Posts tagged with "Chimney Covers"

Chimney Caps and Chimney Crowns: Chimney Masonry Maintenance 101

Chimney Caps & Chimney Crowns: Essential to Masonry Chimney Maintenance

Proper maintenance of masonry chimneys extends past the brick work. Chimney caps and chimney crowns are both important for the longevity of your masonry and the safety of your home. Both caps and crowns help protect your masonry chimney interior and flue from precipitation, and the damage freeze and thaw cycles cause.

Chimney Crown with Flue Caps

Chimney with crown and 2 capped flues

Chimney Crowns

The chimney crown is placed atop the masonry chimney as a form of protection against the weather. As crowns withstand a lot of abuse, they need to be made out of a solid material; most commonly, chimney crowns are made of poured concrete and free from cracks and crumbling.

As its primary purpose is to protect your chimney, it should overhang the masonry by at least 2 inches. The top should gently slope away from the chimney opening, encouraging precipitation to run away from the chimney interior. The overhang prevents this water from running down the masonry, and a slight ridge build into the underside of the masonry further encourages the water to drip onto the roof rather than reach the masonry.

Chimney Caps

Copper Chimney Cap

Jim and a shiny new copper chimney cap

Chimney crowns do not cover the chimney interior. Chimney caps serve this purpose. Generally made of metal, they are installed just inside the chimney opening and extend well above the chimney to allow proper venting and draft. They prevent water from falling directly into your chimney, and also help keep out birds and small animals attracted to the warmth.

While most chimney caps are relatively simple, they are not always interchangeable. Chimney caps can affect your chimneys draft and certain styles work better than others with different vent sources.

For example, wood burning fireplaces or fireplace inserts produce creosote and other combustible solids. Not only will these accumulate in your flue, they will also build up your chimney cap. This is specifically a problem if your chimney cap has a protective mesh. As it accumulates, it causes draft problems that can make your fireplace unpleasant and unsafe.

Top Sealing Dampers

Top Sealing Damper

Up close and personal with a top sealing damper

In addition to simple cap styles, you have the option of added functionality. Top sealing dampers, otherwise known as “Top Dampers”, serve the function of both cap and damper. They affix to the top of your chimney much like any other cap, but can be opened and closed to allow venting. These easy to use top sealing dampers are connected to a switch near the fireplace, and with a quick pull of a lever the damper opens and closes. They’re constructed to prevent small animals from entering the chimney when open while shedding most rain, and to seal tight against water and air when closed.

While these top sealing dampers are of particular interest in older homes where the original damper is missing or broken, they can be of great benefit to most homes. They increase energy efficiency by preventing heat loss and down drafts. Relatively simple to install, most homeowners are surprised by how much top sealing dampers can save them in energy costs.

Chimney caps and crowns are an important component of masonry chimney maintenance. If you have any questions about chimney caps, crowns, or top sealing dampers, contact a trusted chimney professional. And of course, if you’re in the market for a trusty chimney professional in the Washington D.C. area, we’d love to work with you to ensure your chimney is safe and functional.

What’s the Difference Between a Chimney Cap and a Damper?

So, you’re wondering about the difference between chimney caps and chimney dampers? There’s a big difference, but as per usual the confusion is in the use of the terms.

Chimney Dampers

A damper is a device which slows down the flow of smoke. In the case of fireplaces, it also slows down the heated house air from going up the chimney. This is the main purpose of a fireplace damper.

Chimney Cap

chimney cap

Stainless Steel Chimney Cap

A rain cap, a chimney cover or an animal guard is something that mounts over the top of the flue. It helps to keep rain and animals out. While you can get a cover made out of ordinary steel, don’t. You absolutely want a stainless steel chimney cover because the other ones rust. A cap also usually has some sort of screen to prevent birds and animals out as it keeps the rain out.

A chimney cap does not stop the flow of air/smoke in the flue. There is nothing to operate; they just sit on top of the chimney and keep rain out. Caps are usually called chimney caps and that pretty well sums it up for them.

Top-Sealing Dampers

So let’s talk about Top-Sealing dampers. These dampers do in fact mount to the top of the chimney; in this way they are the same as caps, and this of course is where the confusion comes from.

The top-sealing damper is a device with a base for mounting on the flue tile and it has a lid which lifts up and down to block smoke, which also helps to keep rain out. The lid is held up by strong springs and it’s natural position is open. The lid has a stainless steel cable attached to it which runs through the chimney and mounts to the side wall of the fireplace below.

Within the fireplace, the damper cable has a handle and the mounting bracket is made in such a way as to hold varying degrees of openness. This openness ranges from fully open to completely closed. To operate the damper just grab the handle and pull it into the position you want it to be in.

Is there any further confusion about chimney caps or chimney dampers? Share your responses below.

