Make a Decorative Indoor Fireplace and Emergency Heater Without a Chimney

Updated on April 10, 2019
MoRita profile image

MoRita tries constantly to find ways to fix things in her home with absolutely no use of tools or skills.

Emergency Heat

I live with my child in a small house. We don't have a fireplace. A few years back, the power went out on one of the coldest days of the year. Within a half hour, my house temperature had dropped almost 30 degrees F. I was terrified for my infant who was sleeping soundly in his room.

Since then, I've struggled to find something cheap, safe, and easy to use that will look nice and double as a decorative fireplace when not needed as an emergency heater. Propane and kerosene kind of scare me after reading stories of people whose heaters catch on fire. I wanted something easy.

Here's what I came up with. So far it's been safe with my cats, my child, and my rambunctious dog. The drawback is that in an emergency, you will need to refuel it every two-three hours, but it is what it is...

What You Will Need

  • A cheap outdoor chiminea with a metal grille around it.
  • A bag of lava rock (I used the kind for gas grills, small bag).
  • A rectangle planter, preferably terra cotta, that fits into your chiminea (your could also use two or three round terra cotta pots).
  • Several small bags or one large bag of fish tank gravel.
  • Small votive candles in glass jars for decorative purposes.
  • Real Flame gel fuel cans (or any other indoor alcohol gel fuel) for emergency purposes.

I bought my random metal and cast iron chiminea at Menard's at the end of the fall season and it cost me a total of about $45. I believe it was normally priced at $129.

The decorative planter I have here is a painted terra cotta planter from Mexico that I found at a local Ace Hardware store.

My choice of fish tank gravel was turquoise, blue, and white because I happen to like those colors.

Put It Together

  1. Start by putting your chiminea in an area where it looks nice. It will be a bit heavy when filled, though still movable in an emergency.
  2. Put your planter in the middle of the inside of the chiminea. Block any holes at the bottom of the planter. I used a lump of Play-Doh for this... after I ended up with fish tank gravel everywhere from an unblocked hole... Grumble.
  3. Fill the planter up to about 2" from the top with fish tank gravel.
  4. Put the lava stone around the outside of the planter. It is there just for decorative purposes, so if you don't want it, you can omit it.

For a Decorative Indoor Fire

Take the glass votive candle holders and push them into the fish tank gravel until the edges are about flush with the edge of the planter. I find about six candles to be perfect for this. When you light them, the flames will be low enough that from a bit away, it looks like an actual fire going on in the planter.

The chiminea's metal top will feel a bit warm and emit some radiant heat. I have found that it is not enough to burn fingers (my child touches it all the time to warm up his hands.

If you'd like to add a smoky fire smell to add some realism, get some wood block incense and put the little ceramic burner plate for it somewhere in your fish tank gravel. The trick with the wood block incense it to hold it with tongs in the middle of a candle flame for at least a minute to actually get it to burn. They're a little tricky.

The indoor chiminea adds a rustic potbelly-stove look in your house. You could roast some marshmallows for s'mores on it, if you'd like.

Ina pinch, you can use the little tea light candles and set them in the fish tank gravel, but I don't think they look as nice as that candles that reflect in the glass.

Emergency Heat Use

You can use this for method for emergency heat or if you just want a decorative fireplace that actually emits heat as well.

Take two to three cans of Real Flame gel and push them into the fish gravel. In a true emergency (where you don't care about decoration), you can just push the lava rocks to the side and set the heat cans in the chiminea in order to replace them more easily. Alternatively, you can set the cans on top of the fish gravel.

I generally keep a case or two of fuel cans in my garage just in case. Each can lasts about 2-3 hours, but they tend to lean more toward two, I've found.

Sometimes, when I still want decor but I get lazy, I just put the two cans behind the planter so I don't have to move the candles. It still looks good because the cans are hidden by the planter and all you see is the flames.

I have found that one can will heat up my small (25' by 15') living room / kitchen area pretty quickly when my heat is running. In an emergency situation, I would probably use three cans and try to keep the "stove" in a smaller area.

The chiminea top will get too hot to touch comfortably. If you have small children, keep them from touching the top. My pets generally have a better radar for this stuff than my child does, so they don't usually bother it.

Other Emergency Heat Tips

  • In a real pinch, you can take an empty steel can, shove a roll of toilet paper in it (pull the cardboard roll out), and soak the t.p. in 71% rubbing alcohol (91% will work, too, just not as long). Light the toilet paper with a long lighter and you'll have made your own can of alcohol fuel. It does not produce carbon monoxide and can be burned inside. It does not last as long as gel fuel, in my experience.
  • Another option is to put hand sanitizer in a steel can and light that as gel fuel. Same as above.
  • Keep a few cans of gel fuel in your car in case of an emergency in cold weather. Also pack a lighter and a large metal coffee can. You can set the gel fuel in the coffee can, light it, and set it somewhere safe inside the vehicle. Crack open a window to provide oxygen.

Make Good Decisions

  • This stuff has fire. Fire burns and is hot. Please be careful.
  • Real Flame fuel gel is meant to be used safely inside. It will not cause carbon monoxide poisoning. However, any flame will eat up oxygen and make CO2, so it would not be wise to use this in a completely airtight situation.
  • Do not let small children touch the chiminea when there is fuel burning in it. Don't leave them near the lit chiminea when they are unsupervised.
  • Make good decisions. This has worked well and safely for me. It might not work as wonderfully for you. Or maybe it will. I have nothing to do with your potential success, lack of it, or bad decision.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • MoRita profile imageAUTHOR

      Mo Rita 

      19 months ago from IL

      Wow! That is quite a set-up! You should post pictures of that somewhere; I'd love to see it and get a better idea!

    • profile image


      19 months ago

      Ha! I am not alone! Love what you did. I too use a chiminea indoors. I took two old dresser drawers and a piece of plywood and painted them to look like stone. From these I created a platform with space beneath for logs. Another painted plywood piece is at the back up against the wall and looks like a heat shied. I put the chiminea on the platform. In the space below the inside grate, I added three small electric lights with candle flicker bulbs in them. The bulbs don't get hot, unlike Christmas tree bulbs or nightlight bulbs. Over this I put crumpled cellophane and lava rock. The effect is that of glowing coals. (NOTE: the lights don't come into contact with any metal parts.) On top of the grate I placed ceramic logs, and I burn cans of gel fuel.

      Around the chiminea are fireplace tools for effect, plus a basket filled with fir cones and deer antlers for a rustic look, and like you, I sometimes burn balsam incense. Instant atmosphere and a focal point for our living room for maybe $100. People seeing this are convinced that we have a real fireplace/stove in our home.

    • profile image


      20 months ago

      that is fantastic idea. love it

    • Christy Kirwan profile image

      Christy Kirwan 

      3 years ago from San Francisco

      What a clever idea, love it!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)