Chiminea Use and Repair Q&A

Be sure to scroll down... there may be more than one question on this page!

Dear NH,

I recently bought a cast iron chiminea because of the inherent fragility of the clay. I have read that the cast iron gets to hot and can leave a nasty burn. Well, that's what I want, a nice heat source. The only other problem I have is the rusting. Mine is new so it isn't rusted yet, but I'm sure its coming. Is there any product I can use on a hot metal surface to keep it from rusting? I thought of engine paint but I like the look of the chiminea now. Paint would ruin that effect. Any ideas???



For rust protection, you can do what cooks have done for years to protect their valued cast iron cookware. Coat the entire outside surface with cooking oil... any one will do... and then heat the stove to "burn it on". The oil will provide a somewhat clear protective coating that will have a more natural appearance than paint. Reapply the oil every dozen burns (or if your poor chiminea gets an unexpected bath!) to build up an adequate protective coat.

You shouldn't have to worry about the inside… the build-up of soot and creosote will offer plenty of protection under most circumstances. But don't allow the chiminea to remain wet for any length of time! If an unexpected storm gets it soaked, dry it as best you can and burn off the remaining moisture.

Don't assume these techniques will give you a perfect seal... even treated cast iron cookware will rust if left soaking in water for a length of time. Use a cover when possible.

Dear NH,

I read your page on chimineas. I'm buying one for my Dad for Christmas. I am a little confused about the tip on how to best lift the awkward thing. The text mentions:

"Because of the chiminea's two-piece construction, the attachment between the stack and base is the main structural weak point..."

Where is the attachment? The stack is the long chimney part, right? The base is the bulb-shaped part, I'm sure. Please help.



I guess it may be a little confusing. Though a ceramic chiminea is indeed made from two parts... the "smoke" stack (or chimney) and the roundish base... the "attachment" I between them that I referred to is not visible. Instead, the clay of the stack and the base are smoothed together prior to kiln firing to give the appearance of a one-piece unit (like the handle on a cup, for example). This gives a strong bond between the two parts but is nevertheless the "Achilles heel" of the chiminea!

The ideal way to move a chiminea is to use a hand truck or cart, but should lifting by hand become necessary, care should be taken not to put undue stress on that attachment between the chiminea from the stack. For example, it is unwise to have two people lift the chiminea with one holding the base and one holding the stack. Better to both hold the base.

A caveat... care should also be taken not to place undue stress on the lifter's back, since these honeys are very heavy and awkward to carry! Medium chimineas can weigh 80 pounds, and larger chimineas can top out at over 150 pounds!

Eager for a professional opinion, I asked my chiropractor about the proper way for one person to carry a chiminea. He gave me "the look" and would not even suggest a back-safe way to carry one!

Dear NH,

I read your page on chimineas and thanks for the great info. The paint/finish came off places on my chiminea after the first hard rain. What type of paint can I use on it? Then do I seal with the Futura floor wax as you recommended? I am not clear whether I need high heat paint or not! Many thanks for your help.



It's too bad you didn't seal the chiminea first. The paint used on chimineas is an inexpensive acrylic that is not the toughest paint around but when sealed will stand up fairly well. You can use artist-type oil-based (not latex) acrylic paints to touch up the chiminea. Be sure to seal the chiminea after the acrylic has dried or the new acrylic will deteriorate quickly.

Chimineas are supposed to have a rustic appearance, so imperfections and fading due to age are part of the charm of a well-used chiminea. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, I suggest that people who want to keep their chimineas in pristine condition should 1) never fire it up, 2) keep it inside and 3) use it as a candle-holder or as a purely decorative piece.

High temperature paints are designed to adhere to metals, so I can't recommend their use on a clay chiminea. Even if the paint successfully stuck it probably would not offer much in the way of moisture protection after a few firings, especially if there are any tiny cracks in the chiminea surface.

If you haven't already, invest in a vinyl chiminea cover. It makes no sense exposing your chiminea to rain more than necessary. As mentioned our the article, the more moisture in the clay when you fire up the chiminea, the greater the chance of cracking caused by released steam!

