Cast Iron Chiminea or Clay Which is Better?
Cast Iron and Clay chimineas are the two most popular types of chiminea that are available to buy in the UK but cast iron chiminea or clay, which is better?
Well, there really is no simple answer as both cast iron chimineas and traditional clay chimineas each have a place in your garden or on your patio, and which one you choose will depend upon your personal requirements and needs.
If you’d like to find out more about clay chimineas and cast iron chimineas and the differences between the two, keep reading!
Cast Iron Chimineas vs Clay Chimineas
Apart from their names and the materials they’re made from, there are a number of other differences between cast iron chimineas and clay chimineas. These include:
Below you’ll find out about both clay chimineas and cast iron chimineas and then some pros and cons of each to help you choose which one suits your tastes and needs.
Clay chimineas are generally made from clay or terracotta and sit on a stand which is usually metal. Clay chimineas are more traditional as these are the materials there were originally made from.
Dating back some 400 years, the methods of making clay chimineas hasn’t really changed and clay was used originally due to it being very inexpensive and being readily available to all.
Clay chimineas are the same shape as cast iron chimineas with a bulbous potbelly section that holds the fire and a chimney section on top to take the smoke away. However, unlike cast iron chimineas, clay ones are normally in one solid section instead of two.
Clay chimineas are hand moulded from clay or terracotta and are then fired at high temperatures and glazed.
Clay chimineas are much more colourful than their cast iron counterparts. They come in different sizes and can also be decorated in a variety of styles, patterns, and colours. Some can be bought elaborately decorated, some are just painted in single or multiple colours and others just come plain. You can also choose to paint clay chimineas yourself to your own personal taste.
If you’re looking for a rustic or more traditional appearance, then a clay chiminea is definitely the choice.
Clay chimineas are often somewhat cheaper than their cast iron counterparts. If you are looking for a chiminea based purely on price then you can’t really go wrong with clay.
Clay chimineas do not burn as hot as cast iron chimineas and also do not retain as much heat. This can be both positive and negative depending upon your circumstances. Those looking at safety may well prefer a clay chiminea because they are not as hot. Although they will still cause significant burns they are generally regarded as slightly safer.
The negative however is that they do not produce as much heat so if you want a chiminea to keep lots of people warm, you may struggle with a clay chiminea. If you overload a clay chiminea they are also prone to cracking due to excessive heat.
Clay chimineas are generally lighter than cast iron chimineas. This obviously depends upon the size but when comparing like for like they are generally lighter. This is a huge benefit if you are planning to put your chiminea away for the winter. Being able to move them easily is a great bonus.
This is one of the main differences between clay and cast iron. Clay chimineas are only suitable for burning wood whereas cast iron ones can burn coal and charcoal. This is due to the heat they produce as clay chimineas can crack under extreme heat.
Maintenance and Sturdiness:
Clay chimineas need to be cared for before and after use. The first thing you need to do when you buy a clay chiminea is to cure it to ensure it can take the heat. You can find out more about curing a chiminea by reading our article. Clay chimineas by their manufacture and composition and much weaker than cast iron chimineas. They are more prone to cracking and if dropped can break and are affected more by temperature changes and can be damaged by frost and cold temperatures.
However, unlike cast iron chimineas they do not rust.
Finally, take a look at the major positives and negatives of clay chimineas.
Clay Chimineas Positives
- Much more colourful and decorative
- Lovely traditional designs and styling
- Can be cheaper
- Lighter than cast iron
- They do not rust
- Safer as do not get as hot
Clay Chimineas Negatives
- Not as strong as cast iron chimineas
- Can only burn wood fuels
- Do not get as hot as cast iron chimineas
- Do not retain heat as well
- Need to be properly cured
- Affected by changes in temperature such as frost
- Prone to cracking is heat overloaded
Cast Iron Chimineas
Cast iron chimineas are obviously made from cast iron although some also contain amounts of steel. It is not uncommon to see parts of cast iron chimineas made from different materials to save on weight and costs.
Cast iron chimineas are generally a similar shape to clay chimineas with a bulbous potbelly section that holds the fire and a chimney section on top to take the smoke away. However cast iron chimineas are normally made from 2 separate sections which are joined together when assembled. You will therefore find you may have to assemble your chiminea once purchased.
Cast iron chimineas generally come in very similar finishes. There are a number of different styles available from traditional to contemporary but they are certainly not as colourful and decorative as clay chimineas.
For those looking for a more modern chiminea for their garden or patio, a cast iron chiminea is probably for you, whilst those after more traditional may prefer clay.
Smaller cast iron chimineas can be fairly inexpensive but they are generally more expensive than clay models. This is due to the cost of materials and manufacturing processes.
If you want to keep a larger area warm then a cast iron chiminea is for you. They not only heat up quicker but also produce more heat and stay hotter for longer.
The only downside of a cast iron chiminea when it comes to heat is that they can get very hot and you’ll obviously need a larger garden or patio area. This means that they are not quite as safe as clay chimineas and are probably not suitable for small courtyards and gardens.
Cast iron chimineas are much heavier than clay chimineas which do become a bit of a pain if you want to move them. This is especially important if you are looking to put your chiminea away during the winter. If you want to keep it protected, instead of moving it we’d recommend you buy a good quality chiminea cover.
The great thing about cast iron chimineas is that you are able to use a variety of fuels. Now obviously we’d always recommend a good quality hardwood but with a cast iron chiminea you do have the option of using coal or charcoal if you really want to.
Maintenance and Sturdiness:
Cast iron chimineas are much stronger than clay chimineas. They can of course crack under extreme heat but they will not be affected as much by changes in temperature.
One thing however that you must think about with a cast iron chiminea is to protect it from the rain. Cast iron models will rust if left to get wet which will require a degree of maintenance. If you need to find out how to fix a rusty chiminea then check out our article.
Finally, take a look at the major positives and negatives of cast iron chimineas.
Cast Iron Chimineas Positives
- Get hotter and stay hotter for longer
- Heat a larger area
- Can burn a variety of fuels
- Much stronger
- Less likely to crack or break
- Modern and contemporary designs available
Cast Iron Chimineas Negatives
- Can rust
- Not as colourful as clay
- Can be a safety concern if too hot
- Requires larger garden or patio
- More expensive
So in answer to the question, Cast Iron Chiminea or Clay Which is Better?
As we said at the beginning, there really is no simple answer, it does depend upon your own personal circumstances and requirements. Having owned both, we have seen the benefits and drawbacks of both cast iron and clay chimineas but we hope that this article has gone some way to help you decide.
Don’t forget to check out our article How Hot Does a Chiminea Get? which will give you lots more helpful information to help you choose.