If you think that our modern fire pits were just an uninspired innovation, then you have another thought coming. The chiminea, a freestanding, front-loading fireplace with a bulbous body, is their inspiration.
This Mexican cookware has found its way into many American homes; they use it not just for keeping the environment warm and smoking some marshmallows in the process; they are also used as a decoration that adds some rustic allure to their surrounding.
What Is A Chiminea?
If you have ever visited a Mexican home and found a charming hand-decorated clay fireplace whose face is sideways, it means you found a Chiminea. A Chiminea is an outdoor fireplace used historically to heat up a place and cook.
It has a wide bottom that looks like the base of a vase, a narrow vertical chimney through which smoke is directed, and an opening by the side that serves as the fireplace.
The classical chiminea is made of clay, but other modern versions outmatch these clay models that are made of stainless steel, brass, cast iron, and cast aluminum.
The fuel for chiminea is usually firewood; the best ones are hardwood like apple, cherry, sycamore, cedar, oak pear, and the like. Pressure-treated lumber nor softwoods are not recommended. Other fuels like charcoal and ethanol can also be used in some types of the chiminea.
Chiminea sometimes smokes if the wood you are burning is unseasoned or wet, so desist from burning wet wood. Leaves, dirt, and debris can also cause the chiminea to smoke.
Why You Will Want A Chiminea
If you are wondering why you want a Chiminea in your outdoor space, it is simply because you don’t know the aesthetic and practical value they offer.
For starters, a chiminea is more or less a piece of art, and that is because they are usually decorated with a beautiful design that makes them eye-catching;
this is why it is a great focal point for family gatherings around a mesmerizing fire like you have with a fire pit but dare I say: even better. Chiminea is versatile and can fit into most outdoor spaces: the backyard, the deck, or the patio.
The chiminea functions as practical kitchenware and equipment for outdoor heating spaces. This means you can use it to keep your patio warm while you enjoy an evening outdoors.
Now, because of the chiminea design in which the unit’s opening is on the side and not on top like most fire pits, they can work perfectly in the rain or heavy windy condition without the flame getting extinguished.
This is one of the major advantages it has over other outdoor fireplaces. However, this does not mean we should keep the unit burning under heavy rain.
If you are looking for a fireplace that can heat your outdoor space in no time, then you must go for a chiminea because it can achieve complete burn in 15 minutes after being lit, producing enough heat to keep the environment warm.
The fact that a chiminea is enclosed with a relatively small opening, unlike most fireplaces with a wide opening, makes it easier to control the fire that burns in it.
Hence with a chiminea, you do not have to worry so much about Sparks and dangerous flames going out of control because their flames and sparks are exposed outward, which makes for a cleaner and more controlled burn.
Clay or Cast-Iron Chiminea
Clay and cast iron are the 2 common types of the chiminea, but if you are wondering which one to go for, a look at their merits and demerits can help you make the voice:
Merits of Cast-Iron Chiminea
1. They are durable and do not easily break or crack so they can last for many years.
2. Since they are good conductors of heat, they radiate lots of heat to heat the environment.
3. They are quite easy to maintain. For instance, give it a coat or 2 of fire-resistant paint to keep it looking good.
4. There is a wide range of sizes, shapes, and designs of cast-iron chiminea to choose from.
1. Because they conduct heat easily, they are always hot, and care should be taken not to touch them.
2. They can rust if not properly maintained, and you end up with a sorry sight that defaces your space.
3. They are heavy and cannot be easily moved except perhaps with a trolley.
Merits Of A Clay Chiminea
1. They do not require any assembly.
2. They come in unique shapes, designs, and sizes; it’s difficult to find two chimineas that are exactly alike.
3. They do not get too hot and are safer even for places with kids.
1. They are very fragile and can easily crack if not handled carefully.
2. They require a lot of maintenance for them to keep looking good
3. They have to be cured when they are bought.
How To Use A Chiminea For The First Time
1. Setting it
You can get the most out of your chiminea by setting it up properly. A chiminea is not something you move around every time because they are mostly heavy (that is for cast iron) and fragile (in the case of clay), so you need a permanent spot with a level surface where you can place it.
Do not place them near combustible materials or substances that melt easily at high temperatures because chimineas can get hot. At night take about 2 hours for clay chimineas to become hot enough to heat the place; hence you should light it up at least 2 hours before you are ready to enjoy its heat.
2. Curing It
Now, if you have a cast iron chiminea, you have no business curing it before using it for the first time. If you have a clay model, you must cure it to preserve its life and guarantee the safety of those using the chiminea.
When you cure your clay chimineas, you reduce the possibility of the unit experiencing a thermal shock. To cure your new chiminea before you use it for the first, you will need the following:
- A clay chiminea
- Sand, lava rock, or pea gravel
- Long matches or long-nosed lighter
1. Ensure that you keep your chiminea in a place that is safe, flat, fire-resistant, and from any overhanging objects.
2. With your chiminea in position, add sand, pea gravel, or lava stone to the bottom, and it should come to three quarter (¾) from the bottom to the opening at the side of the chiminea. The sand at the bottom ensures that the chiminea is not in direct contact with the fire; this further keeps it cracking.
3. You can start a small fire with newspapers rolled into balls. Use the long lighter or match sticks to light up the newspaper. Allow them to burn until the fire goes off and everything cools down again.
4. This time around, you will make a slightly bigger fire with newspapers as you did earlier, but this time, you will have to add some kindling. Again, let this fire go out and allow your chiminea to cool.
5. You will still need to make a fire in the chiminea, but this time, it will be slightly bigger than the previous one. To do this, you will need to add a little more kindling than previously to the fire: when it burns out, just let the chiminea cool again
6. You will still have to light one more fire, but this time, it will be big with logs and wood. You will have to add the log slowly, One log at a time. The fire should not burn for more than an hour, and you shouldn’t make it an ‘inferno.’
And there you have it; your clay chiminea is cured and protected from easily cracking as you use it. You can now use your chiminea to heat your outdoor space for as much as 12 hours straight, and when you are done using it, you should allow the logs to burn down to ash, wipe out the ash, and leave it to cool down.
Chiminea is a classy thing to have in your outdoor space because it is aesthetically pleasing, and watching an open flame in such a beautifully crafted piece of art can be enchanting. But to keep your clay chiminea strong and prevent it from cracking, ensure that you cure it before using it for the first time.
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We trust this article helped you learn how to use a chiminea for the first time. You may also want to check If you Can Put a Chiminea on Decking?
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