The chimney cap is one of the most important parts of your chimney. In addition to keeping hot coals and embers from flying out onto your roof, it also prevents animals, debris, and moisture from getting into your chimney.
To keep working well, chimneys and chimney caps should be regularly inspected and maintained. A chimney cap that is clean and free of debris will work more efficiently and minimize potential hazards.
What is a chimney cap?
A chimney cap is a metal covering designed to protect and cover the top of the flue. Made of clay or metals such as stainless steel or copper, chimney caps also have mesh or wire sides that prevent animals or debris from getting into the chimney structure.
Chimney caps are important in that they protect your chimney. Water entry can cause serious damage to nearly every part of your chimney and fireplace, and debris can clog the chimney and become a fire hazard.
How do chimney caps become clogged?
The same wire or mesh that prevents animals or debris from getting into your chimney is also the reason your chimney cap may be clogged. If the spacing in the mesh is too large, small birds or mammals may be able to squeeze through and into the chimney. If the spacing is too small, it may become clogged from the inside with creosote, soot, or ash.
Likewise, over time leaves and debris may blow onto the outside of the chimney cap and get stuck, restricting airflow. During winter storms, the mesh may also be blocked by accumulating ice or snow.
Advantages of keeping your chimney cap clean
Because chimney caps play such an important role in protecting your fireplace and chimney, it is important that they receive regular upkeep and maintenance. A chimney cap that is clean and free of debris allows open airflow into the chimney. This allows fires enough oxygen to start quickly and burn fully. Likewise, a clean chimney cap reduces potential fire hazards as there is no creosote to be accidentally ignited by stray sparks or embers.
Chimney caps that are clean and free from blockages also prevent smoke or gasses such as carbon monoxide from backing up into your home.
How can I tell if my chimney cap is clogged?
Identifying a clogged chimney cap may be difficult because of their location. However, there are a number of signs that you may be experiencing a clogged chimney cap. Because a clogged chimney cap restricts airflow into the chimney, homes where the cap is partially or fully blocked may have issues starting or maintaining a fire in the fireplace.
Homeowners may be able to identify a clogged chimney cap without getting on the roof. Excessive creosote buildup on a chimney cap may cause discoloration to the surrounding bricks and mortar. Likewise, if the chimney cap is visible from the ground, you should be able to see light through the screen. If it is opaque or if there is visible debris on the exterior of the chimney cap, it is most likely clogged.