It’s no secret that in the battle of the Cast Iron VS Clay Chiminea, Clay is the prettier high maintenance date that requires a little more work.
But there’s plenty of advantages to a Clay Chiminea. It’s safer because it cools down quicker, it gives your garden an authentic look, and as it usually comes in one or two pieces, requiring little to no assembly.
However, if you have bought your terracotta fire pit without doing a little research first, we would advise you to read our “How to cure your clay Chiminea” post.
Then come back here and we’ll give you everything you need to keep your fire burning bright and your pot crack-free and strong as can be.
- Clay Chiminea Sealer
- Chiminea rocks, lava rocks or sand
- Chiminea covers
- Chiminea lids
- Fireplace Tools – the essentials
1. Buy a good Chiminea Clay sealer
What you need is a clay or terracotta sealant that creates a protective film for the clay. It won’t let you burn hotter fires, but it will protect against water and frost, meaning the water droplets won’t get into the clay, expand when it freezes and crack your brand new chiminea.
It should rebuff alkalis and salt, whilst allowing the surface to breathe. Simply apply two coats by brush, always leave for 24 hours to dry completely and at least 48 hours before lighting a fire.
You only need to seal it twice a year at most. If you are a little lazy and only want to do it once a year, make sure it’s just before the winter to help protect against the colder weather.
2. Chiminea rocks, lava rocks or sand
To safely burn wood in your chiminea, and prevent it from cracking, you should never start a fire straight on the clay. This was true 400 years ago as it is today.
Sand is by far the cheapest material you can buy to fill your chiminea. It’s simple, you can get it from anywhere, and as long as it hasn’t been treated with any chemicals, is perfectly safe.
But we prefer and love lava rocks. This not only protects the clay from the heat but creates another layer of insulation, which generates more heat to keep you toasty. How is that possible?
Because fire pit lava rocks create a semi-permeable layer that protect the pit burner from all the elements, and creates an even distribution of heat over the rocks, without the clay ever getting in contact with the hottest part of the flame. It’s a neat trick to get the most heat, in the safest way, without having to go fire crazy.
Plus, it looks prettier than sand and sand absorbs rather than gives out heat.
3. Get a protective Chiminea cover
We can’t give you an example of the best Chiminea cover, because that will largely depend on the size of your terracotta Chiminea.
Just make sure it covers any of the clay – it doesn’t matter about the metal legs if that’s what it has. We know that 400 years ago the Mexicans probably didn’t have covers, but they made these often and used them daily.
You’ll probably use them once a week for a social garden date Spring to Autumn, and the rest of the time will sit there bracing the elements free of fire.
Get a cover, especially if you live anywhere outside of the equator where the temperatures fluctuate more. A cover protects against the harsh sun and keeps the moisture from the clay.
4. A Chiminea Lid
This isn’t something we should put on the list because most good terracotta Chimineas should come with a lid.
But if you get a cheaper or lesser reputable brand, they might try and save cost by selling you a Chiminea without a lid. Don’t buy it if you haven’t done it, because if you have it just means you are going to have to invest in one, or create one at home.
How’s your pottery skills?
A lid does two important jobs:
- When not in use it protects the chiminea from debris and water. It’s annoying to have to clean it, and sometimes you just forget to place the cover, especially if you want to go to bed without waiting for it to cool down before placing the cover.
- Put simply, it’s a spark arrester when used in large fires where you want the smoke to be aimed in a specific direction (ie. away from you.)
In other words, it both protects your chiminea and the environment, preventing fires from starting. Yes you need one of these.
5. Fireplace Tools
You need tools to stoke, control and (in the end) put out a fire. Fire is a living breathing thing, it needs fuel, oxygen and a little time and attention.
If you ignore it, it will either burn out or, worse, get out of control and get too hot, cracking your beautiful terracotta outdoor fire pit and render it useless.
You want tools that are small enough to fit your chiminea, but not so large it’s hard to manoeuvre once you are inside. Ideally, they need to be made of long-lasting and durable materials, such as cast iron or steel.
If you get nothing else, get a poker, as that’s the most basic tool to move fire around and ensure the logs burn all over or you slow the burn when it’s time to go to bed.
But a Chiminea has a small opening, so a tongue to help lay the wood in the right place will help you control the fire, giving you added safety features.
And, let’s not forget a brush and shovel will help you clear the chiminea of all the nasty ash and debris that can build up after a fire. The cleaner your clay chiminea, the longer it will last.
Ready to buy your Chiminea?
If you haven’t already, we’ve taken a look at the best chimineas in the market, including some of our favourite Clay ones.
At the end of the day, these beautiful outdoor fire pits and fireplaces will bring real joy to any garden socialiser – even if socialising means sitting out in the patio with a book, a blanket and a warm fire keeping your toes warm.
And if you’ve ever experienced the joy of real chimineas in your home, you’ll want to keep it in tip-top shape for years to come.