Your chimney is made up of several different pieces, and they all work together to ensure you can enjoy a roaring fire, whenever you want to. The chimney cap is what crowns the whole thing, and helps keep most things out of your chimney and firebox. Over time though, they do get worn out and you’ll need to look into replacing them. Here’s how to tell if you need a chimney cap replacement.
What is the Chimney Cap?
Firstly, what is a chimney cap? It’s the very top of your chimney, and arguably one of the most important parts of it. It’s designed to keep out debris, rain, snow, and more out of the chimney, while still allowing smoke and gases out.
There are two main types of chimney cap, so firstly you need to know which one you have:
Open style chimney cap: These are most commonly found on older homes, and they were made by mixing up leftover cement from the construction of the chimney. It’s sloped, in order to let rain and snow fun off the chimney, rather than down it. The flue is exposed in these cases.
Metal mesh caps: These are more modern designs, and are made to create a more effective barrier while still letting gases out. They’re especially good at stopping animals nesting inside the chimney, and any debris that may enter the chimney during storms.
When to Replace the Chimney Cap
Eventually, your chimney cap is going to need replacement. Here’s how to know if yours is reaching the end of its life span.
Water in your fire box: This is the most common reason why the chimney cap is deteriorating. When you’re dealing with rain, it’ll eventually soften the masonry around the cap. Once that happens, you may see water running into the fire box. There may also be debris making its way in, too. If you’re seeing this happen, you need to act quickly. If you are seeing this happen, dangerous gases will be leaking into your home, rather than making their way out of the chimney.
It’s best to have an expert come to examine the chimney cap, to ensure that it is the cap that needs to be replaced. There are other reasons water may be coming in, and you want to rule them out.
Presence of rust: Are you seeing rust coming down the chimney, into the fire box? That’s a sign that the chimney cap is starting to rust and corrode. The longer it’s left, the less capable it is of doing its job. When a cap is left to rust long enough, it’s very fragile and can be damaged. They’re especially susceptible to pests, as they can rip the mesh apart and find their way in.
Down drafts in your home: When it’s very windy out, are you experiencing down drafts down the chimney stack? If there’s a broken or missing chimney cap, then the air can be forced straight down. That gets messy quickly, as it blows out any debris, such as soot, into the room. You don’t want to be dealing with that, so you should get it fixed as soon as possible.
The cap has blown off: This is something that happens when the cap wasn’t fitted correctly at installation, or the cap used was the wrong size. You may also find the cap in your yard if the exposure to wind and rain loosened the cap enough to knock it off. If you see the cap is gone, you need to replace it as soon as possible.
Repair or Replace Your Chimney Cap?
If you’re seeing signs your chimney cap is damaged, will the whole thing need to be replaced, or can you simply repair it? This will depend on the damage caused, and how severe it is. It also depends on the type of chimney cap you have.
If you have a metal mesh cap, it’s usually easier just to replace the cap itself. These are one piece fittings, and you can replace them without much trouble. Of course, if you’re ever unsure, you should have a professional handle it for you.
If you have a concrete chimney cap, you may find the cap isn’t as damaged as you’d think. Sometimes the concrete simply cracks, and this can easily be patched up. It’s a good idea for some, as it’s not costly and simple to do. Remember though, it may crack again in the future. If the damage is bad enough, the whole cap will need to be replaced.
How to Avoid Excessive Chimney Cap Damage
Want to avoid the damage that comes from a damaged chimney cap? Then it’s best to do some visual inspections regularly and call on experts to help you. There are several ways you can spot damage quickly, and get it fixed.
Look up to the roof: From the ground, you can do a quick check and see if the cap is still in place. You should be able to see if it’s torn, sagging, pulling away from the sides, or missing.
Check for water: If you ever see water coming in through the chimney, get it checked out right away. It’s important to ensure you know where the water’s coming from, so you can have it corrected properly.
Have your chimney cleaned and inspected: Once a year, you should have the experts come to clean your chimney. This keeps you safe as you use your fireplace, and they will be able to identify any issues you may have with the chimney. If you do this regularly, you should be able to catch problems before they become too bad.
A broken chimney cap sounds worrying, but it can be corrected if you catch the problem quickly. If you ever see any of these signs of chimney cap damage, call in the professionals to replace it right away. The sooner it’s replaced, the safer your fireplace and home will be.