These two are often interchanged. For this post, we will take you through a thorough comparison between chimineas and fire pits. We will define both in the most accurate way possible and give some ideas so you know which one is right for you. Both have distinct qualities, pros, and cons, that set them apart. If you’re torn about which one to go for, this article will help you decide.
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“Chiminea” is just the Spanish translation of ‘chimney.’ They are an almost enclosed freestanding structure resembling an oven but with a front opening intended to load fuel into the bottom. The upper portion is a cylindrical barrel to propel smoke upward.
The primary fuel for chimineas is firewood but not the pressurized kind because those are not suitable for use in a chiminea. It might work for your fireplace, but not for chimineas. Coal and ethanol can also be used to fuel the fire. You must know the right kind of fuel for your chiminea. You can read the instruction manual if you’re not sure.
This is self-explanatory. Fire pits are just small pits on the ground and are commonly placed in a large, sturdy bowl or freestanding container. Ground fire pits have fireproof material surrounding the center of the pit to keep the fire in one spot and prevent it from spreading beyond the pit.
They can be circular or square and are easy to make on your own. You do not need to buy commercially-made fire pits if you want one.
Chiminea vs. Fire Pit: Which one is a better choice?
We will give you a thorough comparison of the two and, at the same time, educate you about the things that make one better than the other.
The flame inside a chiminea is better protected from wind than a fire pit since the latter’s fire is exposed to the air as opposed to chimineas where the fire is almost enclosed inside the container.
Because of the structure, chimineas cost more than fire pits, with a price ranging from 150 to 600 USD, depending on the material. Fire pits can easily be made from scratch, and you don’t need to buy one if you are confident enough about making one yourself. Commercially-sold fire pits cost only around 70 to 150 USD with a wide selection of designs and sizes.
Chimineas lean more towards that ancient elegance vibe. The opening is only on one side, so everyone who wants to warm up has to gather at one spot in front of the chiminea opening. Fire pits are more outdoorsy and laidback, and it allows everyone to sit in a circle around them and still feel the warmth so that they can accommodate more people compared to chimineas.
When it comes to convenience, a fire pit is the better option. Throw in some firewood, light a match, and it’s good to go. For chimineas, you may still need other things like sand, gravel, or bricks to help with the combustion.
Because of its complex structure and mechanism, chimineas tend to have a more difficult cleaning process, especially ones with larger sizes, because the ash that accumulates at the bottom will make succeeding combustions harder. You will have to clean it out frequently. This might be easier with an air blower, but it also means more cost.
On the other hand, fire pits are much easier because there aren’t any hindrances or blockages that make cleaning a struggle since it’s open. Even with freestanding fire pits, you can remove the container and throw the debris onto your dumping area.
If, with the previous factors, fire pits have more advantages, this time, chimineas have the upper hand. Because of their chimney-like structure, it redirects smoke upward, so it does not flow in random directions. The fire is also more protected and burns more stable compared to open fire pits where smoke can flow freely, and the fire is more exposed and vulnerable to wind.
Ease of Use
Both chimineas and fire pits are easy to use. However, with chimineas, like we previously mentioned, you need sand or gravel at the bottom before lighting a fire, unlike fire pits, where you only need firewood.
This is an important factor to consider when choosing between the two. Chimineas are a better choice for areas with limited floor space because they do not take up much of the room. Fire pits are suitable for larger areas, preferably outdoors.
Fire pits have a wider space to contain firewood, so it would be okay to fuel it with large blocks of wood, and so you wouldn’t have to chop them into smaller pieces like you would need to do if you use chimineas.
The common denominator of the two is their fuel source, mainly firewood. Propane and natural gas can also be used for some types and charcoal. Gel fuel is also an alternative for fire pits, which is better because it does not produce smoke upon combustion, but the drawback is that the heat production is also not that good.
Anything that involves fire is a definite hazard. It all boils down to the way you handle it that dictates if it is safe for you to use. We already mentioned how the structure of a chiminea protects the flame from wind and how that isn’t the same case for fire pits. Both of their surfaces heat up, so handling them without proper hand gloves will hurt and make it unsafe for children and animals.