Dear NH,

We love our chiminea and have been very careful with it...however, we've noticed a few small cracks in the back of it. Is there anything we can do to stop them from getting worse? I would appreciate any advise you can give us...our "Chimi" is like another member of our family! Thank you.


In scouring scores of articles on chimineas as well as the instructional handouts of a number of companies, I have come to the conclusion that chiminea repair is an “iffy” proposition. People have suggested using drywall compound, plaster of Paris, caulk... on and on. The problem is the heat chimineas release... none of the products mentioned above are designed to withstand significant heat. And even a lightly-fired chiminea can get pretty darn hot!

After looking over a number of product options, I have concluded the best material to use is a high-temperature epoxy adhesive... for three reasons. First, it can take the heat. Second, it dries hard and sticks well to most dry, dust-free surfaces. Three, it can be sanded smooth and painted. (Just make sure the brand you purchase is sandable!You don't want a lumpy repair now, do you?)

PERMATEX manufactures another high temperature epoxy. If you can't find it locally, you can order it from CARPARTS.COM. When you get there, run a keyword search for "Permatex Hi-Temp"... the actual page address is four lines long!!

Another product that has been successful in chiminea repair is RTV high temperature silicone caulk. This material is used as a liquid gasket for automotive engines and also for high temperature duct sealing. This can be purchased from CARPARTS.COM also.  One problem with RTV caulk is that it is not paintable. Since it comes in brilliant red, you have to be the final arbiter of good taste... aesthetically speaking!

I can't advise strongly enough NOT to try to repair a badly cracked chiminea with any adhesive unless you are absolutely sure that 1) no one will be injured if the repair fails and 2) you have eliminated any fire hazard by placing your chiminea on a fireproof surface! Please!!

By the way, a few months back one of our readers performed some miracle surgery on his broken chiminea. Though not for the faint of heart, we have posted his short-but-sweet story and a picture of the recovering patient here.

Dear NH,

Found your article on chimineas after I bought mine. No information came with it. I didn't buy a stand for it. It is on our concrete slab patio. From reading your article I think a stand is probably wise to stop moisture getting in at the bottom. Is this correct?

I've put about a foot of sand in the bottom (its a large one) and built two relatively small fires in it before I found your article and the part about sealing, ugh. Is it too late to seal it after it cools? I take it you prefer the acrylic floor sealer. No rain or moisture has reached it so I hope its not too late.



No... you are still in great shape. Sealing your chiminea can be done at any time as long as the chiminea is cool and clean. The purpose of using a sealer is to minimize the amount of moisture that is absorbed into the clay (which could cause cracking when fired) and also to minimize staining of the outside surface. Any staining that has occurred will not be removed by sealing, but a good cleaning with a detergent might clean it... if it doesn't remove the paint, that is!

I have received a few "complaints" from chiminea owners saying that the color of their chiminea's darkened or became "muddy" when they were sealed. This does happen... many clear finishes will slightly darken surfaces they are applied to. I can't tell you what will happen with yours, though in general the darker the surface to begin with the less change will be apparent though an increase in "sheen" will always occur.

And yes, I would definitely recommend purchasing a stand. It will protect the bottom from ground moisture as well as making the chiminea more stable. Most chimineas are not very symmetrical and their bases tend to be crooked. Chiminea bases allow you to position it so it is more upright.

Chimineas are delicate, need some care and are each a little different. These personality quirks are what make them such a unique and fascinating toy!

Dear NH,

I just received a chiminea as a gift. It was purchased in Mexico and did not come with any instructions. I sure am glad I did a search on the subject and found your web page. Thanks for all the good information. Wondered if you had any experience with people using the "Duraflame" logs in their unit? I thought I would use those as the fire will not get too intense and the mess of the ashes will be very easy to clean.



Duraflame logs are an easy, neat and admittedly lazy way to enjoy a fire. Regarding ceramic chimineas, using a Duraflame log is fine once your chiminea is broken in with a few short small fires per our article.

Artificial logs have a long burn so be sure you have enough "laid-back" time available to enjoy it! If you're short on time, consider cutting the log in half (length-wise) with a reciprocating saw or chain saw. Leave the paper on the log halves because it is needed for proper lighting.