A chimney cap protects the stack from rainwater and prevents animals and debris from entering the home. It can also prevent carbon monoxide from spreading throughout the house.
It’s important to keep a chimney cap in good condition, as it will save you from expensive chimney repairs and unwanted pests. But how do you know if your chimney cap needs repair?
Your chimney is an integral part of your home’s structure. It’s also one of the most exposed parts of your home to the elements of nature. One of the most common chimney problems is damage to the crown. The chimney crown is the masonry section that forms the topmost section of the chimney and protects the flue tile liners from water. The chimney crown is prone to cracking due to the nature of its construction and the environment it’s in. Cracks in the chimney crown aren’t just unsightly; they can allow water into the chimney, causing deterioration of the flue tile liners and exposing your home to dangerous carbon monoxide and fire hazards.
Chimney tuckpointing is the process of repairing or replacing damaged joints in your chimney. While you can hire a professional to do this, you can also do the job yourself. Here are some tips to help you get the job done correctly:
The first step is to examine the chimney crown for cracks. Chimney crowns are susceptible to the effects of weather and climate changes, including rain, snow, ice, wind, temperature variations, and even salt air if your home is close to the ocean. Chimney crowns can also be weakened by heavy loads of masonry on top of them as well as by seismic activity.
Small cracks in the chimney crown can be repaired with brushable crown repair paint. This sealant is brushed on and dries into a flexible, waterproof membrane. Chimney pros generally recommend this product for repairing crowns that are not in too much distress. Cracks that are too large or deep may need resurfacing instead of just filling in the cracks.
If you see cracking or crumbling mortar joints and spalling bricks, it’s time to have the chimney crown inspected. Crumbling and cracked mortar joints and spalling bricks are signs of moisture entering the chimney, and if left unaddressed, they will likely lead to costly interior masonry repairs and even structural damage to your home.
It’s important to have a CSIA-certified chimney sweep inspect the chimney crown annually. They will look for cracks, deterioration, and other chimney problems and make sure the chimney is in good working order. Having the chimney swept annually is the best way to catch any issues that might cost you thousands of dollars in future repairs.
Repairing a Loose Chimney Cap
Chimney caps sit on top of your chimney stack to prevent rain, animals, and debris from entering the flue. A properly installed and maintained chimney cap can help keep your home free from carbon monoxide poisoning, flammable creosote deposits, and other dangerous problems.
Most new chimney caps are installed during a complete chimney inspection and installation process. However, these caps can begin to come loose over time if they are not properly attached to the chimney or if the masonry screws that hold them in place become loose or damaged.
Generally speaking, a basic chimney cap is made of sheet metal and is designed to prevent rain and snow from entering the chimney by creating a barrier at the top of the chimney stack. They are often screwed into the chimney crown, and they may have baffles or other features to help with air flow. Sheet metal chimney caps can rust over time and are also susceptible to damage from high winds.
Some newer chimney caps are made of copper or stainless steel and are designed to last a long time. They can be more expensive than sheet metal chimney caps, but they can withstand the elements much better. These types of chimney caps require routine maintenance to keep them in good condition.
Most chimney professionals recommend having a new chimney cap installed every other year. A technician will perform a complete chimney inspection and measure the flue liner before ordering the appropriate size of chimney cap. They will then either source a premade chimney cap or have one custom-fabricated for your chimney stack.
In addition to the obvious problem of a missing or loose chimney cap, these problems can cause water to enter your home and damage the roof, rafters, walls, ceilings, and other structures. Water that leaks into your fireplace and lands on the chimney can also corrode the flue lining and other parts of the structure.
Depending on your local code enforcement, you might need to get a building permit for this project. This is particularly important if you need to climb up on your roof twice (once to measure the flue liner and once to perform the procedures). If you are uncomfortable working at heights or have a steep roof pitch, it’s best to call a professional.
Repairing a Missing Chimney Cap
When the chimney cap is missing, the masonry structure of the fireplace and flue is exposed to the elements, which can cause damage and increase the need for repairs. It also allows animals, twigs, and other debris to fall into the chimney. Without a chimney cap, these materials can clog the flue and prevent smoke and carbon monoxide from exiting, exposing your family to dangerous fumes.
A chimney cap also reduces the amount of water that gets inside the chimney. Moisture is bad for masonry structures and can rust important metal components like dampers and chimney liners. It can also promote the growth of mold, mildew, and other unwanted contaminants in your home. The chimney cap keeps moisture out and reduces the need for expensive chimney repairs.
The chimney cap also protects your roof from fire. Sparks and embers that drift out of the fireplace can easily catch your roof on fire. The spark arrestor on a chimney cap captures these embers, keeping them contained inside your chimney and off your roof.
Chimney caps that have mesh sides are also designed to keep out wildlife. Animals like birds, squirrels, and raccoons are attracted to chimneys, and they can build nests in the chimney or block the flue. A chimney cap that has mesh sides can keep these critters out, and you won’t have to spend time and money trying to get them out of your fireplace.
Repairing a damaged chimney cap
A chimney cap serves more than just an aesthetic purpose; it protects the chimney and your home. Whether it’s missing, badly rusted, or full of creosote, a damaged chimney cap can lead to serious problems.
A damaged chimney cap is a safety concern for your home and can cause water leaks, allow birds and animals to enter the chimney flue, and create a fire hazard. It’s important to inspect your chimney cap regularly and repair it as soon as you notice damage.
The chimney cap protects the top opening of your masonry stove’s flue from weather elements and critters like birds, squirrels, and rabbits. It also helps keep out leaves and debris, which can block the chimney draft.
Chimney caps are often made of copper, stainless steel, or galvanized metal and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They’re typically designed to be a close fit over the top of your masonry chimney crown. A poorly fitted or worn-out cap can allow water, tar, rain, and sleet to leak into your fireplace. It can also make your chimney less efficient because the creosote that accumulates on the chimney and in the cap can block airflow.
If you have a chimney cap with large gaps around the sides, it could fall off during high winds or rainy storms. The gaps can let in debris, water, and sleet, which can cause damage to your chimney and home. A gap in your chimney cap can also prevent smoke and harmful gases from escaping the chimney, which can pose a health hazard.
When a chimney cap is cracked or deteriorating, you can have it repaired by a professional chimney sweep. However, if your chimney has severe damage to the lining or a structural problem, it may be necessary to have it replaced completely. It’s important to consult with a chimney contractor or qualified handyman when making this decision. They can help you choose a chimney cap that will work best for your home and properly install it. They can also inspect the structure of your chimney and advise you on any other maintenance issues it might have.