Before we start to list pros and cons, let’s cover the basics: What is a chimney cap? A chimney cap is a specially designed metal cover, for both masonry and metal chimneys, mounted to the top of the chimney outside your home. These caps are known to include a mesh screen or covering to serve as a sort of filter. If you are considering having a chimney cap installed on your chimney, be sure to read through our pros and cons of chimney caps for your home.
Advantages of Having a Chimney Cap Installed
- Keeping Unwanted Guests Out – The special mesh cover is supposed to keep squirrels, racoons, snakes and other unwanted creatures from creeping into your home uninvited. Birds are known to enjoy building their nests near the warmth of the chimney, both inside and out. If these creatures don’t make it all the way down to your living space, they usually get caught somewhere along the way leaving you with a stinky blockage! The screen also protects against leaves and sticks that could clog the flue. The cap helps to prevent leaks and ceiling damage by keeping rain water and moisture from running down into the house.
- Preventing Downdrafts – A downdraft happens when the wind blows air downward through the chimney flue and causes your home to fill up with smoke. The cap acts as a windbreaker for strong, cold blasts of air.
- Containing the Fire – For those who live in dry, fire-prone areas, the mesh wiring helps to deflect sparks that might find their way up to the top of the chimney.
- Design Advantage – There are chimney caps of many shapes, sizes and materials. There is no need to sacrifice curb appeal when you can be sure to find the perfect chimney cap to match the style of your home.
Disadvantages of Installing a Chimney Cap
- Easy Clogging – There is a fine line between keeping Mother Nature out and everything else in. A good fire needs steady access to oxygen to start up as well as burn efficiently. If your screen is designed to keep leaves and sticks out, without regular vigilance, snow, ice and leaves could collect around the screen, creating a blockage. If the smoke doesn’t have a clear exit, toxic fumes could fill your home instead of escaping naturally into the outside air.
- Soot and Ash Collector – What you use as fuel for the fire is very important to maintaining a clog-free chimney cap. By burning green wood, moist firewood or even paper, the byproducts — ash, soot and creosote – can create obstructions in the mesh screen as well as discoloration on the surrounding stucco or brick chimney.
- Rust Stains – It is only natural that metal rusts over time. It is possible that the rust could stain the inside of the chimney walls.
- Improper Fit – A chimney cap which has been poorly fitted or installed can lead to poor draft and reduced fuel burning or even downdraft. Keep in mind, when the chimney cap isn’t securely fastened to the surface, strong winds can knock them down without the slightest concern for your home.
For homeowners who are looking into both sides of the argument it is important to know that most problems with chimney caps are easily prevented with routine maintenance. It doesn’t matter if you use your fireplace year-round or on occasion, you’ll discover a new peace of mind by building a relationship with your local chimney professionals.
Knowing the experts are responsible for installation, maintenance and repairs of your chimney cap should help you sleep well through all those long winter nights. At the very least, you won’t be worried about what is coming in or going out of your chimney top!