There’s nothing quite like sitting around a chiminea or backyard fireplace on a cool summer evening. It’s almost like having your own campsite right outside your back door. However, when the winter comes, these fireplaces definitely require some forethought and work.
Despite being such an interesting art piece, chimineas are generally prone to weather-related damage, although they can last considerably longer with proper care and maintenance.
So with this article, we will describe how to properly winterize your chiminea for the cold season. There are various factors that go into winterizing your chiminea including the specific type of your chiminea and the winter climate in your location. But first, here’s a quick overview.
Chimineas are those small, hand-decorated wood/charcoal outdoor fireplaces you see for sale at marketplaces, patio stores, and sometimes tourist sites.
Historically used for everyday cooking and heating, chimineas were seen inside huts or homes, where they were vented through the roof or placed near a window to let the smoke out.
Today, they typically feature a lower firebox where fuel is burned and a long vertical chimney at the top that draws the smoke out. Chimineas are primarily used as functional fire features, although some people use them as garden art on patios, probably for an authentic rustic look.
Many people, however, love chimineas because they provide warmth and ambiance to an outdoor place and their designs do an excellent job of directing smoke out of the people’s faces, which is not exactly the case with fire pits.
They are considered a wonderful addition to any backyard and an interesting art piece that’s always a conversation starter.
As mentioned before, you definitely have to subject your chiminea to proper care and maintenance to keep it working sustainably.
During summer, the best part about these features is that they don’t require much upkeep other than the occasional wash and the removal of ash. However, during winter, maintenance is a big part.
Using Chiminea in Winter
A Chiminea can be an excellent way to stay warm during winter. It is a great idea of adding heat to your outdoor area without having to meddle with the furnace.
Moreover, this type of heat can be achieved throughout the night when most of the heat is lost from your property. The fact that chimineas are enclosed units means that heat created by fire will be trapped. This brings about increased warmth around the chiminea.
However, you don’t want to go rashly cramming your chiminea; you could use some help to keep your outdoor area warm this winter.
Chimineas can go into shock from extreme temperature changes such as from the frozen winter weather to a burning fire. This isn’t the case with all chimineas, as some options are more fragile than others, but if your chiminea is made of clay, there’ll be a risk of it cracking.
Clay chimineas can develop cracks due to various reasons like moisture build-up, inefficient sealing, or physical damage from the chimineas. Chimineas made from clay are vulnerable to weather-related mainly because moisture can infiltrate the inside of the structure.
Although this can be fixed, preventing the cracks from developing in the first place is always a better idea, otherwise, it will eventually transform into major damage to your chiminea. So it’s extremely important to make sure your chiminea is protected against outdoor elements.
Can You Leave a Chiminea Outside During Winter?
A chiminea is a great feature to have in a backyard. Whether you plan to use it for cooking or just as a source of heat in your outdoor area, a chiminea can keep you warm during cold nights and provide hours of great ambiance just by having it glowing and crackling out there.
However, it can be a real challenge to keep them in your outside space during the winter months. The snow and moisture will damage the structure in short order.
But there’s good news.
There are certain measures you can implement to get your chiminea ready for the winter and be able to enjoy it throughout. In the case of cast iron chimineas, they are basically frost-proof.
That means you won’t need to bring them indoors when the winter kicks in as they are made of aluminum and cast iron.
All you need to do is maintain its paint coating regularly. Just be sure to use the right waterproof sealer or paint to combat moisture build-up as well as acid rain as these can lead to rust and cracks.
How to Winterize Your Chiminea
So, how exactly can you prepare your chiminea for the winter months? Well, since chiminea burn fire, that doesn’t mean you should just leave it out year-round for expedient use. This section covers all about how to winterize your chiminea, alongside some great tips to do it.
Preparing your chiminea for the winter usually doesn’t involve so many steps, but ignoring the preparation part of it will leave your outdoor fireplace with many risks.
These features can go into shock when subjected to a sudden extreme change in temperature, for instance, a sudden change from a frozen winter condition to a burning fire. How vulnerable your chiminea is largely depends on whether it is made from metal or clay.
