Do I really need a chimney cap?
Even though a chimney cap is a minor and relatively inexpensive installation many homeowners question whether it is necessary or not. The truth is that this small amount of metal protecting your chimney can prevent numerous mishaps from taking place and save a homeowner thousands of dollars in unnecessary chimney repair or damage expenses. So ultimately you may not need a chimney cap in place for functional purposes, but unless you want headaches down the road (and little critters running through your home), a properly installed chimney cap is a must. A chimney cap will prevent animals from entering your home, keep the moisture out, and protect the roof from burning embers starting a house fire.
Keep the animals away.
During the cooler months, animals walking along your roof will feel the warmth around the chimney from the fire below. For this reason they will make their nests close to or inside of the small and comforting space of the chimney flue. It doesn’t take long for an unwelcomed family of critters to move into your chimney. Squirrels can create a 4 foot deep nest in less than 24 hours! Installing a simple chimney cap with mesh siding will prevent these animals from homesteading within your residence.
Bird and squirrel nests built in the enclosed space of a chimney also creates the problem of blocking the path for what usually goes out of the top of the chimney. Typically smoke and gases from the fire below will exit the home through the chimney. With large squirrel or bird nests in the way though, these harmful gases will end up backed up into the rooms of your home. This backup can cause smoke and soot damage and even carbon monoxide poisoning.
What’s so bad about moisture?
Rain, snow, and ice all create problems for your chimney if they are allowed in the chimney flue. Moisture causes deterioration problems within the structure and when mixed with certain types of soot it can become even more harmful to the inside structure of your chimney. The freezing and melting of ice and snow is especially hard on the masonry chimney walls, chimney crown and chimney liner. This freeze and thaw damage can cause severe problems such as cracks in the structure during the winter months which often leads to costly repairs. Therefore, it is best to not allow the excess moisture into the chimney in the first place by diverting the elements away from the chimney with a chimney cap that is right for your chimney.
Protect against unruly embers.
Burning embers from the fire below get sent up and out of the chimney along with the burning gases. These pieces of the fire that are still lit escape out of the top of the chimney and can cause chimney fires and damage to your roof. These problems are entirely avoidable with the addition of a chimney cap and spark guard to prevent the burning particles from escaping.
Will adding a chimney cap create draft problems?
A common misconception that comes along with the topic is the worry that caps will cause problems with the chimney draft. At times adding a chimney cap incorrectly can create draft problems. But if you hire a professional chimney sweep to do the job, a chimney cap can often fix a draft problem. There are specially designed chimney caps that reduce draft problems or correct existing ones. It is important to call a professional chimney sweep rather than to attempt the job on your own because incorrect installation can lead to creating more problems rather than fixing the existing one. Also, the quality and manufacturing processes of a chimney cap that professionals install are held to a much higher standard than standard retail caps available at the big box hardware stores. These caps will also typically come with better manufacturer and installation warranties as well. A properly installed cap will not only help solve existing problems but also prevent new ones from taking place.
So how do I get one?
Now that you realize the importance of having a chimney cap in place, it is important to choose the right type. Lowes and Home Depot may have bargain deals that look appealing for chimney caps, but these caps are typically made of aluminum and do not provide adequate coverage to keep your home safe and your chimney clean. For these reason, it is best to pick either the brand that installed your metal chimney liner, or to go with a chimney cap installed by your local chimney sweep. Call your chimney sweep and get a recommendation for the best type of chimney cap for your specific chimney. Chimney caps come in a variety of shapes and sizes that are useful in different cases, but the most important element is what it is made from. Copper and stainless steel are the most commonly used metals by chimney sweeps as they are also the most durable and best for the job. Also, if you have a multi-flue chimney, one large cap can be put in place rather than installing multiple individual ones. This provides a sleeker rooftop look.