Congrats, you’ve got your new chiminea. Now we often get people contacting us to say their new chiminea has already started to rust, or the paint is peeling. It isn’t because there’s anything wrong with the chimineas we sell. Far from it. We don’t do cheap and nasty. Every chiminea we sell is top quality, really well made, tried and tested.
The trick is to be prepared for what will happen, start off on the right foot and then continue doing the right thing. So what can you expect from your brand new chiminea, and how do you keep it in the best possible nick from day one to ensure a long and satisfying life?
What to expect from your new cast iron chiminea?
Cast iron rusts. That’s the name of the game. So every cast iron chiminea, whoever manufactures it and whatever the style, however much it costs and wherever you put it in your outdoor space, needs to be well looked after from the outset. Luckily it’s a simple matter, and when you look after it properly it’ll last for years and still look great.
- If you leave your cast iron chiminea to get wet, whether it’s a heavy spring or summer dew or a winter downpour, it will begin to rust almost straight away. It’s what cast iron does naturally, so it comes with a certain level of responsibility.
- Cast iron chimineas are usually coated with a protective finish and fire-resistant paint. But rust is still inevitable.
- You can prevent rust to a certain extent when you ‘cure’ the finish immediately after assembly. To cure the surface, put the grate inside the chiminea and light a small fire using little bits of kindling wood. Leave it to burn for about an hour then light a bigger, full fire straight away, before things cool down, using larger chunks of wood. Let it burn for an hour then let the chiminea cool down.
- A proper chiminea cover is also essential. When it’s covered and protected from rain, sleet, snow and any other kind of moisture, it’ll have a much longer life. Just remember not to cover it while it’s still hot!
- Over time, the protective coating can start to wear off and the risk of rust increases. All you need to do is gently smooth off the rust with a fine grade sandpaper then re-apply the finish using a spray fire-resistant paint. It’s really easy to use, and we sell it.
- Never use water to put your chiminea out. The shock of the temperature change can crack cast iron, which is very strong but can also be surprisingly brittle.
- Extreme cold can affect cast iron too. If your winters are very cold stash your chiminea somewhere away from frost, say in a shed or garage, to prevent the metal from cracking.
Plenty of people use theirs all year round. If that’s you, put it in a sunny place and, if the weather’s seriously cold, warm the chiminea up gradually for half an hour before starting a fire in it.
- Last but not least, a clean chiminea always lasts longer. Get rid of the ashes and clean the inside and grill regularly to keep it in tip top condition.
What to expect from your new clay chiminea?
Clay chimineas also need essential maintanance. As a rule of thumb, if you leave yours to do its own thing and forget to maintain it, it won’t last as long. Price doesn’t matter, style doesn’t matter, every clay chiminea deserves a good start in life.
- It’s vital to insulate the bowl so the fire stays clear of the clay. Play sand or pumice stones are great for the job, and you need to add enough to bring it up to a couple of inches below the opening.
- Take the lid off before starting a fire.
- Make your first five fires really small ones, designed to season the chiminea. Start off with balled up newspaper and very small pieces of wood before moving on to small logs, and let everything burn out completely before adding a new ones. Use bits of wood less than a foot in length and you should be OK. Let each fire burn out naturally – never throw water on it.
- Don’t use lighter fluid or any other substance that enhances flames. The clay is absorbent and can suck up the fluid, and hot spots can make the clay crack.
- Once you’re ready for bigger fires, keep the wood in the middle of the bowl away from the edges. Err on the side of smaller fires rather than great big conflagrations. You only need a couple of logs to create lots of lovely warmth without cracking the clay. If you see flames coming out of the funnel you’ve gone way too far. Which leads to the next point…
- If you notice vertical cracks either on the funnel or base of your clay chiminea after you have had a large fire this is termed “thermal-shock” which happens as a result of the chiminea being “over-fired”. Sometimes you may hear a “ping” sound as the chiminea cracks. Other tell-tale signs of this are the paint going very pale and thick soot marks around the mouth and funnel (but this can also be related to the type of fuel you use). You should be able to use some chim-filler to repair your chiminea, but the structure will be compromised. Sadly this kind of damage is not covered by any guarantee – so please be careful and stick to our advice about smaller fires, and fewer logs on traditional clay chimineas.
- Once you start firing it the paint will peel and flake off. Sometimes this happens only after a few fires which may cause some concern. But don’t worry, this is perfectly normal and will happen to all clay chimineas. You can easily touch up any spots where the paint has started to peel away with water based emulsion paints, dabbing the paint on with a sponge. No artistic talent required. You can buy little test-pots of paint in the right colours from places like B&Q, so it isn’t an expensive job.
- When not in use never leave your clay chiminea outside without a proper chiminea cover – an insulated cover is best for clay, or store yours indoors in bad weather. If left in the rain the chiminea will become waterlogged which can damage the structure of the clay, which can even lead it to crumble. Of course a combination of freezing temperatures and moisture can make the clay crack as well, so it is best to avoid this by using a cover.
- If you’re storing it somewhere without heating, make sure you take it off the stand and set it on a piece of wood so the clay doesn’t touch the ground. It’s important to let the air circulate underneath and keep any moisture off.
The better you look after your chiminea, the longer it’ll last and the better it’ll look. Make a note in your diary and do the decent thing!