How to Cure a Clay Chiminea – Ultimate Beginners Guide

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Curing, firing, or seasoning a clay chiminea is an essential process that will reduce the risk of thermal shock and damage to your wonderful new clay chim. This is a 6 step process that includes:

how to cure a clay chiminea pin
  • Making your chiminea safe for use
  • Lighting several small fires
  • Make sure they cool each time

You will need:

Follow these steps to cure your clay chiminea:

Step 1 – Placing your chiminea in a safe place

Make sure you find a flat, fire-resistant space for your chiminea away from anything overhanging.

Step 2 – Add Sand

Add sand, lava rock, or pea gravel to the bottom of your chiminea. The sand should come ¾ of the way up from the bottom to the mouth (front opening). 

The sand ensures the bottom of your chiminea is not in direct contact with the fire making it far less likely to crack.

TIP – It’s always a good idea to have extra sand around as a safety measure – if a fire gets out of control you don’t want to be throwing water on it unless it’s an emergency situation.

non chemical firestarter for chiminea

Step 3 – Start a small fire

Using just a few scrunched-up balls of newspaper, carefully light your fire using long matches or a long-nosed lighter. Let this fire go out and for everything to cool down.

Step 4 – Start a second larger small fire

Repeat step 3 with newspaper and one or two small pieces of kindling. Again, let this fire go out and your chiminea to cool.

Step 5 – Start a third small fire larger than the last

Repeat step 4 this time adding 3 or 4 small pieces of kindling to your fire. Do not continue to feed it, but leave it to extinguish naturally and for everything to cool again.

Step 6 – Light a larger fire

small chiminea fire
pic by tq on unsplash

Light a fire and add your first wood log to the fire. Don’t be tempted to produce a towering inferno with this fire. One log at a time and build it slowly. Although this fire should be a typical size for your chiminea, it’s best to keep the duration relatively short – less than an hour. This way your chim won’t get really hot.

And now your clay chiminea is cured!

The next time you use your chiminea, the clay should be a lot more resilient to cracking. 

You can have a regular fire and keep it going throughout the evening. 

Chiminea are designed as small efficient wood burners so don’t build the fire too large. Regardless of the size of your chiminea, flames should NEVER be coming out the top of the chimney. 

chiminea with flames out top

If this happens DO NOT ADD ANY MORE FUEL – we use the shouty capitals as it’s a safety issue. 

Wait till the fire dies down significantly before considering adding anything. If flames come out the top of your chim, you’ve over-fulled it. This means your chiminea is now dealing with higher temperatures than it’s designed to deal with and you risk damaging your chiminea.

Damaging your chiminea through thermal shock is not only likely to damage your chiminea but also puts you and your family in danger as materials can crack and even explode.

How long does a clay chiminea last?

This depends largely on a few factors:

  • The quality of your chiminea
  • Frequency of use
  • Care and maintenance

If you look after your clay chiminea properly you can expect many happy years of chimineaing.  By re-sealing it every season, being conservative with the size of the fires you build, and by protecting your chiminea from the weather, you have much more chance of extending the life of your chiminea.

When it gets too cold, make sure to cover your chiminea and bring it inside to a shed or garage if possible. The cover protects from rain but by leaving a clay chiminea outside over winter, it will be subjected to frost.

Check out my full article on how to winterize your chiminea for more tips.

In Summary

Curing (also known as firing or seasoning) your clay chiminea is an essential process when first using your new chim.

  • Make sure to put sand in the bottom of your chiminea
  • When building your small fires, increase their size and frequency slowly
  • Thermal shock can damage your chiminea and be a safety concern
  • Never over-fuel your chiminea (eg have flames visible out the top)
  • By making sure to follow the guidelines on curing your clay chiminea, you can substantially extend the life of your chim

Keep your fires small and enjoy your rustic, clay chiminea.

You might also like this article on chiminea sand.

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