A chimney cap is a must-have appliance that no chimney should be without, because of the important benefits offered. A mistake many homeowners make is thinking that no upkeep is required on chimney caps. Maintenance is simple but crucial, to keep your chimney functioning properly.
What Chimney Caps Do
Keep out Moisture. The most basic function of a chimney cap is to prevent precipitation from entering your home. Moisture is the greatest enemy to a chimney and causes most of the deterioration that occurs over time. The chimney cap is installed directly over the top of the flue or over the entire chimney crown, which is another line of protection against moisture.
Keep out Animals. There are many different kinds of chimney caps, and it’s most recommended to get a cap that also has a wire mesh screen. One function of the screen is to prevent animals from getting inside the chimney. It is not uncommon for squirrels, raccoons, snakes, birds, and other creatures to be drawn to the warmth of a chimney and climb in. Birds often build nests in chimneys, particularly the chimney swift, which is protected by the federal government. Without a chimney cap, you may find yourself having to wait out the migratory pattern of a family of swifts, including tiny baby birds that may make a lot of noise for a period of time.
Block Hot Embers. A chimney cap with a mesh screen is also useful as a spark arrestor. Hot embers and sparks that could potentially start a fire on the roof or other nearby combustibles are blocked from escaping the chimney.
Problems Caused by Lack of Maintenance
As helpful as the mesh on a chimney cap is, it can cause problems. The screen can become clogged with creosote and soot. The type of wood you burn determines how clean-burning your fire is. If you burn green or “unseasoned” wood, the combustible materials won’t be burned up but will instead leave an excess amount of creosote in the flue and on the chimney cap screen. Leaves and other debris on the cap from stormy or windy weather will also interfere with the operation of the fireplace or wood stove and chimney. Because the proper flow of air is obstructed, it may be difficult to start a fire; and smoke could enter the room. If you do get a fire started, it may not give off the usual amount of heat. There is also a potential hazard because toxic carbon monoxide fumes, which can be deadly, can enter your home.
What to Do if Clogged
With regular maintenance and assistance from our professional chimney sweeps, your chimney cap should be free of obstructions. If you need to perform some maintenance between regular chimney inspections, the most important consideration is your safety on the roof. If you can get to your chimney cap safely, use a wire brush to remove debris from the screen mesh. While you’re there, try to get a look at the flue; if you see a shiny black substance, there is a real danger of a chimney fire. You should contact our chimney professionals as soon as possible to clean the flue.
When you choose a chimney cap, keep in mind that if the screen mesh is too small, it can become clogged more easily. If the mesh is too open, however, there may be room for creatures to get inside your home. Whatever type you have, keep it well-maintained and it will be a huge asset to your heating system.
Northeastern Chimney, Inc.
formerly Nayaug Chimney Services, LLC
37 Cody Street, West Hartford, CT 06110