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Chiminea Decorating Ideas (Plus Safety Tips)

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I have a decorative chiminea in my bedroom that I've loved for years.

Here is the chiminea I have in my bedroom—I have since added ornamental stones around the base of the candle for a bit of color.

Here is the chiminea I have in my bedroom—I have since added ornamental stones around the base of the candle for a bit of color.

What Is a Chiminea?

Chimineas (pronounced chi-mih-nee-ahs) were first crafted in the 17th century by Mexican tribesmen. Today, they are mass-produced and the quality and workmanship varies.

Traditionally, they are freestanding potbellied clay ovens with a chimney stack that provides warmth and/or a place to cook. You can now also find ornamental cast aluminum and cast iron varieties. Today, chimineas are a very popular decorative and functional addition to any outdoor deck, patio, or porch as an outdoor fireplace.

Indoors, chimineas can be used as a decorative addition for a bit of the southwestern flare. Candles can be placed inside in place of an actual fire for the same glowing ambiance.

How to Set Up Your Chiminea

Chimineas should never be burned indoors! You can place candles inside your chiminea, but remember to use the same caution you would with any candle indoors.

Most clay chimineas are manufactured and assembled in two parts: the bulbous base and the chimney stack or neck. When handling your chiminea, it is important to never lift from the neck, since it could cause this seam to break. The best way to carry it is to grab hold of the chiminea opening with one hand and cradle the point where the neck meets the base with your other arm.

Step 1: Position the Chiminea

Most come with an iron stand with either three or four legs. Locate a level surface for your chiminea that is not directly under branches, awnings, or an umbrella.

Safety Note: Do not place it in an enclosed porch or gazebo. If you're placing a chiminea on a wood flooring such as a deck or porch, it is highly recommended that you place a non-combustible pad down first. Ceramic tiles work well for this.

Step 2: Insulate the Fire Base

It is important to insulate the bowl of the chiminea, so the fire is not directly against the clay. Add play sand (found at your local DIY store) or pea stone to the bowl until it is three to four inches below the lower lip of the mouth.

Step 3: Set Up a Grate

Next, place two bricks on their side about six inches apart. These will act as the grate and keep wood elevated.

Step 4: Seal the Outside Before First Use

Some manufacturers recommend applying a sealant like Future acrylic floor finish or Thompson's Water Seal to the outside of your chiminea to protect it from absorbing moisture. Any moisture absorbed into the clay will turn to steam and crack the pot.

The chiminea should be resealed at least once a month during periods of use. You should always protect it from rain. If the chiminea accidentally gets soaked, let it dry naturally for a few days before using it again.

If it begins to rain while your chiminea is in use, try to extinguish the fire by cutting off its supply of oxygen. Cover the hole in the stack with a piece of metal or slate.

How to Safely Burn Fires in Your Chiminea

The first 10 fires in your chiminea should be relatively small, because you want to get it properly seasoned. Be sure and let the fire burn out naturally.

Fat wood (found at your local DIY store) works well for starting chiminea fires. (Note: Never use lighter fluid or similar products. The clay will absorb the liquid.)

Once the chiminea is seasoned, you are ready to burn larger fires. Burn a few logs in the center of the bowl. If you see flames coming out of the chimney neck, then your fire is too large.

Most chimineas are too small for traditional fireplace-sized logs. You will have to buy pre-cut chiminea wood or cut the logs down yourself. A good size is nine to 14 inches in length and four inches in diameter. However, this largely depends on the size of the chiminea mouth.

  • Pinion pine: This wood is known for its lovely fragrance and the smoke is a natural mosquito repellant. This makes it probably the most widely used wood in chimineas.
  • Apple, alligator juniper, and hickory: These woods also work well.

What Not to Burn

  • Pressure-treated wood: This type of wood emits toxic gasses when burned. If wood has a greenish tint, it may be pressure treated. If you are not sure, play it safe and don't burn it!
  • Pellets: Pellets are a type of manufactured wood stove fuel, are they not recommended for use in a chiminea. They tend to burn hot—and if the quality is poor, they will leave a lot of ash.
  • Charcoal: Most chiminea manufacturers do not recommend burning charcoal.

