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Fire Pit, Chiminea or Outdoor Fireplace?

Fire Globe

With the evenings that bit colder, what better way to enjoy your outdoor space than with a fire pit, chiminea or outdoor fireplace? A burning fire is an assault on the senses , creates an amazing mood and ambience, and any of these three options will act as an anchor for your night-time gatherings.

But should you choose a fire pit, chiminea or outdoor fireplace? Luckily, we have prepared this guide to introduce you to the three options and highlight their relative merits and shortcomings.

What is a Fire Pit?

Fire Pits (or Fire Bowls) are available in a dazzling array of styles and sizes but are always open on all sides. This allows you and your guests to sit around the fire pit from any angle, warm your cockles and stare into the flames.

You can choose between traditional wood burning fire pits and fire bowls, or gas burning fire pits and fire tables, which burn either natural or propane gas. Design options abound, but the essentials remain the same.

Fire Pit Pros:

  • Wood burning fire pits can accommodate a grill, so you can cook a little snack or roast some marshmallows. Not recommended for gas fired fire pits though.
  • The rustic charm of an open fire. Folks have been staring into fire for millennia, and an open fire, accessible from all sides, offers the complete sensory experience. No touching though!
  • Too smoky for you tonight? You can easily position a fire pit where you like and come back to it later, or leave the fire to burn out in a corner away from the house.

Fire Pit Cons:

  • Burning wood equals smoke, and lots of it. You can minimize smoke by burning dried wood; the drier the better. Not very good for those who can’t stand smoke or have an inappropriate space. Less of a problem if you’re burning gas.
  • The potential for heat damage. Free standing firepits can easily scorch grass and decking. You can mitigate the effect by using a fire resistant mat, or use a fire table, where the firebox is safely enclosed within.
  • A firepit might not be appropriate for families with young children. Although you can use guards to cover the firepit to stop burning embers from leaping out, the firepit presents the greatest hazard potential of these three options.

Fire Bowl

What is a Chiminea?

With their origins in Mexico (chiminea being Spanish for ‘chimney’) the chiminea’s popularity has soared in recent years. Traditionally used for both cooking and warmth, the chiminea was originally intended for use inside their owner’s huts, with the long chimney allowing for smoke to be directed outside.

Chimineas are traditionally made from clay, a material that remains popular, though chimineas can also be made of copper, cast iron, steel or cast aluminium, and are enclosed on three sides. Although gas-fired chimineas are available on the market, the vast majority burn wood.

Chiminea Pros:

  • Less smoky than a fire pit, though cheaper chimineas are still prone to smokiness. Again, smoke can be limited by burning well-dried wood.
  • As the firebox is enclosed on three sides, chimineas are generally considered safer than fire pits. Just be sure that your chiminea is sturdy enough to avoid toppling over.
  • With a spectacular array of designs to choose from, there will be a chiminea to suit anybody’s taste. Traditional or contemporary, you will find one to compliment your space.

Chiminea Cons:

  • Depending on size, the fire may need to be fed fuel often. Likewise, a small chiminea might require you to chop lots of wood into small pieces.
  • A clay chiminea that has not been maintained properly will be prone to cracking, with the base eventually crumbling away. Do your homework, and avoid the cheapest on the market.
  • Whilst a chiminea will act as a focal point in your garden, they lack the charm and intrigue that an open fire gives in such abundance.

Chiminea

What is an Outdoor Fireplace?

Similar to the chiminea, outdoor fireplaces have seen a surge in popularity, particularly in the US. And it’s easy to see why…a full blown, permanent outdoor fireplace provides a centerpiece like no other. If you still need convincing, check out some of these images on houzz.com

There are three options for delivery and constructing an outdoor fireplace. Smaller units can be bought pre-assembled, larger units are modular and assembled on-site, whilst the high-end units are bespoke and designed to your own requirements. Again, fuel sources are either wood or gas.

Outdoor Fireplace Pros:

  • Even burning wood, an outdoor fireplace provides as close to a smokeless experience as you are likely to get. Wood burning fireplaces can also accommodate a grill, and some designs can even double up as a pizza oven.
  • As a self-contained unit, a fireplace can be considered safer than a fire pit, and is highly unlikely to topple or get knocked over like a chiminea might.
  • Bragging rights. Whether the design is straight from the 15th Century or ultra-contemporary, how many of your friends or neighbors have installed an outdoor fireplace?

Outdoor Fireplace Cons:

  • Out of the three options, an outdoor fireplace is clearly going to be the most expensive. Unless you build one yourself, expect to spend at least £1,000 for an entry level modular unit. A bespoke fireplace will cost a minimum £5,000.
  • Portability and installation. A permanently installed fireplace isn’t going anywhere soon, and you would be advised to check if there are any relevant building regulations in your area before going ahead with an installation.

Outdoor Fireplace

So which of the three options is ‘best’?

Unfortunately, I cannot answer that. The question should actually be ‘which is the most appropriate for my space and needs’? You will need to consider your neigbors, potential hazards, your preferred fuel source and of course your budget!

Personally, I believe the flame that wood produces is far superior than gas; burning hotter and connecting me to nature. As I enjoy camping trips, I’d like to be able to take the unit with me. For me, the fire pit/fire bowl makes complete sense.

Whether you chose a fire pit, chiminea or outdoor fireplace, I guarantee that your outdoor living space will be all the better for it.

What do you think?