Both are heavyweight structures and not easily transportable nor storable. Fire pits tend to be left outside because it’s much more convenient than constantly taking in and out of a storage area. A chiminea needs a protective cover if left outside to protect its exterior from deterioration caused by environmental conditions. If you want to store them somewhere, you can make space in your garage or any spot in your backyard with shade.
These are both stable fire structures in general. In the case of chimineas, though, the lifespan depends on the durability of the material used to make it. Chimineas made of clay have a shorter lifespan than cast iron ones. The same goes with fire pits.
The different types of chimineas and fire pits
The following are the different types of chimineas and fire pits:
Types of fire pits
- Wood fuel fire pits
If your backyard is big enough to make a bonfire in, then wood pits are the closest thing you can have to one.
Under this category are:
- Wood fuel grill fire pits – This kind serves multiple purposes. You can cook and grill on these types of fire pits because they include a grill grate that you can place over the flames.
- Outdoor firepits – You can decide if you want it to be stationary or portable and looks like an indoor fireplace.
- Stone or brick firepits – Using just bricks, cement blocks, or large rocks, you can already assemble an outdoor fireplace.
Fire pits that use wood as fuel are quite high maintenance. You have to go through the hassle of finding appropriate firewood to use in terms of type and size, and it needs to be kept dry at all times; otherwise, it won’t combust.
- Propane fire pits
For this kind of fire pit, there is little to no need for firewood or gel fuel. You only need a supply of propane. Propane fire pits are usually large with designs made of glass, faux wood, or pebbles.
Popular subcategories are:
- Portable propane fire pits – From the name itself, this type of fire pit can be easily lugged around and brought anywhere, and you can also cook on them. Some slightly heavier units have wheels, while those that do not are usually lightweight.
- Copper fire bowl pits – Copper takes a long time before it melts, and it offers that elegant look. They are generally expensive.
- Fire pit tables – Imagine a table but with a rim around it. That is what this type of fire pit looks like. The wide ledges are purposely intended for the safety and a spot to put plates of food or drinks.
The drawbacks of propane fire pits are:
- Tendency to unexpectedly run out of fuel supply
- The result of food flavor may not be as impressive
- Gel fuel pits
Here are the most common gel fuel pits:
- Gel fuel logs – They give the illusion of a real fire, and the gel fuel containers are hidden in between the logs.
- Tabletop fire pits – This little fire pit can easily be carried from one place to another. It can be used both indoors and outdoors.
- No mess, smoke, and smell
- Portable and can serve many purposes
- Less warmth
- Gel fuels are not easily available
- Natural gas fire pits
These are permanently installed in a spot in your backyard.
Sunken fire pits – Dug into the ground. You must be careful around them because the flames are exposed – there is no protection around them.
Round, square, tabletop fire pits – Slightly elevated with bricks, stones, copper, etc.
- Unlimited supply of natural gas
- Hassle installation
- Not portable
Types of chimineas
The main aspect that defines chimineas’ reliability is the material they are made of.
- Clay chimineas
Two pieces of clay combined at a seam and then processed via kiln drying makes clay chimineas which can also be used for baking.
- Easily breakable, especially at the seams
Requires monthly seasoning and sealing to cover minor cracks
- Copper chimineas
Looks antique and is generally costly. You may notice some green tints that appear over time due to copper deterioration and will need repairs every once in a while to keep them from disintegrating.
- Cast-iron chimineas
We do not recommend this if you tend to move your chiminea from one spot to another because it is really heavy and not intended for portable use. The good thing is that they are more resistant to changes in weather conditions and do not need frequent maintenance jobs compared to clay ones. These can even last a lifetime without major damage.
- Sheet metal and stainless steel chimineas
These are the most popular in the market and probably the cheapest ones available. They have many designs to choose from and are great for outdoor use.
- Cast aluminum chimineas
This is a customer favorite and another popular choice.
- Low maintenance
- Can use either wood or gas as fuel
- Gas types can be used indoors with proper ventilation
- Variety of size and design options
- Quite costly
Why you should get a chiminea
Chimineas can serve multiple purposes. You can use them as a heat source as well as for cooking. They look good in the corner of your patio or backyard as a design and for practical use.
Safety is no issue because the flame is enclosed within the structure and protected from strong winds. Depending on your needs and preferences, you can choose from various materials and styles. Because of their closed structure, they can still emit heat even after the fire goes out since a small amount of heat is still somehow retained.
