Imagine you want to spend a relaxed evening, cradled in a picnic blanket with your favorite book out in the garden. But it’s chilly outside, and the sun’s not out.
Or, you just have some friends over and want to have meaningful conversations. Admiring the beautiful sunset all the while you feel a little warmth is all that’s missing.
T+hen what’s stopping you from setting the vibe right? Installing a chimenea is all that you need.
Don’t fret if you don’t know the first thing about chimeneas because we’ve got that covered for you in this informative article. We’ll start from the basics and touch on everything you need to know about it.
Just keep reading!
What Is A Chimenea?
Have you ever visited tourist sites or patio stores in western states like Arizona or, let’s say, the marketplaces in Mexico? If yes, then you might be familiar with those ostentatious bulbous outdoor fireplaces supported by an iron stand at the base. Those are called chimeneas.
In simpler words, a chimenea is a bulb-shaped fireplace, typically sculpted using terra-cotta or clay, ideal for outdoor use.
The hollow bulb-like basal part has a window in the front and houses the fire inside it. It has a narrowed-out top that serves as a chimney or a smokestack. So, the next time you want to gather around a fire below the starry sky but don’t want the smoke to irritate you, try using a chimenea.
It is quite common to see chimeneas on patios as accent pieces in modern-day, adding rustic air to peoples’ courtyards. However, long before that, they were an essential part of domestic life in Mexico.
In Spanish culture, chimeneas have been used for cooking and domestic heating for over four centuries. Times changed, and so did its uses. From traditionally being used indoors, chimeneas eventually became a common sight in backyards and gardens.
You can use chimeneas not just as outdoor fireplaces but also for cooking, with appropriate techniques and safety measures.
Now that we have gone through what a chimenea is and its interesting backstory, we should discuss the other important features. If you feel like buying one for your garden or already have it, refer to this helpful guide for safe installation and uses.
Things To Consider Before Buying
Rather than going for the aesthetics or decoration, we suggest focusing on the utility while buying a chimenea. Avoid getting swayed by the looks and run a thorough background check on the safety and durability.
Don’t forget the following points:
Traditional chimeneas are made out of clay or terra-cotta. These are authentic but fragile and require cautious handling. They’ll also take extra time to dry if they somehow get drenched. That’s why we’d recommend using alternatives made of steel, copper, cast iron, or aluminum over fragile ones.
Shape And Design
You’ll find a wide range of chimeneas in beautiful shapes and designs, so don’t get overwhelmed. First, decide whether you want a traditional-looking piece or want to go for a modern one.
Moving forward, pay attention to the bulb-like base. Well, it won’t always be bulb-like; it can be cuboidal, even prism-like, in a few models. Rather than having a small window in front, some pieces offer a 360-degree view of the fire.
Lastly, go for a broader chimney that can accommodate a bigger load. And don’t forget to make sure it has a removable lid on top.
We’d suggest buying a standard size chimenea, although it depends mainly on the area of your patio or backyard. The size of a chimenea also affects other factors.
If you go for a smaller one, you’ll have to chop the firewood smaller to accommodate it inside the base. Furthermore, if you go for a larger one, it’ll take more time to heat up; so, we recommend that you find your balance.
A little side note, if you live in an area where it isn’t allowed to use wood-burning fireplaces, don’t be disheartened. You can opt for a model that uses liquid propane or gas for burning.
Where To Keep The Chimenea
Choosing the right place for your chimenea can be a little tricky. We know, unlike indoor fireplaces, this one is not installed permanently; rather, you have the freedom to move it whenever you want.
But as we already discussed, old-school chimeneas are made of clay and are really heavy and fragile. It’ll be best to choose a nice spot for them and avoid frequent moving.
Prioritize safety while deciding where to keep a chimenea. A spot that is visible from inside your house at all times is ideal. Make a mental note not to keep any inflammable items nearby. You can keep the firewood or the stock for fuel in a storeroom or garage.
