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Placement of the Chiminea: There are two important things to keep in mind as you pick a location for your chiminea. The first is to make sure that you place the chiminea on a flat, level surface that is 100% solid and won't shift. Second, be sure that there isn't anything directly above or in close proximity to the chiminea that could catch fire or be damaged by the smoke escaping from the smokestack (this includes awnings tree branches, umbrellas, vines and basically anything else). Don't place your chiminea under a gazebo, pergola, enclosed porch or patio, or any other structure.
Insulation & Grate: Before using a clay chiminea, you first need to insulate it so that the fire isn't in direct contact with the clay base. Simply pour some sand (or lava stones or pea stone) into the bowl until the sand is 3-4 inches below the lower lip of the mouth (i.e. the opening on the side of the chiminea). You don't need a special type of sand; regular play sand that you'd put in a children's sandbox is perfectly adequate.
Once you've insulated the bowl of the chiminea with sand (or lava stones or pea stone), lay a couple of bricks on their sides. Place the bricks about six inches apart (maybe a little further for chimineas with a larger bowl). You should place the pieces of wood you burn on these bricks, which will act as the grate and keep the wood elevated.
Start with Small Fires: Your first 5-10 fires in a new clay chiminea should be relatively small. It's important to "season" the chiminea with smaller fires (built from kindling and small pieces of wood) before it's ready for larger fires. Let these small fires burn themselves out naturally, rather than putting them out with dirt or water. After 5-10 smaller fires, your chiminea will be ready for larger fires with larger pieces of wood. But even then, you don't want to let the flames get too big and come out of the top of neck of the chiminea.
Safety Information: Chimineas are intended for outdoor use only. Do NOT light your chiminea indoors. Never leave a chiminea fire unattended, and make sure to have a fire extinguisher handy. While the exterior of clay chimineas typically don't get overly hot, it is still recommended that you not touch the chiminea and that you keep children and pets away from it while a fire is burning (or was recently burning). Finally, you shouldn't extinguish the fire with water.
Handling & Transport: Most clay chimineas are manufactured as two separate pieces: 1) the base (aka bowl) of the chiminea, and 2) the neck (aka smokestack). After each piece is crafted and allowed to dry for several days, the base and the neck are carefully fused together into a single, continuous piece. While this fusion is very strong and almost never presents a problem, it's nevertheless important to be aware of when you're moving or transporting a clay chiminea. You should never lift it by the neck, as doing so could cause the bond between the base and the neck to separate. Instead, we recommend hefting the chiminea by the mouth (i.e. the large opening on the side of the chiminea) with one hand and then using your other arm/hand to "cradle" and support the chiminea at the point where the base and neck meet.
If you ever need to transport your chiminea in a vehicle, you have a couple of good options, the first of which does not require that you have a truck, suburban or SUV. You can simply set the chiminea on one of the seats (where a person would sit) and then fasten the seat belt around the chiminea to secure it in place. Make sure to add a little padding where the seat belt contacts the neck of the chiminea. If you do own a truck or SUV, the other option is to secure the chiminea snugly in place in the bed of the truck or in the trunk area, ensuring that the chiminea won't shift during turns, bumps or acceleration or deceleration. Also make sure that other items nearby are secure and won't fall on or crash into the chiminea, particularly its neck.
Weatherproof Seal: Although not required for some models, it is a good idea to seal most clay chimineas. We recommend using either Future Floor Wax or Butchers Wax to weatherproof your clay chiminea. Simply squirt some of the wax on to the outside of the chiminea and then use a clean towel or rag to rub the wax all over the exterior of the chiminea. This seals the tiny pores and minuscule hairline cracks that aren't visible to the naked eye. You only need to do this once.
Chiminea Cover: When you're not using your clay chiminea, we highly recommend covering it with a weatherproof cover. This will protect it from the elements, particularly from rain and snow. While an old grill cover or storm cover gets the job done, you may want to consider getting an actual chiminea cover specially made for covering the shape of a chiminea.
Winter Storage: Particularly if you live in a region where the temperate drops below freezing during the winter time, we strongly recommend storing your clay chiminea indoors through the winter. The "1-2 punch" of freezing temperatures and moisture can weaken the clay and make it brittle, increasing the chances of it forming cracks.
If you are unable to store the chiminea in a heated room inside your house, make sure to put it in a garage or shed where it will at least be protected from moisture and the other elements. Also, make sure to place the chiminea on a pallet or a couple slats of wood, rather than directly on the ground or cement pad. This will allow the air to circulate underneath the chiminea.
During storage, remove the chiminea from its stand.
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