Should you buy a clay or metal chiminea and which is best for your outdoor patio or deck?
With a big price difference between the two are metal chimineas worth it? Read on and find out.
The origin of chimineas is shrouded in time. Although popularized and used in Mexico for hundreds of years and eventually making their way here, these clay fireplaces probably date back to the Mayans and similar fireplaces have been used in other cultures.
Clay Or Metal Chiminea Which Is Best?
Many of the first chimineas brought here were indeed made in Mexico and because of their relatively cheap price became popular for use in backyard patios and on decks. Some were used as garden ornaments and even as planters.
We don’t recommend clay or terra-cotta chimineas for several reasons and in spite of their lower price we don’t recommend you buy one unless you want to use it as a planter.
These chimineas are unsafe to use. One must remember these fireplaces were used in warm dry climates and often under cover.
They do not handle moisture well and a hot chiminea can break if it gets rained on. They can crack or flake from exposure to cold and moisture and they can fail without warning.
Poor Mexican peasants had to work with what was available and mud was free so if a chiminea broke they either built a new one or slapped a handful of mud on the old one to patch it.
Metal Chimineas – Simply The Best
With that said the design of a chiminea is superior to any fire pit or outdoor fireplace.
Once started fires burn very fast in chimineas which means they give off very little smoke when starting.
Because of their design, they heat up very fast and put out a lot more heat than a fire pit.
Their design allows much more airflow meaning much cleaner combustion.
They are a better choice for backyard use because they won’t smoke and annoy the neighbors, unlike a fire pit.
Because they burn so clean you aren’t left with as much ash, charcoal, or partially burned wood to clean up.
Chimineas made from cast iron or aluminum are the best choices.
Many have the traditional chiminea shape but some are quite different and unique in design.
Metal chimineas are much more durable and safer than clay or terra-cotta ones.
Aluminum is probably the best material for a chiminea because it is lighter in weight and won’t rust.
Cast iron can stain when it rusts. Copper and stainless steel are also sometimes used and are good choices but will be more expensive.
Metal chimineas come with various features. Many have a spark screen and rain cap for the top.
Some are designed with a spark screen to go across the firebox opening.
Metal chimineas don’t necessarily have to be wood burning and some are designed to burn propane or natural gas and are equipped with realistic ceramic logs.
If you are considering buying a chiminea, remember that you get what you pay for.
Blue Rooster has been making cast aluminum chimineas for over 25 years, They are built to last and they also sell a gas conversion kit for them.
Stay away from cheap junk chain store chimineas that are made from sheet metal because they will burn out quickly and become useless.
One final note: Although it may seem obvious it is important to state that chimineas are meant for outdoor use only.
You don’t want to use a wood-burning chiminea on an enclosed porch or on an apartment balcony because they can give off sparks.
If you are in that situation a gas or propane chiminea is a much better choice.
There are kits that can be used to convert to gas that come with realistic ceramic fire logs.
Before you run out and buy one many apartments and condos do not allow anything with an open flame so check with your landlord or owners association first.
Clay Or Metal Chiminea Which Is Best? Final Thoughts
Chimineas are great for extending your outdoor season. They put out the heat and burn clean after starting.
They don’t use up a lot of floor space and are easy to gather around with friends and family.
They kind of remind me of an old pot belly stove. The pot belly stove was made of metal and your chiminea should be too.