When snow blankets the ground on a cold winter evening and the wind howls outside your windows, there’s nothing quite like warming yourself by a fire. To enjoy those nights by your fireplace however, you’ve got to make sure that your chimney is in good working order. Along with routine maintenance, one of the best things you can do to prepare your chimney for winter weather is installing a chimney cap.
What is a chimney cap?
A chimney cap is a metal cover, typically with mesh sides, that is mounted atop your chimney. They come in a number of shapes, sizes and configurations for different chimneys, so chances are that you’ll find one that’s perfect for your needs.
There are a number of reasons to consider installing a chimney cap, and while some may seem obvious, others may surprise you.
Chimney caps keep water out of your chimney
We live in an area that sees its fair share of snow and rain. Without a chimney cap, that precipitation can find its way into the flue, and then into your house. Over time, this moisture will cause damage to walls and the ceiling.
Additionally, a chimney cap will protect the mortar joints in your chimney from damage from rain and snow. Almost all of the rain that falls in North America is slightly acidic, which can degrade the cement in the mortar over time — once that happens, rain can start to wash away the mortar, leaving you with an unsafe chimney!
Installing a chimney cap is a simple way to protect your chimney from the hazards of snow and rain, so you can comfortably use your fireplace all winter long.
Chimney caps protect your home from animals
The metal mesh on a chimney cap will prevent animals from making their way inside your chimney. Obviously you don’t want a bird, squirrel or raccoon rushing into your home from the fireplace — they can damage your home and spread illness.
Birds will also build nests in uncapped chimneys — they’re drawn to the warmth and protection your chimney will provide. Their nests can clog your chimney, sending smoke back into your home.
Even if animals never enter your home, they can leave their droppings behind in your chimney. These will accumulate over time and will create a bad smell, especially on warm and humid days. Lighting a fire will only intensify this foul odor, as the flames burn the droppings.
Even worse than droppings, if left uncovered animals may enter your chimney and find themselves stuck. In this case, they will sadly die in your chimney, but you will have to live with the odor of decay, sometimes for weeks.
It’s easy to see that animals can cause problems with your chimney in a number of different ways. Luckily, a chimney cap will protect your home from all of these potential animal problems.
Chimney caps will prevent downdrafts
Especially in windy conditions, downdrafts can cause problems with smoke filling your home, obviously it’s best to avoid this! Downdrafts also reduce energy efficiency, as they introduce cold air into your home. The chimney cap will help prevent cold air from coming down the chimney as well as reducing any downdrafts from gusting wind.
Are there cons to installing a chimney cap?
As with all things, there are a few things to keep in mind when you install a chimney cap. For instance, after storms with high winds, you may find that leaves and other debris can clog the mesh screen on the chimney cap. Similarly, soot and creosote may build up on the mesh over a season, especially if you burn softwood in your fireplace. If the screen becomes obstructed, the oxygen necessary for your fire to burn efficiently won’t reach your fireplace, and smoke may back up into your house.
Fortunately, routine maintenance and proper inspection will take care of all the problems associated with chimney caps, and the benefits of installing one on your home will greatly outweigh any drawbacks.
Want to know more about your options?
Here at Ray Arnold Masonry & General Contracting, we want to help you make the best decision when it comes to your fireplace and chimney. If you’d like to know more about chimney caps and their installation, give us a call at 440-834-8252 or fill out our contact form. We’ll be happy to talk to you about your options and help you decide what’s best for your chimney.