The winterization process may therefore be different based on materials. Here is a simple guide for both types of chimineas.
This is probably the most crucial part of chiminea maintenance. As earlier stated, cracks are the ultimate threat to chimineas and it turns out that moisture is the main reason why they develop cracks.
Other than unwanted moisture, temperature changes are especially damaging for a clay chiminea. The sudden temperature drops typically associated with winter cold and snow can trigger cracks breaking in clay chimineas, just like what happens to potteries and clay pots.
It’s important to note that clay is a porous material. That means when left outdoors during winter, it will certainly be infiltrated by the cold temperature and build-up moisture. Once water seeps into these pores, the material will freeze and compromise the longevity of the unit.
This water will convert into ice and then expand, causing the clay to adjust and eventually crack. It is best to carry your chiminea inside or keep it in a controlled environment where possible. Be sure to start with a small fire to avoid sudden temperature changes.
In the case of metal chimineas (whether iron, aluminum, or steel), there’s still the need to avoid unwanted moisture. Cold and snow exposure can quickly lead to rust on the outside and inside of the chiminea, ruining the structure and making the whole thing look much more flawed.
Some sources suggest that you wrap your chiminea in a moisture-proof fabric or a specially made cover that can protect the metal while still making it look good.
In the event that your chiminea has a rain lid, you should keep it on during the winter to prevent the snow and excessive moisture from getting through the chimney and sufficing in the belly, to avoid damage.
Get a Chiminea Cover
Whether you are thinking about buying a chiminea or you already own one, a chiminea cover is an ideal way to keep your investment dry, clean, and looking great.
The fact that chimineas are exclusively meant for outdoor purposes means that it’s imperative to keep them from water and downpour. Even a small amount of moisture can affect chiminea’s overall structure, leaving it with a much shorter life than it could have withstood.
A good chiminea cover should serve two purposes:
First, the cover should prevent your chiminea from severe weather conditions like snow, ice, rain, and damaging sun.
The next part is that it should keep your chiminea clean, dry, and looking new. This is how you ensure your chiminea is properly sealed and protected against moisture from rain and snow.
These covers are normally made of synthetic materials or fabric and are designed to prevent the whole structure from its belly, chimney, mouth, and opening at the top. These covers are also available in a variety of designs and sizes that fit most chimineas on the market.
How to Choose the Right Chiminea Cover
If you’re looking up to buying a cover, there are certain important factors and features that you should keep in mind. Also, for safety reasons always make sure that your chiminea is before adding the cover. Here are the various important features to check out for:
- Water Resistance
When dealing with chimineas, it is best to get a material cover that’s resistant to both water and mildew. One major drawback associated with the winter months is that everything is wet and damp most of the time.
Choosing a material immune to dampness and moisture can make a huge difference between a reliable chiminea and one that ruts and cracks.
- Washable Material
Easy-to-clean materials are often the best bet. Most fabrics that require to be subjected to the environment regularly like umbrellas and porch swing cushions will start to get mold and develop mildew over time.
Chiminea covers are no exception to this rule. So, choose a washable and well-designed material that can prevent the growth and development of unwanted stuff.
- Drawstring or Other Fastener
Another important aspect is whether the cover comes with a drawstring near the bottom. Due to the unique shape of chimineas, it can be hard for an inflexible cover to wrap everything up.
A drawstring at the bottom can help protect the underside of the potbelly as well as the rest of the chiminea, guaranteeing more years of use.
Apply Sealant and Paint
One of the common aspects of winterizing chimineas is protection against moisture. But these fireplaces, especially the cast iron ones can be heavy and hard to transport to a dry basement or garage.
If that’s the case, and you’ve already invested in a chiminea cover, there’s always a sealant. No matter the type of chiminea you have, whether it is clay or metal chiminea, there’s still the need to regularly apply sealant waterproof or paint.
The manufacturer will normally recommend the appropriate sealer to apply, but a deck sealer or acrylic floor finish will usually do the trick. This way, you will be able to prevent your metal chiminea or clay chiminea from developing rust and cracks due to moisture and acid rain.
