FIREPITS & CHIMINEAS
by Carole Schwalm
Once upon a time there was a piece of wood. It was not an expensive piece of wood. Far from it. Just a common block of firewood, one of those thick, solid logs that are put on the fire in winter to make cold rooms cozy and warm.
From the first civilizations people have gathered around the fire to cook, to bake, to keep warm and to bond (even romantically). Many of us have ‘warm’ memories (literally) of times spent around a fire. Now fire pits or chimineas not only do all of the above but they also extend time outdoors as they bring warmth to your courtyard, deck or patio, and they’ve come a long way from the old-time hole in the ground a ‘pit’ used to be.
THE FIRE PIT
A fire pit extends the season, and for some of us and/or in the right location through most of the fall and it enables us to get an early start enjoying the outdoors in the spring.
A metal fire pit generally is a large dish with legs. It is heat proof and it should allow the air to circulate safely. Air has to flow under the fire. The pit should be placed on level ground and at least 25 feet away from a structure that could burn (that includes trees or shrubs).
You know why you might want one. Here are a few hints when it comes to owning it.
To keep the fire from burning through: put sand in the bottom of the pit. However it is necessary to empty the sand and the ashes out after they have cooled. You can use it again, but you should just avoid storing it in the fire pit. A high-temperature paint also extends the fire pit’s life. One with a rust preventative is a bonus.
Safety is a key factor in light of children, animals and careless adults. Always have a fire extinguisher nearby. Check that fire pits are allowed – before you buy. For example your area’s zoning office, apartment or condo management may not approve.
HOW TO START A FIRE
You may know that! But then again …
- A fire pit.
- Tinder or small dry sticks and twigs.
- Kindling, something which is not tinder because it is a bit larger (about 1” in diameter).
- Logs, and they are larger than kindling. They go on last.
All wood by the way should be dry.
Water and/or a fire extinguisher just in case and especially to put out the fire when you are done. Never use fire starter!
Put the tinder in the center of the pit. This is what you start initially. You can stack it in a tepee form but leave a small opening on the side of the structure. Light the kindling in more than one place. Keep adding more kindling to help it catch. Next comes the kindling or the larger sticks. Last comes the logs that can be arranged in tepee fashion or in a square (the latter helps let out the heat).
Wood: pinon wood has a lovely aroma and it keeps insects away.
I read that a little dryer lint helps speed up starting a fire. You can also use pinecone fire starters. You can buy them premade or make them using pinecones, wax, candle twine, a scent, a cupcake pan and paper liners. An excellent set of directions in www.mrs-adventure.com with pictures (Nice for gift giving too).
The chimenea has been around for hundreds of years. It was used to provide both heat and for cooking. It does that, plus becomes a sculptural centerpiece in your home. Most are about 5’ and about 2’ at the firebox. Those made of metal are more durable than clay although they are more expensive. Smoke comes out of the chimney. Some have doors and helpful if using it as an oven. The chimney directs the smoke up and away.
Share your firepit & chiminea experience or if you'd like more information.