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Sweeping the chimineas

A look at the advantages of having novel outdoor heating and cooking

Posted: January 2, 2009 7:26 p.m.
Updated: January 3, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Greg Carver, assistant manager at the Lowe's store on Bouquet Canyon, explains the features of a clay chiminea, a device used for heating and cooking outdoors.

 

Chiminea - it sounds like a new Latin dance (hey, maybe we can start something) - but the chiminea (chim-ih-ney-ah) has actually been around a long time.

It's described as a freestanding, front-loading fireplace or oven with a bulbous body and, usually, a vertical smoke vent or chimney.

As the story goes, chimineas originated hundreds if not thousands of years ago with Mexican tribesmen who developed them as a means of providing heat for their families as well as a vessel for cooking and baking.

The original chiminea was designed to keep rain off the fire and the family warm using merely a couple of sticks.

Chimineas have become a popular backyard accessory in the U.S. and, along with other types of outdoor fireplaces, make summer or milder winter nights outside a cozy family experience. And though we had a couple storms in December, our typically mild southern California winter nights are back. Maybe you should get your family an outdoor fireplace to start 2009.

Greg Carver, assistant manager at the Lowe's store on Bouquet Canyon Road, said outdoor fireplaces are popular in the SCV.

He added that the classic clay chiminea has been surpassed in popularity by the newer, metal outdoor fireplaces and chimineas, but all provide the same benefits.

"Even if the temperature is in the 40s, your family can still be comfortable outside with a small fire," he said. "The aesthetics are really nice."

Advantages
Daryl Tilley is the vice president of merchandising for Seasonal Living at Lowe's, which is the corporate department under which outdoor fireplaces can be found. As such, he is very familiar with the features of these fireplaces and offered his thoughts.

"One of the biggest advantages is they allow consumers to enjoy the outdoors during the cooler/winter months from the heat they provide.

"The product provides a warm and decorative ambiance for the outdoor living space and allows consumers to extend the amount of time they can enjoy the outdoor season."

Carver noted the chimineas are accessible and easy to clean up. "When using the right wood you get a clean burn. The ashes are next to nothing," he said.

Materials and size
Tilley said all of the outdoor fireplaces Lowe's offers are safe, but the main differences are profile, footprint, height, design and style coordination with outdoor furniture. Some items are more ideal for what he described as "chat-height" furniture. Also, as an added benefit, some can double as a table when not in use.

While you may hear a variety of opinions about the benefits of various materials used in outdoor fireplaces, Tilley said all the materials are good, but overall, the cast metals will last the longest. The stainless and copper items look nice but the finish can tarnish after use.

Carver explained the ceramic chimineas are slower to heat up, but, after they do get hot, provide the most efficient heat for those around it. "That's why they've been around so long," he said.

Carver said covers are available for all the fireplaces. "I recommend covering them at all times, when not in use," he said.

When it comes to the size of your fireplace or chiminea, Tilley said, "The products available at Lowe's are designed to burn the standard fire log and firewood sizes." And he added that standard firewood logs or manufactured logs (i.e. Duraflame), are equally suitable.

You can use artificial logs by themselves or get the log going and then add real wood. This method burns real wood more completely and efficiently.

Safety
When it comes to using chimineas and other outdoor fireplaces safely, Tilley said they should be used at safe distances from homes and that wood-burning products should not be used on wooden decks.

"Consider a stone patio to use the outdoor fireplaces or chimineas," he said.

"We do offer models with gas inserts and ceramic logs," Carver said, which he felt might be more suitable to confined areas. However, he said people generally prefer the look of burning logs over gas inserts.

Carver emphasized that all the fireplaces and chimineas will get too hot to touch once the fire is up. This should be considered before purchase, especially if you have children.

Fashion
In addition to the function of your outdoor fireplace, you might also want to consider style. Tilley noted that the design/styles/finishes of the outdoor fireplaces and chimineas are developed to coordinate with outdoor furniture and décor available at Lowe's.

For more information you can visit www.lowes.com or one of the local stores, such as the one at 26415 Bouquet Canyon Road in Saugus. The phone number is (661) 297-1643.

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