Originally, all ceramic open fire garden heaters imported to the US from Mexico were known as chimeneas. They originated hundreds, if not thousands of years ago, by Mexican tribesmen who developed the chimeneas as a means of providing heat for their family as well as a vessel for cooking and baking. The original chimenea was designed to keep the rain off the fire and the family warm using merely a couple of sticks. The difference between a chimenea and a basic fire pit is that the chimenea forces smoke up and away, a benefit for windy evenings and for those who are sensitive to fire smoke.
Chimeneas have become a popular garden and deck accessory in the UK and US. Commonly, pinonwood is burned for its aromatic scent and its insect repellent qualities. Hickory and apple are also frequently used when cooking meat out of a chimenea, for the flavors they impart to the meat.
Fires start very quickly in chimeneas after ignition with newspapers and small pieces of wood. When in full burn after just 15 minutes, they give off tremendous heat due to their design which allows much more air to be drawn in than, for example, a fire basket.
Chimeneas made from cast iron or aluminium are also available. They can be of traditional shape or of many different designs. Most have a total height of about five feet and are about two feet across the firebox. Some metal chimeneas have a grated door to close off the fireplace opening and a spark arrestor atop the stack. Metal chimeneas are much more durable than the ceramic versions but are more expensive.
In Mexico, when the cooking pot or Chimenea cracked and fell apart, the people simply scooped some more mud or river clay together and made another.
A Chimenea can also be repaired by the use of muffler glue[clarification needed] to join major parts. Fresh clay can be used as a final binder after application of glue. After the Chimenea is left to cure for 24hrs a small fire should be set to cure the glue and clay.