- Fire containment
- Can be used for BBQ
- Good heat production
- Upward direction of smoke
- Elegant designs
- Easy to use
- Fire is viewed from one side only
- Small capacity
- Tends to fall down
- Exterior surface can get hot
- Hassle maintenance
Why you should have a fire pit
Get in touch with nature and spend more nights outdoors while appreciating the starry skies with your fire pit installed in your backyard. Savor special evenings while keeping you and your loved ones warm around the crackling fire.
- Heat is radiated from all sides
- Abundant heat production
- Can use regular-sized logs
- Makeshift campfire
- Smoke goes in all directions
- Disposal is a hassle
- Safety hazard
- Laidback vibe
- Needs kindling
Which one is the safer choice?
Chimineas have the advantage of overall safety because of the containment of the flames and the smoke within the structure only as opposed to fire pits where the flames are exposed, and the smoke and sparks flow in random directions. It is easier to control the fire inside a chiminea.
Because the smoke only goes in one upward direction, it lessens the probability of being inhaled by the people around the fire. That means less risk of acquiring respiratory problems.
However, the fact remains that chimineas get hot, making them a hazard when a person touches or gets in contact with it. Freestanding chimineas are also a danger, especially when kids are running around. They might run into one and cause it to crash.
Which has better heat production?
Without a doubt, fire pits win this round.
An open fire pit the outdoors gives off tremendous warmth.
Open fire pits guarantee 360-degree even heat distribution. Everyone sitting around it can experience the immense warmth brought by the fire, which is perfect for whenever you have a large gathering with several people.
The size of the fire is up to you. If you want it to be big, you can always add more fuel (charcoal or wood). Need more heat? Just make the fire bigger. But always remember to keep it under control.
Chimineas will restrict the influx of oxygen and the ability of the fire to grow since it is an enclosed space, so there is no chance of building a bigger fire. The only entry and exit of air are through one opening on one side of the chiminea, so only those positioned right in front of the opening can experience the full impact of the heat. This also means that chimineas will take longer to light and produce heat, making it more difficult to maintain the fire.
Which one emits more light?
Fire pits also win this for pretty much the same reasons as heat production. Along with the heat, light is also given off. So since fire pits offer more heat, they are also most likely to give more light. However, there are still some considerations, such as the necessity for ample light.
Depending on the area, there may be some cases where you do not need too much illumination. Bottomline, it all boils down to your usual scenario and what you need in your case because we all experience things differently, and therefore our needs vary on some levels.
Do chimineas put off heat?
As we mentioned before, chimineas produce less heat than fire pits. Because of a chiminea’s enclosed structure, heat and light are confined into a limited space and cannot radiate maximum heat and light. The openness of fire pits is an advantage because people from all sides can receive the same amount of both.
There is almost no limit to the amount of fuel you can add to a fire pit just as long as you can control it. Heat only comes out of the small opening on one side of a chiminea, resulting only in a particular direction of the flow of heat and light. The entry of air is also minimized, and that is why heat and light production is also affected.
What are good fuels for a chiminea?
Charcoal briquettes are self-lighting, so that’s a plus. If you use this fuel, leave it burning for around 20 minutes before completely putting it out. Wood can also be a good fuel along with propane. Alcohol gel is also another good alternative since the by-product of its combustion is just water. This is more suitable for indoor heating only and not for cooking.
For indoor heating, we strongly do not recommend cooking on your chiminea or using different fuels every now and then because it increases the risk of smoke buildup and can suffocate.
What is the appropriate placement of a chiminea?
House fires happen a lot, and these are mostly caused by accidents or negligence. Having a chiminea at home is a huge responsibility on your part. You should ensure that the spot you place is safe from fire hazards like curtains or paper.
There should also be proper ventilation near it for smooth entry of air and exit of smoke. Refrain from putting it on a wooden surface or around wooden structures. We also advise that you get fire mats and other safety equipment. Place it in an upright position on an even surface. For outdoor chimineas, 30 feet from the house is an optimal safe distance.
So have you decided yet? Chimineas are safer for general use, but they can be quite costly. Fire pits are the more practical choice, but that means extra caution when used. We have already narrowed down the needed information, and we hope it helped.