Observe the flow of air and wind patterns around your house. Locate your chimenea in a way that the smoke is carried away from home. It is also crucial to keep it perfectly upright on a leveled floor. Doing this will ensure the proper functioning of the chimney, and sooting will occur inside the fire chamber only.
Patio, backyard, courtyard, and decks are perfect places for keeping your little pillar of warmth. It’ll be best if your chosen spot has a surface of brick, stone, or concrete. However, if it’s a wooden deck or terrace, then you’ll have to take a few extra measures. You can construct a patio hearth or install fire-safe pavers to serve as a platform.
Let’s imagine you found a chimenea that you love. You swiped your credit card and mounted it at the perfect spot in your lovely outdoor sitting. What now?
Well, we are already halfway through our quest to discover all that we need to know about chimenea. We just need to cover a few more points about using it safely and looking after it properly.
Building A Fire
First and foremost, we need to prepare insulation to keep the fire off the clay base. For this, you can put a layer of sand or gravel inside the fire pit. You can also create an elevation using lava rocks.
Now we need to warm up the chimenea, and we need to do that slowly; avoid rushing. Build a small fire and allow it to heat for at least 20 minutes. In this way, you won’t have to worry about the chimenea cracking up. Softwood is best recommended for kindling purposes.
You can use firewood or hardwood for burning. Oak, cedar, and sycamore are some viable options. Made from recycled sawdust, chimenea logs are an environment-friendly choice. They burn well and produce minimal smoke. Just add the logs to the pit and start the fire using firelighters.
In some chimeneas, charcoal, ethanol, or liquid propane can also be used. Fire gel is another handy option. Just put in a few scoops of the gel inside the fire pit or simply put the whole can inside. Instead of waiting for the logs to burn out, you can put the lid back on the fire gel can and be done with it.
To prevent smoking, avoid using wet or unseasoned wood for burning. Minimize the use of tinder and leaves, and don’t forget to clean your chimenea routinely.
Looking After Your Chimenea
Just like all things beautiful, chimeneas are delicate and prone to cracking. To keep them functioning for a long time, you’ll have to care for them well.
Being a clay structure, chimeneas are often low-fire glazed. Some only have a single acrylic coat. To prevent them from cracking, apply an acrylic finish or a layer of sealer before use. This way, you’ll be able to keep your fireplace safe from moisture or getting wet, protecting the clay from going soft eventually.
We suggest reapplying the sealer once every two months during the season of use.
While selecting a location for your chimenea, try to choose a place that is slightly covered on the top. This small precaution will save your outdoor fireplace from bad weather. Buying a cover for it is also a smart move.
Protect your base from the fire by covering it well with a layer of sand, lava stones, or fire glass before lighting. And after using the chimenea once or twice, you can take off the ash-sand mixture in a bucket and use it again in the pit after drying. These are some trivial steps that’ll help you out a lot.
Safety is something we cannot compromise on, so pay attention now. Be attentive while using your outdoor fireplace, and do not leave it unattended for extended periods or at all.
Use a firelighter while kindling the fire and avoid using fluid lighters at all costs.
Once the fire is up in your chimenea, don’t touch it or get too close. The entire vessel will start radiating heat, and you wouldn’t like to have unwanted accidents. Keep children and pets at a safe distance.
When you are done using your outdoor fireplace, never extinguish the fire with water; instead, wait for it to burn out itself. Using water will cause a sudden temperature change inside the fire pit, and more likely than not, the chimenea will crack.
After using, allow sufficient time to let it cool down. Proceed to clean only when you are entirely sure about its temperature.
Alright! We have reached the end of this informative guide on chimeneas. We started with the basics and covered all the important points you must know about these outdoor fireplaces.
If you already have a chimenea, you must be feeling confident to use it. And if you didn’t, you might be tempted to just get one as soon as possible.
Hoping that we nudged you in the right direction, we’ll be signing off. Have fun with that little picnic in your garden and stay warm.
Until next time!