Chimney Caps Are Small Yet Powerful

One small feature on your chimney has a few very important jobs. Despite their size, chimney caps are an affordable addition with a powerful purpose. They keep out pests that are attracted to the warmth and cozy conditions in your chimney. They also help to keep harmful weather conditions from entering and causing premature deterioration of the liner and other elements.

You need a chimney cap to properly protect this essential parts of your home. Caps also add a distinctive architectural look on your home’s exterior, which prevents them from being an outright eyesore to your beautiful home. Like a cupola over a roof, caps finish off the chimney with flair.

Different Chimney Cap Materials

Chimney Sweep NH

There are a variety of designs and materials available for this chimney component. Most often you will see stainless steel chimney caps, along with cast iron and distinct aluminum. More decorative styles are made from copper and display the unique coloring of this specific type of medal.

Essential Designs

When shopping for a replacement chimney cap, be sure to choose one that has a built in screen to trap sparks inside the chimney. This type of cap is often referred to as a spark arrestor style. The mesh (which is generally made with spaces between 1/4″ and 1”) will protect your roof and any surrounding vegetation from damage due to the heated debris that can escape out your chimney.

It’s important to find out how many flues or clay liners your chimney currently has. This number will determine which chimney cap is suitable. There are products that fit one or two liners, as well as some that can adapt to multiple flues. Look for a chimney cap manufactured for use with a round clay liner if that’s what you need.

Essential to protect your chimney, as well as the area surrounding the chimney opening, a chimney cap should be in suitable condition to ensure proper usage. Your chimney sweep will likely inspect the cap during routine maintenance visits and advise you when it should be replaced with a brand new cap.

Chimney Cap vs. Top Sealing Dampers

Some folks wonder what the difference between a chimney cover (also called a chimney cap) and a top sealing damper is. First, let’s make it clear in what ways they are the same.

Diamond mesh chimney cover

Diamond Mesh Chimney Cover

Both items mount on top of the chimney, keep most of the rain out and will keep larger pests from entering the flue, such as raccoons. There are important differences however.

Allow me to also explain that a damper and a flue are not the same either. The flue is simply the open middle of the chimney that the smoke goes up. Dampers are sometimes miss-called flues or flutes, but they are something entirely different than the flue.

A damper is intended to shut off- either fully or partially- the chimney flue. The reason you’d want to do that is to keep heat ($$$) from escaping up the chimney. This also reduces drafts (usually dramatically!) in the room where the fireplace is. They’re an economical alternative to repairing or replacing leaky old metal damper plates in the fireplace. The payback period is different for different people, but top-sealing dampers pay for themselves over time. They also keep rain out pretty well, though not as well as a chimney cap (explained later) and will keep larger animals out even when open.

Energy Top Chimney Damper

Energy Top Chimney Damper

On the other hand, the sides of a chimney cap always allow air to flow. They do not save money by keeping house heat in. A cap’s functions are to keep rain, debris (twigs etc.) and “critters” out, including and especially birds. The screen also serves as a spark arrestor i.e. it will keep most “hot stuff” that comes up in the smoke from landing on the roof. They do a better job of keeping rain out as well because the lids are larger. These are important functions and no chimney should be uncovered. This option is usually the least costly, especially if installed by a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep Company.

There is the option to have both the damper and cover combined. For a couple reasons, too detailed to go into here, you can’t just put a chimney cover over a top-sealing damper. The biggest reason for this is because a damper lid won’t fit inside a standard cover. With that said, some manufacturers make a combination unit which gives you both the extra animal and weather protection. This combo also allow you to benefit from the heat savings of a chimney cap and damper all in one unit. This is usually the most costly option, but certainly the nicest.

For safety sake, you need a damper. For economics sake, you should invest in a top sealing damper. For the best of both worlds, spring for the damper-cap that provides a little bit of everything and avoid chimney problems.

Guide To Buying Chimney Chase Covers

What’s a Chimney Chase Cover and Why Do I Need It?

First: a word on what a chase cover is not:  Chase covers are not for masonry chimneys, rather they are for the boxes (chases) that house a factory built chimney.  This is the top of the box that runs up the side or through the middle of the house and above the roof.

Buying a chimney chase cover is important and necessary to the life and maintenance of your chimney and your home. A chimney chase cover is a metal covering designed to keep precipitation, debris and animals out.  It is not an option it is a necessity.

Fitting over the top, outer opening of your chimney chase, it is important to buy a cover that fits perfectly and is made to last. Chase covers are custom made to fit your chase perfectly.  It’s up to you to decide what type of material to use.

Chase Cover Material Choices

Rusted Galvanized Steel Chimney Chase Cover

Rusted Galvanized Steel Chase Cover

When it comes to chimney chase covers, the materials used and quality of the design matters. Made from aluminum, stainless and galvanized steel and copper, each of these types has something different to offer.

