What are Chimney Caps Used For?

If your home has a fireplace, a chimney cap is an inexpensive way to protect your home. Here are a few reasons why you should install a chimney cap on your home.

To Prevent Animals from Nesting

One of the main advantages to chimney caps is they help prevent birds, raccoons, snakes, squirrels and other small animals from entering your chimney. Chimneys are ideal spots for nesting as they’re protected and tucked away from the elements and predators, as well as warm in the winter. In most cases, animals that enter your chimney will either eventually enter your home or won’t be able to make their way out the the chimney and die inside of it, which can cause additional problems. Nests can also cause blockages in the chimney, which in turn can cause harmful gases and smoke to back up into your home.

To Protect your Chimney from Water Damage

Chimney caps can help prevent rain and snow from entering your chimney. The cap is designed to act as sort of an umbrella, allowing water and snow that lands on it to run off and land on your roof instead of inside your chimney. Otherwise, this excess water can damage chimneys with stainless steel liners, chimney dampers and chimney mortar joints, in addition to contributing to the growth of mold and mildew in your chimney and home. Ice and snow that melts and refreezes can also be hard on the masonry and cause cracks in your chimney’s structure.

To Supplement Fire Safety

Often, when the wind is blowing strongly in certain directions, it can enter through your chimney and introduce a downdraft into your home. If this happens while your chimney is in use, the downdraft could blow smoke into your home or cause potential fire hazards. Chimney caps can help prevent these downdrafts by protecting your chimney’s opening. Chimney caps also prevent debris from entering and accumulating inside chimney, which can also be a fire hazard. But the caps don’t just prevent fire hazards by keeping things out of your chimney, they also help keep certain things inside your chimney. Chimney caps can help prevent lit embers or sparks that travel up your chimney from escaping and landing on your roof, where they have the potential to start a fire.

Considering these features, it’s no wonder chimney caps are considered an essential addition to your roofing system. Unless your chimney top is difficult to access or your chimney is otherwise outside of the norm, having a chimney cap installed is also a relatively inexpensive process. While more entrepreneurial homeowners might try to trim costs by installing their own chimney caps, it’s not recommended. Because of the durable materials, stainless steel or copper chimney caps usually have lifetime warranties; however, homeowners who install caps themselves may void the warranty.
Chimney caps can also blow off a chimney in exceptionally strong wind conditions. If you live in an area subject to strong winds, such as the Midwest, it’s best to have a contractor install your cap ensure your cap stays secure.

Regardless of the positive aspects of having a chimney cap installed, the system is not without its cons. However, contrary to popular belief, a properly sized and installed chimney cap should not interfere with draft, which determines how well smoke is drawn up and out of your chimney. Some caps can even enhance and improve the amount of draft in your chimney, possibly solving a pre-existing issue. One negative aspect of chimney caps is debris clogging the mesh screen, which can prevent proper air circulation. Snow and ice can also build up underneath the cap, causing similar issues.

Whether you have a chimney cap or not, if you have a chimney, you should be having regular chimney cleanings performed by a chimney sweep. This, in conjunction with your semi-annual roofing inspection, should virtually eliminate any possible problems with your cap.