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There are plenty of ways to enjoy a nice fire outdoors, but what’s the best for your location, setup and preferences? We’re here to help answer the question, chiminea vs fire pit | which is better? We’ll look at some pro’s and con’s to each, as well as some of the things you should take into consideration before buying one or the other to add to your deck or patio.
Chiminea vs Fire Pit | Which is Better?
I’m going to pull from some personal experience here to help answer this question once and for all. At the end of the day, both of these types of outdoor fire vessels can provide warmth, incredible atmosphere and the perfect way to unwind in the evening just about any time of year!
Some Quick Safety Tips
Regardless of which one of these you’re planning on using, you’re going to want to exercise some basic caution when using them in your yard, deck or patio. I’m going to blow through some simple tips to keep you away from any kind of disaster that could otherwise ruin your summer evening outdoors!
First of all, be sure to place your chiminea or fire pit as far away from any structures as you feel comfortable with. Generally speaking, this should be at least 8 feet in every direction. Wood railings are less of an issue, simply because they get a lot of airflow. (But you should still be aware of flying sparks!)
Be sure that there aren’t any fabrics, lighting or debris on your deck or patio that could possibly be ignited by the flame of a fire pit or chiminea. Why many of these are now produced as ‘fireproof’, that doesn’t mean that they won’t melt when exposed to the close or direct heat of a flame.
Lastly, always keep a fire extinguisher on hand either nearby or inside of the house. These could be make or break if things get out of control, and a bucket of water won’t do you much good if you’re dealing with a gas flame. For gas fire pits, always ensure that the fuel source, i.e. propane tank, isn’t anywhere near the flame itself.
What is a Chiminea, Anyways?
A Chiminea is a traditionally terracotta outdoor fireplace. It is shaped similarly to a light bulb, with the bulbous end being the base of the fireplace, and the stem the chimney. It is designed as a freestanding fire chimney that effectively keeps the smoke out of your eyes by directing it up a chimney. Typically they have latched doors on the front that double as a spark screen, but not always.
These are widely available, and you’d have trouble going into any outdoor, home or garden retail store without running into one or two. They’re typically a bit heavy, although this helps them remain sturdy when used outdoors. Thanks to the material, they’re also somewhat impervious to rusting and don’t require much upkeep at all.
Pro’s of Chimineas
There are some advantages to using one of these on your deck, porch or patio. They’re great for those of us who just don’t have the space to accommodate an open-top flame such as a fire pit. These are easy to run, you simply pile up the wood and light it up. After that, you can close the door and keep little more than a loose eye on it without having to worry about much.
Also, their limited openings mean that there’s a pretty low chance of things getting out of hand. If flames or sparks are your main concern, opt for one with a built-in spark screen on the door.
These are great for small gatherings, like those with 2-3 people. For a group of that size it throws adequate heat and creates an enchanting dancing flame that makes for some wonderful ambiance.
Con’s of Chimineas
Truth be told, these don’t create that much heat. If you’re putting together a small gathering of people who can comfortably sit close to the front of the chiminea, you’re good to go. Otherwise, you’re going to have a hard time keeping everyone warm with this little firebowl and chimney combo.
Besides that, it’s not ideal for most of the activities you might hope to partake in if you’re enjoying a fire outdoors. Specifically, it isn’t capable of being used as a cooking surface. Also, you might have a hard time roasting marshmallows in the narrow chamber of a chiminea. At least, difficulty not getting ash all over your roasted marshmallow.
They can also get a bit heavy, so it might require two people to be able to move this thing around. It’s also completely stationary, meaning it’s in no way portable whatsoever. If you’re going to go with one of these, you’ve got to commit to using it in one place.
What Constitutes a Fire Pit?
Generally speaking, it’s everything from a fire bowl to a fire pit table. They can be wood-burning, or even propane fired. This is an incredibly versatile range of outdoor products that includes cast iron, stainless steel, stone and even aluminum models. They can be small and portable propane-fueled fire pits, or large steel fire pit bowls that you’d see in someone’s backyard.
Pro’s of Fire Pits
Fire pits have a lot of upsides. First of all, they’re excellent in terms of sheer versatility and options ranging from different designs, sizes, fuel sources, uses and portability. That being said, finding the right one isn’t always all that easy.
Fire pits give you the ability to choose between either wood burning fuel, or propane gas. If you’re a BBQ grill owner, and many of us are, chances are you’ve got one or two propane tanks on the go. Even if you’re using propane tank exchanges, this allows you to use your fire pit without having to stock a whole lot of seasoned firewood that’s ready to go at all times.
Alternatively, you can use most fire pits to burn up firewood you’ve got sitting around on your property. Typically open on the top, these types of fire pits ranging from steel fire bowls to round fire rings are great as an all-around piece of outdoor furniture that you can get a lot of use out of!
Fire pits are perfect for cooking over, too! This is great for people who don’t consider themselves a fan of either charcoal or propane gas but like to throw the odd weenie roast. Many models are capable of being transported to the beach or campsite, meaning you can easily cook on an open flame on the go! And lastly, perhaps most crucially, they’re the best for roasting up some marshmallows for s’mores.
Con’s of Fire Pits
While incredibly versatile, there are some drawbacks to owning a fire pit that you should take into consideration. While easy to use, they’re typically completely open on the top. While spark screens and other mesh stainless steel covers help to remove the hazard of flying embers or sparks, smoke is still an annoyance to many.
Granted there are smokeless fire pits, most fire pits put off an eye-watering amount of smoke that can get worse with bad wind conditions. Also, since the flame isn’t self-contained, you’re going to have to keep a watchful eye on the hot burning pile of wood, ideally having someone near it at all times.
They’re also huge wooden log hogs for those of us that opt to go wood burning. Open flames don’t use up their fuel as effectively, meaning you have to keep a decent pile of wood on it at all times in order to keep the heat up. Lastly, there’s also the matter of ash and burnt wood. If not cleaned up, they’ll blow all over or become a rather annoying muddy puddle with the next wind or rain storm.
Conclusions: Chiminea Vs. Fire Pit | Which is Better?
Despite being a lot more high maintenance, I’m going to have to go to bat for fire pits. I live out in the country, and having a large backyard with a surplus of firewood makes this the best option for me. I also find it’s great for being able to use up old yard trimmings that would otherwise need to be bundled up and taken off to the dump.
I’ve got older kids who love to roast marshmallows on it, and I just can’t imagine summer without a traditional wood burning fire pit. I’ve owned chimineas in the past, too. I got the most use out of these on a deck where I didn’t feel comfortable lighting a fire pit due to smoke and sparks, and it makes for a good warming flame for a couple of people to enjoy.
A lot of it depends on your circumstances, but if you’ve got the space and the downsides aren’t much for you to worry about, I wholeheartedly recommend going with a fire pit!
I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on the matter. Have you used either a fire pit or a chiminea in the past? Let us know down below!