Mexican Chimeneas - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Below we've compiled some common questions about traditional Mexican chimeneas, including plenty of practical advice as well as some clarity about the correct spelling!
We will keep growing this FAQ, so if you have any questions (or answers for us!) please let us know by getting in touch!
What is the history of chimeneas?
Fire has a practical and religious significance to the people of Central America. The ancient Maya and Aztecs made fire offerings as part of temple ceremonies, which to this day remain an important ritual for focusing intent on their spiritual deity.
Records show that clay chimeneas as we know them today date back to the 1600's in what is now modern day Southern Mexico, although it is speculated that perhaps they were in use as long as 1000 years ago.
As well as the spiritual aspect, chimeneas were an essential item in Central American homes and provided warmth and light as well as being used for cooking and baking. A far cry from their more relaxed use today!
To this day Mexican chimeneas remain the best functioning burners of all patio fires. Their structure and design, perfected over centuries in Central America make them the easiest chimeneas to light and the most efficient burners; the clay becomes hot and radiates the heat.
What type of fuel can be used with chimeneas?
Clay chimeneas can be fueled with wood logs or charcoal. Wet wood creates a lot of smoke so we recommend using seasoned or kiln dried wood.
Chimeneas can also be used to burn garden waste such as leaves or branches.
Does a larger fire mean more warmth?
No, in fact a large fire is not necessary at all; one or two logs is sufficient. Clay chimeneas are like outdoor radiators, the clay is heated by the fire and gentle warmth will radiate outwards.
Can I cook on a chimenea?
Yes! The belly acts like an oven, so barbecuing or cooking a pizza is quick and easy. Specifically designed pots to fit into the funnel, grills and long handled pans and tools are all available here.
Do I need a cover for my chimenea?
A weatherproof cover is highly recommended. This will keep your chimenea dry and protected from wind driven dirt and insects, plus a cover will reduce the likelihood of frost damage. We recommend making sure that the chimenea is dry (and cool!) before fitting your cover.
Custom covers are available as an optional extra when you purchase your chimenea. The alternative is to bring your chimenea inside during colder periods.
Can cracks in the clay be repaired?
Smaller, non-structural cracks can be repaired using Chimenea Filler after which the chimenea can continue to be used. Chimenea Filler can be purchased here.
What are lava stones for?
Before lighting your chimenea we recommend putting 50 mm/ 2 inches of lava stones in the bottom to protect the base from direct heat and therefore the potential to crack.
Lava stones can be selected as an optional extra when you purchase your chimenea; one bag is enough for one chimenea and they can be used time and again. An alternative is to use sand or gravel.
How do you light a chimenea?
A chimenea should be started with the lid removed for better air flow and to graduate the temperature change.
Before lighting your chimenea we recommend putting 50 mm (2 inches) of lava stones or sand/ gravel in the bottom to protect the base from direct heat.
Start the fire with balled newspaper, dry kindling or ocote sticks first but never use petrol or spirit based lighting fuels.
Allow the fire to build gradually by slowly introducing one or two logs. Chimeneas only require one or two logs at a time for optimal heating output.
The first 2 or 3 fires of a new chimenea should be small to allow the clay to cure.
Detailed operating instructions can be found in our User Guide.
How do you spell chimenea?!
Well, you've no doubt noticed how we've opted spell it in this FAQ!
The name is from the Spanish for 'Chimney' - as spoken in Mexico - so strictly speaking the correct spelling is 'Chimenea' (with an 'e').
The slightly anglicised 'Chiminea' (with an 'I') is also widely used and equally valid however!
We will keep growing this FAQ, so if you have any questions (or answers!) please let us know by getting in touch!