Okay to Burn (But Be Careful!)

  • Red cedar: This type of wood has a very nice aroma and helps ward off the mosquitoes, but it has a tendency to pop and crackle. You will want to put a screen over the mouth of the chiminea if you use it.
  • Mesquite: This is an excellent cooking wood, but it burns very hot. Be sure and use only a few small pieces at a time.
  • Scrap lumber: This is a popular choice—but dry pieces of pine and spruce 2x4s and 2x6s burn really quickly and hot. This type of wood should be splintered into smaller kindling.
  • Green or wet wood: This will cause a lot of smoke, which can be annoying to your or your neighbors.

How to Put Out the Fire

It is best to let the fire die out naturally. But if you must extinguish it, cut off its supply of oxygen by covering the smokestack with a piece of metal or slate. You can use sand to extinguish it too.

Note: Never use water or carbon dioxide to extinguish the fire.

How to Repair Cracks

All chimineas are not created equal. There is no way to really tell from a visual inspection how long yours will last. A poorly made chiminea may break with the first fire.

  • High-temperature epoxy adhesive: This is probably the best product for repairs. It is commonly used for repairs on automotive mufflers and exhaust pipes and can be purchased at some hardware stores and most car parts stores. This product is both sandable and paintable.
  • RTV high-temperature silicone caulk: This is another adhesive that might be useful. This is the material used to make "instant" gaskets between metal automobile engine parts subjected to high temperatures.
  • Chimineas Inc.
    Top designs and quality chimineas at excellent prices!
  • Dancing Fire
    Safety information and everything you always needed for your chiminea and fire pit!
  • The Blue Rooster
    Includes cast aluminum chimineas and cast iron chiminea designs.
  • Chiminea Express
    A wide array of Mexican chimineas.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


KRC (author) from Central Texas on November 30, 2009:

I agree Premiere Fire Pits! They are much safer there. I guess you could take that one step further and go with the flameless battery-operated candles just to achieve the look without any fire hazard at all. Thanks for stopping by! Assuming that you're the Premiere Fire that I just located online, I have now added a backlink to your website in my links above. :)

Premiere Fire Pits on November 30, 2009:

I hadn't thought about using a chiminea with a candle indoors, although that seems like a good option. It is less likely to be knocked over compared to a candle on a table or shelf.

KRC (author) from Central Texas on September 20, 2009:

I'm glad to see they've found their way there also. I think they're a fantastic idea to sit around when it's a bit chilly outside.

Either they're made well or the UK'ers have found a way to keep them dry since with as much moisture as you guys get I would think it would pose some problems.

Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on September 20, 2009:

These are very popular in the UK these days for patios etc.

KRC (author) from Central Texas on September 19, 2009:

Duchess OBlunt, thanks! You're so right, I do intend to get a second one. I do enjoy having the one for decoration though. So, it's not totally useless...LOL

Duchess OBlunt on September 19, 2009:

Great Hub KCC, lots of information all in one Hub. I gotta ask, what's the point in buying one if you don't intend to use it? I say, get the second one, so you can use one.

KRC (author) from Central Texas on September 19, 2009:

Don't tease me Scott! LOL I've never heard of anyone's breaking that I know that has one, but obviously it is a risk. So, like me, you should buy 2 or 3. LOL

KRC (author) from Central Texas on September 19, 2009:

I almost didn't recognize you with your new avatar, Dohn! I love sitting around an outdoor fire, I've just been too chicken to fire mine up for fear it will break. I need to buy another one so that I can burn one and keep one.

Scott.Life on September 19, 2009:

Very interesting, I actually may go out and get one or maybe I'll by one from Amazon and give you some affiliate money .

dohn121 from Hudson Valley, New York on September 19, 2009:

I take it it's no coincidence that chimney sounds a lot like chiminea? Perhaps its the westernization of the word itself? Such stoves are very popular still for the outdoors as it tends to keep mosquitoes away. I like the fact that it doubles as a decoration and/or conversation piece! Thanks, KCC Big Country.