Sealant for Clay Chimineas
Clay chimineas are generally hard but prone to cracking and breakages, which is why they need to have sealant applied to protect their fragile structure.
Sealants that are typically used for furniture or wood can do the trick. They basically provide an unseeable layer of protection that blocks moisture, dirt, and dust from infiltrating the clay.
When applying a sealant to a clay chiminea, the sealing should be done on the exterior of the unit, every 3-6 months. It’s not recommended to apply it to the inside. One of the more popular options is Thompson’s water seal.
If you’re not willing to spend on a chiminea cover; you can ideally consider a tarp to adequately cover it for winter. A cover will look great and fit much nicer, but a tarp is more affordable.
Metal Chimineas and Paint
Metal chimineas are usually tinted with high heat paint, but with time, that paint will become weak. For a cast iron chiminea, it’s advised to regularly repaint the unit with proper high heat style paint and make sure the entire metal surface is covered with paint to prevent rust.
Check the chiminea regularly to identify bare metal spots or areas where the paint may be peeling or chilling. Also, pay attention to the finish of the paint that you are using.
That said, you may prefer a rustic weather style. While metal chimineas can take on a bit of a weathered look without breaking, clay models don’t always find that quite so easy.
It might not seem like a big deal when the sun is on the unit in the daytime, but by nightfall, the water will freeze and expand inside, forcing the clay to crack. When the cracks start, the damage is irreversible and only gets worse.
Keep Your Chiminea Inside the House
Winterizing your chiminea can be as easy as bringing the unit inside for the cold months. In fact, this is one of the easiest ways to keep your chiminea completely dry and cut the expenses associated with paints, sealant, and chiminea covers.
This may not be always possible due to space constraints but if you have a garage, barn, or ample space inside your place, this is an easy recommendation.
This will protect the structure from moisture and freezing temperatures during the winter. Keep in mind that you should regularly clean your chiminea even when it is inside the house.
However, if you don’t have all the space to keep it inside and need to keep it in an open-air environment, using a chiminea cover is an absolute necessity.
We’ve mentioned before that clay chimineas are normally sealed. But just like a deck surface, the sealer will weaken over time and bring about the need for re-sealing, nearly every year. It is important to note that chimineas are only meant for outdoor purposes; hence you should never burn one inside.
The smoke would escape into the room since it is not connected to an outside chimney, which can cause carbon monoxide poisoning or even end up burning down your house.
Traditional chimineas are made of clay but the modern market has seen more options like cast-iron models and even more recently, aluminum. Cast aluminum models weigh less than iron and clay, which makes them easier to bring inside for the freezing weather.
In addition to knowing how to winterize a chiminea, you need to ensure safety. Just like a fire pit, chimineas do have important safety measures that should be observed to avoid accidents while in use. Pets and children can get curious but unaware of the risks that fire presents.
While chimineas have enclosed backs and bases, the visual dangers of a fire are not just always obvious; unsuspecting visitors could sustain nasty burns from the hot surface as well. You don’t want to forget that these units can get incredibly hot on the rear and underside.
Another important part of chiminea safety is to fix the chimney pipe. Metal chimineas usually come with chimneys connected securely with welds and bolts.
Clay models on the other hand should come with chimney pipes that are properly developed not to appear spindly or too long or excessively heavy as they could topple over in high winds.
Chiminea legs are also a major consideration. They need to be as wide as the base of the firebox to ensure the much-needed stability to withstand a full load of firewood, and still hold up well when empty in strong winds.
Outdoor furniture and materials that could easily catch fire should also be kept at a safe distance.
Knowing how to winterize a chiminea can be quite challenging but it isn’t the hardest thing either. It only involves a few steps and some planning. However, with some models costing upwards of $500, investing in a reliable chiminea cover is a crucial aspect right from the start.
Remember to focus on the quality of material and components like a sealant, for a clay chiminea, and paint for an iron cast chiminea. Also, consider moving your fireplace inside when the winter arrives to avoid moisture and snow damage.
Always remember to consider the structure of your specific chiminea before commencing the winterization process to make sure that all of the proper steps are taken. Chimineas can freeze when exposed to inclement weather where temperatures dip below freezing for many days.