Just a few tips that I wish we knew when before I bought my first chiminea. Welcome to my chiminea cheat sheet!
1. Go Cheap
If you’ve not had much experience with campfires, it’s a good idea to start with a cheap steel chiminea. They offer great value for money, are easy to assemble and move, hard to break, and easy on the bank account.
They’ll give you the opportunity to have a go with a chiminea, and if it doesn’t work out for whatever reason, you haven’t wasted a tonne of money for something you’re highly unlikely to ever use.
2. Try Steel For Your 1st Chiminea
Choosing steel as your first chiminea is a nice introduction to these awesome outdoor fires.
Steel chimineas have become popular in recent years because they are cheap and easy to mass produce, are light enough to be shipped inexpensively, they don’t break in transit (huge problem fir clay chimineas) and they can be sent in parts ready to assemble which keeps the box size reasonable.
The benefits of steel for the consumer are you can get a really cool chiminea for under £100 that you can burn wood and charcoal in, you are less likely to crack it on its first use as a beginner (or drunk person) using a chiminea for the first time and building the fire too big; this is another common issue with clay chimineas.
3. Where to Put a Chiminea?
Planning where to position your chiminea does need a bit of thought. There are certain safety guidelines that you should follow when choosing a spot to place your chim:
- It should not be within 6 feet of a structure – either a building or a fence.
- It should be placed on completely flat ground.
- Your chiminea needs a heat resistance surface – read about how to put a chiminea on a wooden deck.
- Must have clear airspace above your chiminea – never put on a covered patio.
4. Check Local Fire Regulations
Always check that it is ok to light a fire in your back garden and specifically in the summer during heatwaves as rules may change to avoid unnecessary fires.
5. Talk to Your Neighbours
Talk to your neighbours about getting a chiminea, invite them round to roast some marshmallows, and get them on board. Be sensitive to any issues and objections that may arise. After all, smoke nuisance can be one of the worst to deal with.
6. Prepare to Keep Smoke at a Minimum
Use a dry, hardwood that is COMPLETELY dry. I learned this the hard way as I had left some wood in my shed for a while and then tried to use it in my chiminea. Nightmare. The wood must have got some damp, and wow, was it smokey. I filled the whole street! Luckily everyone was really nice about it as I apologised profusely and made sure it never happened again.
Try keeping your wood indoors over the winter to keep it from getting damp.
7. Remember Tools and Gloves
Although we’d all like to just jump in there, buy a chiminea and buy some wood, and that’s it – although chiminea accessories are not many, there are a few important ones to consider.
Remember you need a way to control your fire, so a fire tool of some description that can move a log or coals and pick them up is important. Heatproof gloves are also a good idea as they let you open and close your chiminea door without any nasty burns.
8. Remember Your Fire Emergency Precautions
You’ll need to have a means of extinguishing the fire in an emergency. A bucket of sand is your best option for a chiminea. A fire blanket or fire extinguisher are also good investments. This may seem like overkill but chiminea fires are common and if they get out of control, they can cause significant danger to life and extensive property damage.
There was recently an incident in Essex where a fire started by a chiminea engulfed 15 gardens, and 40 people had to be evacuated. It brought down everything in those gardens, from the sheds to the beautiful plants and trees. Always check with your local fire dept if in any doubt if it’s ok to have a fire.
9. Check Second-Hand Listings
Some of the best chimineas you can buy for the money are second-hand cast iron chimineas. For these, check locally on Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree, NextDoor and other local classified pages.
Going with a used, cast iron chiminea may just have you falling in love with chimineas from the outset! Often they can look a bit worse for wear but, with a little elbow grease, can easily be restored to a stunning garden fireplace.
10. Always Compare Prices
There are lots of re-sellers out there, particularly on Amazon and eBay and often, their chiminea products are hugely over-priced. Use the exact name of the particular chiminea and use it to search lots of different platforms to make sure you get the cheapest price.
11. Clay Chimineas Can Be Delicate
However, there’s considerable more care and attention required with a clay chiminea. There’s also a high possibility of it being damaged or broken during shipping – it just can’t be avoided in something this size, weight and material.
They also need to be seasoned properly before you can light a proper fire in them. Although this is not difficult to do, it can be tedious and take some time.
Clay chimineas also need some sand in the bottom of the fire bowl to protect the bottom from cracking. You can only burn small fires in them and if you do see flames coming out the top of your chimney…expect a crack soon.
There are other more sturdy clay chiminea options – check out Gardeco AfC Chimalin Chimineas which are made from specially designed heat-resistant clay. These ones come with a 5-year guarantee!
12. For Long Lasting Chimineas – Choose Cast Iron
Cast iron chimineas have a lot of benefits, and one of the most impressive is their long life expectancy. Even if they do get left outside and start rusting, it can really add to their character.
13. For The Hottest Chiminea – Choose XL Cast Iron
Cast iron chimineas conduct and radiate heat far better than any other chiminea material. Simples.
14. Always Check Dimensions
The important chiminea dimensions to check are its height and its diameter. The height measurement is simply how tall the chiminea is from the ground to the highest point, and the diameter of a chiminea is who wide it is at its widest point.
The measurement is called diameter as traditional-shaped chimineas have a spherical fire bowl. Remember to check the dimensions of the opening to the fire bowl against the wood logs you are buying to make sure that they fit (a more common problem than you may realise!)
15. Buy a Cover
Covering your chiminea when not in use is by far one of the best ways to extend its life. By providing that weather protection, your chiminea will be ready to go come springtime! Not screaming for a coat of paint and crack on first lighting.