A chimenea (chim-eh-ney-ah) (also spelled chiminea) is a freestanding front-loading fireplace or oven with a bulbous body and usually a vertical smoke vent or chimney.


Originally, all clay open fire garden heaters imported to the U.S. from Mexico were known as chimeneas. As the story goes, chimeneas originated hundreds if not thousands of years ago by Mexican tribesmen who developed the chimeneas as a means of providing heat for their family as well as a vessel for cooking and baking. The original chimenea was designed to keep the rain off the fire and the family warm using merely a couple of sticks.

Chimineas have become a popular backyard and deck accessory in the U.S. Commonly, pinonwood is burned for its aromatic scent and its bug repellent qualities. Unfortunately, the chimeneas currently imported are unable to withstand the thermal shock associated with a sudden downpour of rain. Frequent problems encountered by owners include cracking, flaking glaze and crumbling of the clay. Admittedly the chimenea originates in Mexico where there is generally low rainfall and not exceptionally low temperatures and in general produces a radiant glow which is sufficient to keep warm. In Mexico, when the cooking pot or Chimenea cracked and fell apart, the people simply scooped some more mud or river clay together and made another.

Fires start very quickly in chimineas after ignition with (news)papers and small pieces of wood. When in full burn after just 15 minutes, they give off tremendous heat due to their design which allows much more air to be drawn in than, for example, a fire basket.

Chimeneas made from cast iron or aluminum are also available. They can be of traditional shape or of many different designs. Most have a total height of about five feet and are about two feet across the firebox. Some metal chimineas have a grated door to close off the fireplace opening and a spark arrestor atop the stack. Metal chimeneas are much more durable than their clay cousins but are more expensive.

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