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Tips for Choosing a Chimenea

When you want to add character to your outdoor space, a traditionally styled chimenea is a wonderful choice.

The joys of owning a chimenea include their great beauty that's based on hundreds of years of tradition. You'll find they're made in clay, cast iron, aluminum or another material such as copper. Each of these will add character to your outdoor space and each has pros and cons to consider.

Clay - it's traditional and hand-crafted, so each one is unique. They are economical to buy, but won't last as long as other types. They're actually suited to smaller, shorter-term fires. Experts also recommend a "seasoning" period, which includes a series of several small fires over the course of a few days. Also, clay models that get wet when they're hot will almost certainly crack. A misting rain that crops up when you're enjoying your clay chimenea could do some damage. Never use water to put out a fire in a clay model for the same reasons. They can also fall apart in the midst of regular use, one day simply crumbling beyond recognition.

Cast iron - This is a weighty choice and highly popular, along with cast aluminum. It will last a very long time and styles range from rustic to modern hearth designs. They're a good choice for public locations or if you're worried about theft as they're too hefty to tote around easily. That also means you'll need a two-wheeler to move them around at home. Some wheeled models are available, which is also an asset. They will rust over time, but can be spot-painted or you can simply cover them to reduce moisture contact.

Cast aluminum - These are lightweight and won't rust, which makes them an exceptional choice for home use. They're very decorative with a range of styles and designs that will fit into any outdoor decor. Cast aluminum models are the longest-lasting of all chimenea materials and are much easier to store, if you decide to tuck them out of sight for the winter. They won't be affected by the elements, however, so you can enjoy a cozy fire even in the depths of winter.

Copper - This is a very elegant and upscale choice that will eventually develop that familiar patina. With some effort, you can also maintain the newer shine with protective covers and by using recommended cleaning mixtures/polishers. Copper belongs to the family of "soft" metals, which means it is not as scratch resistant as other materials. Dents and dings are also common if moved carelessly. It's also prone to developing "hot spots" when logs aren't carefully placed.

Tips for Using a Chimenea

-Use an approved sealant, if it is not already sealed. Some types will burn, so be sure to read the label carefully (and some marketers recommend against any sealant). Only for clay models that are "air-dried."
-Fill the bowl with pea gravel; level this layer to about one inch below the opening. You can also use sand or rocks designed for chimeneas. Next, add two bricks to elevate the wood and allow for ash to develop.
-Use shorter sticks for burning and don't fill the bowl too full.
-Be sure the flames will be located higher than the actual top of the belly opening. This lets the smoke escape through the stack.
-Purchase a spark arrestor for safety. Screens for the bowl opening are also available.

You should also purchase a cover for clay and cast iron chimeneas. When cast iron begins to rust, it will stain the flooring. For clay, you'll simply be protecting the wonderful handiwork from disintegrating sooner.

Miscellaneous Tips for Chimenea Enjoyment

-Use pinion wood, which is an aromatic species popular in Mexico. It also reportedly acts as an insect repellent.
-Don't choose a small bowled chimenea, unless you're really cramped for space. You'll never have enough room for a really good heat base.
-A higher stack means the smoke will be exiting further away from faces when people are seated.
- Select a base with wheels; usually on the back side. That lets you shift the unit more easily to take advantage of a windbreak before you start the fire.

The magic created by any type of chimenea is hard to resist. Even when the flames have died, these outdoor firepits are just as beautiful as decorative outdoor elements.

Photo public domain courtesy Wikipiedia/Snakerider




Find more information on firepits and chimeneas:

Firepit or Chimenea?

Firepit Safety

Outdoor Firepit Styles


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