I have some friends, some honest friends,
And honest friends are few;
My pipe of briar, my open fire,
A book that’s not too new…
~ Robert Service
There’s nothing quite like an open fire. Particularly on a small, well-tended patio. A Mexican open-front fireplace, chiminea or chiminea, will fit perfectly in amongst the flowerpots and tubs. If you’re lucky enough to have a bigger garden, you might want to invest in a cast-iron one…though I do think fired clay trumps other materials because of its rustic feel.
I’ve owned many chimineas, from cheap clay to cast iron, and the one I have at the moment is a much-overpriced (and much-loved) decorated Mexican one (supposedly…though I’m somewhat suspicious of a factory in Sheffield) that came from the Tatton Park flower show.
If you’re thinking about buying one but are unsure of the options, then this short article will set you on the right track. There’s also a little bit of general buying advice at the bottom
Buying Online: Our 5 Best Chiminea Picks
If you want to buy online, there’s some great options. Amazon also sell a handful of great products. B&Q are the go-to for outdoor fireplaces, and they do have a good selection, though you might want to go with a more artisan brand for longer-lasting quality. Inspired Fires offer some great, beautifully decorated, products. The Garden Furniture Centre also has a unique selection.
La Hacienda Steel Chiminea
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La Hacienda’s a good brand that offer this standard, though very high-quality, chiminea in three different sizes. It’s got a hefty belly and a grill for barbecuing (you can use coals because it’s made of steel).
The beauty of steel chimineas is that they tend to last longer than their clay counterparts, dues to the fact that they’re more impervious to fluctuations of both heat and weather. They’re also usually bigger…making them ideal for campfire-style gatherings.
La Luna Chiminea
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A lovely hand-made chiminea that’s just the right size for a patio or balcony. It weighs 17 KG and is around 60cm tall. As I mentioned, I much prefer the rustic feel of clay chimineas to the steel ones, so even if this particular design doesn’t take your fancy, it’s worth having a shop around.
Charles Bentley Pyramid Chiminea
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If you’re looking for something a little more modern, then this pyramid-shaped chiminea might be the way to go. It stands at over a metre high (so there’s no risk of smoke blowing into your face), is easy to assemble, and is particularly good at radiating heat in all directions. Definitely one for the “interpretive” garden.
Just What Is A Chiminea Anyway?
Chimineas are simple, open-front fireplaces that traditionally have been made with clay. It’s one of the oldest forms of fireplace with recorded usage over four hundred years ago, where they served a domestic heating and cooking function…indoors, surprisingly enough.
The reason they’re so useful, and aren’t just a fad, is that their design enables a draft movement – drawing air in through the opening and out through the chimney. What this means is that smoke is directed away from those around it and that fuel burns over a relatively smaller period (hours). Because they’re raised, and because the fire is somewhat short-lived, they’re suitable for decks and balconies.
What are the Options?
Basically, you can choose from either fired clay or cast iron – which more resembles a wood stove. There might also be steel types available. Clay chimineas generally require the least maintenance – they don’t require any assembling like those made from metal and also don’t need to be cleaned as often.
The benefit of cast iron types, on the other hand, is that they’re less prone to cracking – although frosts are much more of a culprit than high temperatures. You can also use some iron chimineas, generally because they’re larger, for doing a bit of light barbecuing…though I’ve never had particularly great results with doing this.
The other point worth making is that clay chimineas are, of course, biodegradable!