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Tuesday, 26 April 2011 14:44:42 Europe/London
Although steel and cast iron chimeneas are a familiar sight in UK gardens, the chimeneas first developed in Mexico were made from clay. Clay chimeneas, also known as chimineas, were derived from the traditional stone fireplaces which were used for both heating and cooking. Clay chimeneas are available in a wide range of sizes so you can be sure to get one that is suitable whatever size patio you have (if you have a very large patio consider getting two chimeneas to place at either end as this will give more even heating).
Properties of Clay Chimeneas
Clay chimeneas have great thermal properties, burning fuel to a fine ash. The downside is that they are only suitable for burning dry wood - the charcoal or coal you might use in a cast iron or steel chimenea burns at a hotter temperature than dry wood, and could cause a clay chimenea to crack. All chimeneas become hot during use, however unlike a steel or cast iron model the surface of a clay chimenea is unlikely to become hot enough to cause a severe burn if accidentally touched.
It's very easy to get started with a clay chimenea as they don't require any assembly. Just find a suitable location (level and non-combustible) for the stand, place the clay chimenea onto the stand and put a layer of sand or lava stones in the bottom of the chimenea. Clay chimeneas can crack if exposed to direct heat from a fire, but the sand or lava stones in the base protect them. It is recommended that the layer of sand or lava stones be at least 50mm deep to give adequate protection. Clay chimeneas are heavy as well as being an awkward shape - a medium sized one can weigh upwards of 35kg - so make sure you have someone to help you when moving it around.
Care and Maintenance
Clay chimeneas require very little maintenance - just cleaning out the ash and occasionally touching up the paint. You can use ordinary household emulsion paint on a chimenea, so you have a lot of freedom to get creative and personalise it if you want to. Clay chimeneas don't have any drainage holes so will become waterlogged if left out in the rain. You can protect your clay chimenea with a waterproof cover, however if it does get wet you should allow it to dry fully before using it again. Clay chimeneas can be damaged by the worst of a British winter, so it is best to store them indoors over the colder months.
Cooking on Clay Chimeneas
Chimeneas are primarily used as patio heaters rather than for cooking. Some clay chimeneas offer the option of a barbecue grill, and raised chimenea cradles are available to bring the fire up to a more comfortable height for cooking as well as providing workspace to the sides of the chimenea. These options are great for occasional barbecuing or if you have don't have the space for a separate barbecue. However dedicated outdoor chefs are likely to be happier with a purpose-built barbecue.
Stores Direct supply a wide range of outdoor heating and cooking products including chimineas, patio heaters and barbecues. You are welcome to call us on 01484 434320 if you need help or advice.