As the weather gets warmer, there are more and more opportunities to host – or attend – backyard gatherings and barbecues. When having a chiminea fire at your home, it’s important to remember all the dangers and follow these rules, as well as the local ordinances that might apply to you.
The short answer is:
No, you cannot use a chiminea on a covered porch. Let’s investigate why.
The Presence of Oxygen is Necessary for a Fire to Burn
Fires need oxygen in order to burn. Since chimineas are surrounded by walls, they don’t get as much oxygen as an open fire would, so they don’t burn as hot.
Although the risk of accidental damage is lessened by the enclosed nature of the chiminea, it should only be used in an open area or with a chimney.
When you burn carbon-based materials such as wood or gas, the burning process means that the carbon content of your fuel combines with oxygen from the air.
What Does Your Fire Release?
When a fire burns in an enclosed room, the oxygen in the room is gradually used up and replaced with carbon dioxide. Following a build-up of carbon dioxide in the air, the fuel is prevented from burning fully and it starts to release carbon monoxide.Cheshire Fire & Rescue Service
You MUST have complete clear space in the area above your chiminea. Putting a fire under a canopy deprives it of some of the oxygen it needs to burn cleanly.
The combination of less oxygen available to the fire and less ventilation can lead to incomplete combustion and the production of carbon monoxide (CO), which is deadly in high concentrations.
It’s also unsafe because it means that there’s a fuel source close enough to your chiminea or firepit that could catch fire from a stray spark. Canopies are usually made of canvas or some sort of tarpaulin and are not likely to be fireproof.
Damage to the Roof
Over time you’ll damage the roof of your chimney. Chimineas need to be used primarily outdoors without any coverage in the space directly above them. The only exception is a use in a structure that has a built-in chimney.
TIP – Remember that if you burn your fire in any outdoor structure that has a chimney, different rules apply to what you can burn as you now have to observe the rules of smoke control areas. For more information on this check, my article Are Chimineas Legal?
How To Tell If You’ve Been Affected By Carbon Monoxide
CO poisoning is particularly scary because it can creep up on you gradually but even at low levels it can cause the following:
- tension-type headache
- feeling and being sick
- tiredness and confusion
- stomach pain
- shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
For more information on carbon monoxide poisoning check the NHS website.
One of the reasons I believe it’s important to know about the dangers of carbon monoxide is I had a close friend who was almost killed because of carbon monoxide poisoning. She was ill for weeks but the doctor kept telling her she had the flu and sent her away.
It was only when we all went on holiday for a week that she became dramatically better during the time away from her house but then got really sick again after just one day back in her apartment. It turned out her boiler had a carbon monoxide leak! Thankfully she realised in time and got tested for that. It showed MASSIVE levels of CO in her bloodstream.
Please be extra careful with burning fires indoors with chimneys for the same reason.
How Far Away From Canopy Should My I Put My Chiminea?
There’s no hard and fast rule about how far away from the chiminea or firepit your canopy should be, but we recommend at least 3 metres (8 feet) for safety’s sake. The exception to this rule is when you have a gazebo with a chimney.
These are designed to safely have a chiminea or firepit inside as they have sufficient ventilation to let smoke escape.
Reasons not to have a chiminea under a covered porch:
- Fire hazards from stray embers or sparks from the fire
- Fumes from the fire cannot escape
- A covered porch is not ventilated sufficiently
- Damage to the roof of the covered porch over time
Your chiminea should be well clear of any canopy or overhang. That means that unfortunately, it’s not safe to put them in a covered porch. There is a risk of fire, CO (carbon monoxide) poisoning, and lots of other smoke inhalation issues. In order for those fumes to disperse properly and for you to remain safe, you need to have them in an open area where there is plenty of fresh air to keep you from feeling dizzy, sick, or light-headed.
For more fire safety tips for chimineas, check out what Lancashire Fire Department has to say.
You can also check out our full safety guide for chimineas.