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Choosing the Best Outside Fireplace: Clay or Cast Iron Chimineas

Wooden bench, chiminea and various plants, some in pots, in a sm

If you are currently remodeling your outside living space or if your architect and home builder are still building your new home, having a fireplace in the backyard is a great centerpiece. Not only can it bring warmth during some of the cooler months, but it looks beautiful. With the different types, picking the right one can be challenging. While it is common for people to discuss design plans with an interior designer, when it comes to exterior décor for your backyard, we can help. One fireplace that looks great for an outside area is a Chiminea (or Chimenea). This post will talk about Chimineas, what they are, the materials they come in, brands, features, and more.

What is a fire pit Chiminea or Chiminea fireplace?

Chimineas are fireplaces for your backyard. They are a free-standing chimney-like structures on legs. Some have a simple opening on one side, while others have a 360-degree view of the flames. These Mexican outside fireplaces are a popular feature in many countries. While they are very popular in Mexico, their influence can be traced back to Spain. These are large units to be placed on the ground, not on a tabletop. However, there are some smaller novelty versions for a table, but they are really just about visuals than being a serious fireplace.

chiminea fireplace

What is the difference between a Chiminea fire pit and a Chiminea outdoor fireplace?

These two terms basically mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably. However, some might use the term fireplace more frequently with the types that only have an opening on one side. Some might use the term fire pit more frequently in the ones where flames can be seen from any direction.

Is the most common type of Chiminea Clay?

A clay Chimenea, or terracotta, is the most traditional and extremely popular. They are the most common types in some countries, but in the US, there are a wide variety of materials you can find them made out of rather than just clay. That being said, aesthetically speaking, the clay versions are the ones that look most authentic if you are going for that specific design style.

Are there models of Chiminea that you can get made in cast iron?

You can get Chimineas made from durable cast ire, which is also a common material. These tend to be a lot heavier and stronger. The darker black color makes them look very different than your typical clay versions.

Should you choose a fire pit Chiminea that is a clay or cast iron?

There are several things to consider when choosing the material for your Chimineas:

  • Cost – While size, brand, and model are a consideration, clay tends to be a little cheaper.
  • Durability – Cast iron Chimineas will definitely be more durable. Clay can break if knocked over or bumped.
  • Hidden Costs – Remember there are additional costs for both like wood to burn or gas in some cases. In many cases, you’ll need accessories and fireplace tools. 
  • Weather Sensitivity – Cast iron tends to rust easily in wet weather. Therefore, you need to keep them covered in the rainy months of the year. On the other hand, clay tends to crack in really cold weather.
  • Seasoning – You have to season the interior of cast iron Chimineas, somewhat similar to how you might season a cast iron cooking pan.
  • No Dry Seasons – Regardless of which you choose, you shouldn’t really be using either in places that have really dry seasons or droughts due to the added chance of a fire starting.

Which one you choose will definitely come down to aesthetic preferences, needs, region, and associated costs. Either can be acceptable, so be sure to select the one that matches the style you like and fits your needs and requirements.

What is the difference between a Is Cast Iron Chiminea and  cast aluminum?

Aluminum Chiminea is much lighter and can be moved around a lot easier. This makes them a bit more portable. However, they don’t usually have the same durability as cast iron.

Is a steel Chiminea or steel fire pit high-quality for outdoor heating? And are they the best Chimineas?

A steel wood-burning fireplace Chiminea is one that is made out of stainless steel. These are very durable, stain resistant, and can look nice if that is your aesthetic preference. They tend to be a little lighter than cast iron, but not quite as light as ones that are aluminum. Some people may consider these the best, but there are too many different factors. That being said, if you like the way they look, these are excellent choices as well for performance and durability.

Is a Chimenea always wood burning or can you get an outdoor Chiminea or fire pit that uses gas like propane?

Some brands make versions of Chimeneas that use gas instead of wood as its fuel source. Remember that propane-style Chimeneas require you to change tanks regularly. Natural gas ones are rare for Chimineas, but it is possible to hook them up to natural gas lines.

What kind of features and accessories should you choose for outdoor living when it involves a freestanding Chiminea as the focal point of your outdoor space?

There are several accessories and features that you can find for Chimineas. You can get a log grate to go at the bottom of the fire bowl for more airflow, allowing the wood or kindling to burn hotter. You can find some with a beautiful bronze finish or even an antique bronze with a wonderful patina. For any that burns wood, you’ll want a heavy duty fire poker to stoke the flames.

