Congratulations! Your new terracotta Chiminea has arrived and it looks gorgeous. Maybe it has some beautiful Mexican designs on the side, maybe it even has a grill.
But before you start daydreaming of hot marshmallows and cosy nights by the fire, there are a few important steps you need to take to maintain and cure your chiminea.
Before you do anything else, you need to know how to cure your Chiminea: this will prevent it from cracking and splitting on your very first fire.
Take a quick look at our dos and don’ts of common mistakes that could lead to shortening the lifespan of your outdoor fireplace.
How to Cure Clay Chimineas in 5 easy steps:
Curing or Firing is the process of building up the heat resistance within the clay so that it’s better able to resist the changes of temperature: from high heats to cold weather.
This process has been used for hundreds of years. Yet 90% of the complaints of Clay Chimineas on Amazon are that they bought one and it cracked within a couple of uses.
Of course, it did. You didn’t cure it and just built the biggest fire you could on day 1. What did you think would happen? But you are a savvy Clay Chiminea owner and know better.
1. Put aside a morning or afternoon
This may seem obvious but, much like baking bread, curing is a process that takes time, with short periods of activity followed by long periods of waiting.
So grab a book, a blanket, or just pick a nice day and get your tan on as you fire up your clay Chiminea.
2. Place sand in the chiminea
You can also buy Chiminea rocks, but sand is just fine. Fill about three-quarters of the way to the top of the mouth – in other words, makes sure the fire doesn’t touch the clay, especially in the first few fires.
3. Start a small fire
Using just kindling and paper start a very small fire on top of the sand. Make sure it’s in the middle, and try and ensure that the flames don’t come into too much contact with the edge of the chiminea. Leave it go out naturally.
4. Let the chiminea cool completely
Now you are onto the waiting game. The first time you do this the Chiminea will be almost totally cool as the fire is so small. The bigger the fire, the longer it will take for your chiminea too cool. Be careful and always empty the clay chiminea fire pit of ash and unburnt material before you start again.
Repeat stage 3 and 4, each time making the fire progressively bigger. Add an extra piece of kindling or wood and get burning.
Just remember to let the small fires burn down completely on their own, and the chiminea to cool naturally. Never use water to put out a fire in a Chiminea as that kind of temperature change can cause the clay to crack.
If the fire does get too big, simply use some sand to dampen the fire.
Quick does and don’t to make your Chiminea last longer:
- DO use only wood.
- DO check out the colour change. As you cure your chiminea it will darken in colour and get progressively stronger.
- DO be conservative with your first fire. Add just one log or two, and then add one log when the others have burnt out. As you use your Chiminea more often you’ll know how hot a fire it can take.
- DO use sealer twice a year (once in the spring when you bring it out, once in the autumn when you put it away) to make it more heat and weather resistant.
- DO build a hearth under and around the Chiminea. Don’t rest it directly on decking or flammable materials.
- DO use rock sand, pea gravel or Chiminea rocks to keep the fire off the fire bowl. You want the fire to be about an nice or so from the bottom of the opening.
- DO keep the top of the flames over the top of the opening. This keeps the smoke going up the flume rather than out the front.
- DON’T Let water freeze inside the bowl as it can cause cracks. In fact, don’t let water on it if possible, use a cover when not in use.
- DON’T use coal, briquettes or gas. These create an intense quick heat that will crack your chiminea. Use natural kindling, wood and eco-friendly firebricks.
- DON’T leave it to build up debris and ash. Clean it between fires if you can to ensure the Clay lasts longer.
If you are looking at ways to prolong the use of your chiminea, do have a look at our top 5 items you need to buy to maintain your chiminea all year round.
Related: What is a Chiminea used for?
What’s the best Clay Chiminea?
There’s a whole load of beautiful Clay Chiminea’s out there, with beautiful traditional Mexican designs. The best are generally unique and individual, giving them a hand-made look that makes for a beautiful focal feature in your garden.
The designs can vary, but in our opinion, the best Clay Chiminea should have:
- A sturdy stand that elevates it safely off the ground but won’t let it topple over
- A lid to keep the majority of the elements out of your chiminea when not in use
- A poker to help you keep the fire under control
Then it’s all about choosing the right design and size for your patio garden heater. Because once you’ve properly cured and looked after your chiminea, it will look after you for years to come, in the longest darkest and coldest nights.