety additions, so you’ll want to place this on a fire-safe surface. I think it’d look perfect on tile or brick, and even on concrete.
While you might be tempted to place something like this in a corner or up against a wall, I do advise against it. Like any chiminea, this will need room around it to allow for heat to spread, and despite being sleek in design, it does produce quite a lot of heat.
But I love the functioning art aesthetic of this model, so I definitely give it high marks in my ranking of the best chiminea designs!
Best Chiminea: The Blue Rooster Co. Venetian Style Cast Aluminum Chiminea
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!
Best Chiminea: Deeco Consumer Products Cape Copper Chiminea
Technically speaking, this is not a true chiminea because of its 360-degree fire view. Smoke will not uniformly go through the chimney; it is more of a fancy fire pit.
But sometimes, that’s precisely what’s needed from a decoration standpoint. Fully-copper chimineas are few and far-between, and are often handcrafted by individual fabricators. Deeco’s hand-hammered variation gives you the exquisite look of copper without searching for a maker.
I really like that this model can be used as a fire pit or as a chiminea, depending on whether you leave the top on or remove it. In inclement weather, the upper portion provides a bit of rain cover, enabling you to use it even in damp conditions.
So if you’re searching for the look of a chiminea and would prefer something a bit flashy, I really recommend this one. It’s beautiful, sturdy, and will serve you well… even if it’s not strictly the chimney-like structure of a traditional shape.
Best Chiminea: Blue Rooster ALCH027GK-LPG – Prairie Gas Chiminea Outdoor Fireplace
I have to return to Blue Rooster’s products here due to their reliability, and so it is that I offer up their Prairie model gas conversion. With this charcoal-colored unit, they’ve taken their sturdy and functional cast aluminum chiminea and modified it for propane or natural gas use.
Accompanying the standard Blue Rooster rain cap and steel mesh door is a set of seven ceramic logs to give the look of a wood fire. But since it’s gas, there is no ash or charcoal to clean up later, and it has on-off functionality. There’s no need to toss sand on this fire, just switch it off!
For people who want the simplicity and ease of gas, this is a perfect option. They’ve also got conversion kits available for many of their other models, allowing you to choose between traditional or contemporary appearance.
When dealing with something as flammable as propane or natural gas, a reliable company like Blue Rooster offers you safety and security as well as a quality end-product. So this is definitely the best chiminea for folks who want to go gas instead of wood. You’ll love it!
Other Useful Products
There are other items which you might find useful when investing in your chiminea, so here’s a short list of some of them!
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 Resistent Chiminea Pad as a great option. There’s 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.
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!
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Last update on 2019-01-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API