When you buy a clay chiminea, you must first season or ‘cure’ it before use. Seasoning your chiminea will extend its operational lifespan and help prevent cracks forming when the chiminea is used.
You can easily and quickly season your chiminea. It’s best to make sure you have positioned your chiminea precisely where you want it before you start seasoning your chiminea. Start by layering some sand, pea gravel, or lava (or pumice) stones in the bottom or the bowl of the chiminea. You’ll want to fill it up to about three-quarters to the mouth of the chiminea to make sure the flames aren’t coming into direct contact with the clay. The amount of sand or stone you will need depends on the size of your chiminea. Clay chimineas are available in many different sizes from a cozumel to an extra-large Mexican chiminea.
You can at this point make a rudimentary ‘grate’ by placing two bricks on top of the sand or stones. This will give you a better platform for burning timber, garden clippings, or larger pieces of fuel. This is entirely optional and you can always add bricks as a later date if you want.
Start by making a small fire with a couple of bits of kindling (you can use small pieces of wood, a couple of , or some ocote natural firelighters) and a few pieces of balled-up scrap paper. Let this small fire burn out without adding any more kindling and allow the chiminea to cool fully before making another, slightly larger fire, and, once again, let the fire burn out and leave the chiminea to cool. You’ll need to make about six small fires, increasing in size each time, until you’re making a fire almost the size you’ll be using in the chiminea in the future.
Never use a clay chiminea when it’s even slightly damp. If you do leave your clay chiminea out in the rain (although we strongly recommend a cover be purchased with any clay chiminea), always ensure it’s fully dry before lighting it. The clay is porous and so will soak up water and using the chiminea when damp might cause large cracks to form in the body of the chiminea. For this reason, you should also never use lighting fuel or any sort of accelerant.
Because chimineas are efficient garden heaters, you don’t need to light a large fire to get the best out of your clay chiminea. Try to keep the flames within the body of the chiminea as large fires (where flames are visible through the chimney of the chiminea) might damage your chiminea.
Your clay chiminea should last for years if properly looked after. If you have to move your chiminea, ensure it is completely cool. Try to keep your chiminea dry at all times, and either bring it inside over the winter or buy an insulated cover to protect the clay from frost as a damp chiminea left out in winter can freeze and split. Protect your chiminea from bad weather, ensure it is properly seasoned, use the right fuel, and never use an accelerant.