You can find ones with an intricate metal stand to add more ornate details. If you have a metal one, you should consider a rain cap to protect it during the rainy season, especially if you have a metal one. Lastly, you’ll want to get a spark screen if it doesn’t already come with one. A spark screen helps with safety so that embers don’t spark out of the fireplace easily and ignite something nearby.

Can you use a Chiminea for basic cooking or as a BBQ in your outdoor area?

While Chimineas traditionally were used for some basic types of cooking, they can prove difficult compared to more conventional types of cooking. While it can be fun to experiment with some recipes that can be cooked using a Chiminea, you’ll want a proper barbeque grill if you are serious about cooking outdoors.

What brands of Chimineas are there, and should you buy generic Chimineas off of websites like Amazon?

Unfortunately, you should avoid any kind of generic brands of fireplaces from Amazon or even big box local retailers. The problem with them is that their quality is lacking; they can break easily or may be lacking in other ways. You’ll want to focus on more traditional brands like Sunnydaze. If the styles Sunnydaze offers aren’t to your liking, there are several other brands you might like. There is the Blue Rooster, Bali Outdoors, or even Deck Mate with their Sonora model of Chimineas.

Do Chimineas make a good enclosed patio heater or should you go with another option like an electric fireplace?

You should absolutely not use Chimineas for enclosed patios. You only want to use them with completely open air, with not covering above it at all. This is because smoke and other harmful emissions need to escape, just like the chimney of a standard fireplace. For indoor use, or enclosed patios, you definitely want to go with a better option like a high end electric fireplace.

Can electric fireplaces be used year round if they are installed indoors?

Yes, if an electric fireplace is installed inside of your home, or for an enclosed patio, you absolutely can use it year round compared to most fireplaces made for outside areas like a backyard. Electric fireplaces are one of the best options if you want a fireplace within your home, beating out traditional fireplaces that burn wood, or even more modern versions that use gas.

chiminea fireplace

What are the additional benefits of using an electric fireplace to warm your home over fireplaces that burn wood or gas?

Wood and gas fireplaces come with an absolutely long list of issues that make them unsafe, a big hassle to use, and in some cases, not as aesthetically appealing as you might think. Here are the main reasons that you should choose to go with an electric fireplace for your indoor spaces over wood or gas:

  • No Added Fire Risk – They don’t have any fire burning inside of them. Therefore, there is no additional hazard of starting a fire like in traditional fireplaces.
  • No Harmful Emissions – Since there isn’t anything burning, smoke and carbon monoxide won’t be an issue like wood and gas fireplaces.
  • No Staining or Odors – With the complete lack of smoke, you don’t have to worry about bad smoky odors or your walls staining over time.
  • Easy To Use – They are the easiest fireplace to use by far. Turn the fireplace on, choose your temperature, and enjoy it.
  • Easy Installation – It is an easy installation process you can do yourself. After you’ve picked your spot, plug it into a nearby outlet and you are done.
  • Apartments and Condos – There are no problems putting electric fireplaces in apartments and condos.
  • Any Room – Since you don’t need a chimney or ventilation, and the installation is so easy, you can put them in any room of your home.
  • TV Safe – If you want to mount a TV above it, it is perfectly safe unlike fireplaces that burn wood or gas.
  • Heat Efficiency – The infrared heating coils make them extremely efficient, especially when the heat won’t be escaping out of a chimney.
  • Supplemental Zone Heating – Large homes can still benefit from an electric fireplace with zone heating. This will help save money on your heating bill.
  • Remote Control – Electric fireplaces will always come with some kind of remote or application that you can install on your smartphone.
  • Flame Effect Ambiance – With higher end fireplaces, you can get flames so real that they capture the essence of what makes traditional fireplaces so great.

What types of electric fireplaces are available for your home, and which are good to use?

There are many types of electric fireplaces. While most are found in a home, some are very situation specific. Others tend to have issues and you can dismiss them completely. Here are the most common variations:

  • Flat Wall Mantel Package – A solid choice and looks the most traditional.
  • Corner Fireplace – Functions the same as above but fit for a corner.
  • TV Stand Fireplace – Buy with caution due to limited fireplace size.
  • Corner TV Stand Fireplace – Same issues as the regular TV stand fireplace.
  • Wall Mount Fireplace – Can be mounted or installed in recessed walls.
  • Electric Insert – To convert existing fireplaces or even customize your area.
  • Freestanding Fireplace Heater – Poor performance from these portable space heaters. Avoid them.
  • Electric Stove – Built to look like old fashioned wood stoves from extremely rural dwellings.
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