  • Galvanized steel, which is  always the lowest cost, will rust quickly and need to be replaced very soon after installation so it is usually best not to invest in this choice.
  • Aluminum will not rust, but is generally too soft for the purpose.  It’s often not readily available in the sizes necessary either.  As a practical matter it’s not a good choice.
  • Stainless steel is the strongest of all your choices. It costs more than galvanized steel but will last virtually forever.  Stainless steel is generally considered to be the sensible choice.  It’s certainly the value proposition.
  • Copper is truly the top quality choice, but the price tag will reflect it.  Copper chase covers are generally so expensive that only very expensive houses warrant getting them, and the wealthy owners don’t like the price tag either.

Chase Cover Design/Spec Considerations

Ensuring that your chase cover is made to exact specifications is also very important.  You should allow about ¼ to ½ inch all the way around, and the cover should be spaced off the chase by about 1/8 to ¼ of an inch.  This ensures the cover isn’t too tight to install but protects the entire top of your chimney from small animals while leaving enough space to allow for a little ventilation.  (A chase cover that’s too tight traps moisture which can rot away the house.)

Chimney Chase Cover

Chase Cover Design with Cross Breaks

You’ll also want cross-breaks in your cover,  These look like a big X from corner to corner and keep the cover from catering and collecting water (which is in fact why most galvanized chase covers need to be replaced.)  There’s also the side drop and collar to consider.  The sides usually range between two and six inches, while three or four inches is pretty standard.  While a top collar (around the hole that the chimney comes up through) isn’t actually required, it’s a nice feature of a good chase cover; they’re usually 2 inches tall.

Aesthetics

Finally, the last thing you should consider when buying your chase cover is how you want it to look. Most home owners shop only for utility when it comes to these pieces, and stainless steel is usually acceptable.  However, more and more companies are offering customization. After you have decided on the type, it may be possible to choose a specific color finish so that it matches or coordinates with your home. This can be done tastefully and make your home more attractive, but it will also add to the cost so be sure to ask about the additional cost upfront.  Also, realize that painted surfaces need maintenance you’ll have to repaint every now and again if you want color. You could even hire a chimney sweep to complete such upkeep for you and your family.

Summary:

Good Stainless Steel Chimney Chase Cover

Excellent Choice, Sir

To recap, High’s recommendations are:

  • All factory-built chimneys need a chase cover.
  • Material best buy: stainless steel chase cover
  • Sizing: allow about ¼ to ½ inch extra all the way around
  • Cross breaks (“x” ridges) are essential

Remember that it is smarter and more cost effective to buy a quality piece now. When purchased wisely and installed correctly, a chimney cover will last for a very long time.

Are you in Maryland, D.C. or Northern Virginia and in need of a quality chimney chase cover installion? High’s Chimney has you… covered:)

Capping Your Chimney

Chimney Caps

A fireplace can be a lovely, warm centerpiece for your family to gather around. In colder climes, a wood fire is often more cost-efficient than operating a furnace. However, to enjoy your fireplace safely, you must maintain your fireplace. Along with professional sweeping, capping your chimney is also essential.

For anyone who owns a home with chimneys, a chimney caps is a necessary facet of home maintenance. Capping your chimney will keep out rain water and prevent animal intrusion.

Chimney Water Damage

Water damages your chimney in two ways. First, water is absorbed by the masonry of your chimney. This can lead to mold and fungi growing in the creosote and ash that lines an unclean chimney. These spores can enter the home and cause allergic reactions and breathing difficulties.

Capping Your Chimney

The biggest and most visible problems are caused by the freezing and thawing of the water in the brick, which leads to cracking, crumbling masonry. Repairing such damage can cost thousands.

When water comes down the open chimney lands of a metal firebox, the steel will rust. The structural integrity of your firebox is compromised, and in severe cases of neglect, a rusted firebox can be the cause of a house fire. Such a huge fire hazard but so easily- and inexpensively- avoided.

Finally, your uncapped chimney is a haven for all kinds of unwelcome guests. While fuzzy raccoons may be cute, you do not need one descending your chimney in the middle of the night. Lured by the warmth, opossums and squirrels may also make nocturnal intrusions. Bats and birds are drawn to an open chimney as well. Be aware that many of these animals may carry lice or rabies. All animals will damage your home and possessions in their frenzied attempts to escape if they can’t get back out easily.

Capping your chimneys is not a task to delay. It is inexpensive, and especially compared to the wide-spread damage that deferring can cause. A chimney sweep should be able to cap your chimneys for you if you don’t want to climb onto your own roof. To avoid water damage to internal structures and masonry, as well as keep out animal visitors, cap your chimney today!