Outdoor chimineas have become increasingly popular with the rise in popularity of outdoor fireplaces. Many people are starting to pay more attention to their outdoor space by decorating it and landscaping it so it can be a more usable and enjoyable space.
History of Chimineas
While chimineas have evolved over the years to fit our needs, they have an interesting history.
It is thought the first chimeneas were developed by Mexican tribesmen hundreds to thousands of years ago. They were developed to provide heat to the family that was protected from rain. They were also meant to function as a tool for cooking and baking without needing as much wood as an open fire.
The outdoor chiminea was originally made out of clay but since they have been exported and used in areas where they weren’t originally intended it is now easy to find a good metal chiminea which will provide greater durability. Clay chimineas aren’t always able to handle the temperature change of a downpour of rain which can cause them to crack and flake. In Mexico the rainfall was typically lower but the air temperature not as low as many areas where they are being used today.
Because of their design, outdoor chimineas allow you to start a fire pretty easily and keep the fire burning without as much effort as outdoor fire pits. Chimineas are enclosed with an opening or door in front so it’s easy to get a fire started with some kindling like small sticks or newspaper. But what makes them work so well is the way they allow airflow from the flue to keep the fire fueled.
This design allows them to produce a lot of heat without smoke blowing everywhere. Because they have better airflow they don’t generate as much smoke — they burn cleaner and more efficiently. The smoke is also funneled out of the top so it blows up into the air instead of into your guests faces.
The traditional style chiminea is about five feet tall with a slender neck, where the air comes in and the smoke flows out, and a bulbous body, where the fire is contained. While there are some newer models that are shorter and have a different shape they still have the same basic features. Although some offer the benefit of a 360 degree view of the fire.
Types of Chimineas
There are three main types of chimineas:
Clay chimineas are the traditional style. Many people like them because of the decorative look and feel they provide. They are generally cheaper than metal chimineas but unfortunately a clay chiminea isn’t as durable as a metal chiminea. Clay chimineas will require more care, but they still may not last as long. Some people use them strictly as decoration, in some cases indoors. They are fine as decoration inside as long as they are only used as decoration; NEVER light a fire in a chiminea indoors.
Cast Iron Chimineas are very durable and they give off a lot of heat, but unfortunately they are very heavy as well. You will want to find a permanent spot for a cast iron chiminea because you won’t want to move it once it is set up. Cast iron can rust if the coating chips so you may need to paint it occasionally with a paint that can handle high temperatures. But overall this is a good quality long-lasting choice if you’re looking for a metal chiminea.
Cast Aluminum Chimineas are durable and easier to maintain. They are also much lighter than their cast iron counterparts. A cast aluminum chiminea shouldn’t rust or warp so it should last a long time too.
Burning Wood In A Chiminea
Because of their shape regular firewood may not fit in your chiminea. You may need to cut the firewood into smaller pieces or order wood that is cut specifically to fit in this type of outdoor fireplace.
Many people burn pinion wood in them because of the nice pine scent and because burning this specific wood helps keep the mosquitoes away.
Protecting Your Investment
In order to protect this type of outdoor fireplace and to keep it clean you’ll want to look at outdoor fireplace covers, specifically a chiminea cover. A good cover made specifically for this will have a drawstring at the bottom to help securely cover the full body. You can find covers that will repel water so the rain doesn’t seep in, but that allow airflow to prevent the possibility of mildew. Chiminea covers come in different sizes so be sure you get the right size to make sure it fits and protects your outdoor chiminea the way it’s meant to.
Before shopping for any outdoor fireplace make sure they are allowed in your area; localities have different regulations about open fires and wood burning. But if you find out they are allowed have fun shopping. There are so many fun designs available you may have a hard time choosing just one. All in all chimineas make great free standing outdoor fireplaces. They are functional, aesthetic and they make the evenings a lot more fun.