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Chimeneas – chilling out in warmth!

 August 2011

ChimeneasHeating outside areas does sound ridiculous, but in fact the concept of chimeneas, or outside fireplaces, are still growing in popularity and as their design improves, are also becoming very heat efficient. Today, everyone is concerned about the environment but the latest range of chimeneas have been designed around environmental aspects and give out useful well directed heat so people can enjoy the great outdoors in cooler weather or in summer evenings when the night chill begins to come in.

There are different spellings for this type of outdoor heater, but generally it is accepted that chimenea is the best version. The idea originated from Mexico where chimeneas were used not only as a source of heat but also for cooking.

Today the concept has been upgraded into a very desirable garden piece of furniture with many designs that can incorporate decorative elements and cooking features. The first aspect to consider when thinking about investing in a chimenea is to realise you are buying a fire place, albeit one to use outdoors. Check you have a flat area where you can position it safely that won’t impinge on your neighbours and is clear of any overhanging branches.

Chimeneas are designed to ensure a good draw, just like an inside chimney, bringing fresh air into the burning bowl to help flame the fire and directing smoke and fumes up the chimney and away into the air. The fire is enclosed, usually with a big bulbous open front to allow maximum heat to escape into the lower surrounding area and also to facilitate easy cleaning and stoking.

It is worth giving some consideration to what your chimenea is made of as they are available in a wide range of materials.

Clay chimeneas are the traditional material and are still very popular, especially as they come in a variety of attractive shades and can also be beautifully decorated. However, clay can be fragile, it can crack and also be damaged by frost. If the bottom falls out while there is a fire in it, it can damage the patio below. A plus side is that clay does not become as scorching hot as metal chimeneas which is definitely beneficial if you accidently brush against it.

Cast iron chimeneas are popular and good at radiating heat, but they can rust and also stain the surface on which they are standing. Cast iron is also very heavy making transport more challenging.
Steel again will rust and thin cheaper steel products can warp in the heat.

Copper chimeneas can look wonderful, and many people love the green tarnished look that comes after a few fires. Be aware though that copper chimeneas often come on cast iron supports which can rust quickly and also stain a patio. Copper is also expensive.

Stainless steel is not a good idea for chimeneas as it has usually been treated with a layer of chromium oxide. This can be unstable and decompose when the metal is cooled from high temperatures, which can happen when you put the chimenea fire out. Stainless steel can work well with grills, but not with chimeneas which usually burn at higher temperatures.

Cast aluminium chimeneas are now coming in and these seem to work well as they won’t crack, warp or rust but are light enough to be moved.

Really it is worth looking at a few different chimeneas, talking to the sales team and considering your own personal requirements before finally deciding on the type of chimenea you want.

Another consideration is the size of the “fire box” or central dish. Most people burn wood in a chimenea, although you now can buy versions that adapt to propane or natural gas. But for wood burning chimeneas, a small firebox will mean you have to cut all wood down to small sizes to fit. The larger the chimenea, the larger the wood you can use.

You can of course use other burning materials in a chimenea, and some choose various additives to ensure a pleasant scent as well as heat and light.

Some chimeneas have a grated door to close off the burning area and you can also buy models with rain lids and spark arrestors at the top.

Bear in mind, when you use a chimenea, that it is an outside fire, albeit contained. Fire can always be dangerous and it is recommended that water or a fire extinguisher is available, and that the fire is always put out before leaving it.

This all sounds like a lot of problems, but in fact once you have chosen your chimenea, you will probably find you use it far more than expected. Being able to sit out around a lovely warming live fire is a wonderful way to entertain guests or just have family evenings, and the good news is that they really are not very expensive. Between £50 and £100 should cover a choice of good chimeneas, although of course you can spend a lot more on a product made from specific material or with various extra design aspects.

Most chimeneas come with full instructions and there is lots of information on the internet and at most garden centres.

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The above article is part of the features section of called laterlife interest. laterlife interest contains a variety of articles of interest for visitors to written by a number of experienced and new journalists.

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