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BellaOnline's Southwest USA Editor

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What is a Chimenea?

Guest Author - Debra Conrad

What Is A ChimeneaI am often asked What Is A Chimenea? Not by residents of the Southwest U.S., but by curiosity seekers from across the world.

They may have heard the word but can't associate it with an object... or they may be standing right next to one, and don't know that it's called a Chimenea and not just "outdoor fireplace"

For those of us that love the warmth and ambiance of an outdoor fireplace, a chimenea is a popular option. The cost of building a fireplace can be extreme, and these little fireplaces are portable as well as budget conscience.

Originally, the free standing clay constructed pieces, were used for heating and cooking in Mexico. The origin dates back over 400 years. They were often used indoors for their functionality... instead of outside for their beauty.

The long neck of course... serves as a chimney. As the neck heats up... it pulls the clean air into the mouth... pushing the smoke up and out the top of the neck.

Chimenea styles are varied - traditional forms are in clay or metal. Some of the more modern versions are pyramid or square in shape.

Clay chimeneas can and do crack and iron will rust causing the patio area to have stains. A good alternative is cast aluminum.

Although most of these outdoor fireplaces range in size from 36" -40", the smoke wafting out the top will be in your eyes. Taller versions are available, although they are heavier and therefore harder to move.

Look for a large bowl, one with enough room for nice sized logs. Small bowls not only restrict the log size, but they don't provide as much heat or a view of the fire.

Legs that are "built on" or permanently attached, keep the fireplace from falling. A chimenea on a stand looks very elegant, but its not safe from tilting... which especially wouldn't want while a fire is burning!

Clay versions can be found with a weatherproof coating... which will help to resolve the cracking issue. Of course, all metal versions can be rust proofed as well... as long as it's done before lighting the first fire.

If you are thinking of purchasing a lightweight version, thing again. Lightweight often is because it is of poor quality. The best chimenea holds much of it's weight in the base or bowl and stays stable even on high wind evenings. A good gauge of quality... the chimenea weighs over 60 lbs.

Now you can say you know the answer to... What is a Chimenea?

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Content copyright © 2014 by Debra Conrad. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Debra Conrad. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Karm Holladay for details.

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