We live in a ranch style house with a gas furnace and forced air
heating/cooling. When we had our fall furnace inspection the HVAC
fellow pronouced our furnace in fine shape (not surprising since it's
only 5 years old) but said that he found some suspicious debris in the
chimney. Might have been the remains of a bird, he said, and also some
stuff that looked to him like toasted pine needles.
Anyway, he suggested that the chimney cap might be gone; eroded
perhaps, and recommended getting a new one. His company doesn't do
chimney caps and he had no suggestions for someone to do it.
We've only owned our house for a little over 5 years, and I'm a babe
in the woods at home owning and maintenance.
I looked at my chimney from the backyard but couldn't see anything.
Then I talked to a couple of my neighbors who told me that the cap was
a sort of screen-like cover over the top of the chimney and most of
the time wasn't even visible from the ground. They also said the HVAC
fellow might have been right, but the only way to find out would be to
have someone actually look at the chimney from the roof.
What kind of companies do chimney caps? Roofers?
Is this an expensive thing?
What would happen if I did nothing? Is there some long-term damage
Any suggestions, comments or opinions will be welcome.
It's a little odd that he inspected the chimney close enough to find
debris inside, but not know if there is a cap.
Have you tried a chimney sweep? Sounds like it might have been a while
since anyone did a thorough inspection of your chinmey. A good sweep
will clean it, inspect it, put a cap on it and let you know if there are
any problems which need to be repaired. This is especially important if
you actually use your fireplace. A simple cap should not be expensive,
and having it done by the sweep while he's there is the second most
economic way to do it. The most economic way is DIY, but since you
don't have much experience it would be best to have it done while a pro
is checking out the chimney.
You can buy chimney caps at Home Depot and Lowes. They cost between $20
and $50 depending on size and material. If you are able to safely climb to
the top of your chimney twice, first to measure the size of the opening
and again to install the cap after you buy the right size, you can DIY the
If not almost any contractor who can get up there should be able to put a
cap on for you, it's not rocket science. Chimneysweeps,brickmasons,
roofers or even a cooperative house painter should be able to.
I put one on our chimney when the second bird (a Grackle) fell down it and
gave us a merry time trying to chase it out of the house. Our chimney was
only about 6 feet higher than the roof it abutted and that roof was
reachable out the window of a room on a higher floor, so all it took was a
little stepladder. The cap I bought went into the chimney like a bottle
cork with a few bolts to tighten and push clamps out th lock it in the
chimney so a hurricane or a persistant squirrel wouldn't lift it out.
Jeff Wisnia (W1BSV + Brass Rat '57 EE)
"If you can smile when things are going wrong, you've thought of someone
To me a chimney cap is a concrete and reinforcing wire mesh placed on
the top surface of a chimney. Among other things this serves to keep
water from getting between the bricks that the chimney is made of and
then freezing and damaging the chimney. Any mason should be able to
replace a chimney cap. $125 is a fair price for a cap above a single
story roof that doesn't entail difficult access.
I'm with you. A screen on the flue is not a chimney cap, it
is exactly what you said. However, erosion of the chimney
cap in 5 years, is possible only if the chimney were
improperly built. It usually crack and let water into the
brick, and continual freezing and thawing breaks the
bricks. When that happens replacement is likely to be more
than $125. Just the cost of the replacement bricks for two
or three rows (depending on shape and size of the chimney)
could exceed $125.
However, who knows what the HVAC guy was talking about.
What he found certainly wasn't due to failure of the chimney
cap, it was due to stuff falling into the flue.
Who does this stuff? Chimney caps are placed, fixed,
repaired or whatever every by brick masons. Flue screens
are usually carried by people who handle stoves, stove pipe,
etc. Flue screens on brick chimenys are not common
everywhere. I've never seen one in my subdivision although
metal pipes usually have a screen.
On Fri, 26 Dec 2003 06:44:05 GMT, "George E. Cawthon"
We've lived in the house for just over 5 years but I don't know how
long the chimney cap was there. We're the third owners of a 45 year
Um...I thought the cap was to keep stuff out of the chimney so it
won't drop into the flue (assuming the flue is the exhaust for
combustion byproducts from the furnace.] I'm really not too bright on
Anyway, since I'm not inclined to climb onto the roof to find out
what's in the chimney (my across-the-street-neighbor broke his hip
falling from his roof) I'll just have to hire someone trustworthy to
Thanks to you and all the others for the comments and help.
Hey, you could call the guy and find out what he really
meant. Masons call the mortar at the top of the chimney, a
cap, that is, it caps the bricks. But people don't use
words very precisely and like to make up their own
definitions. Makers of metal chimenys call the attachment
on top a weather cap, a cap, or a screen,or maybe something
else. Brick chimneys with clay flues used for fireplaces
often don't have a weather cap or screen. But if it is for
a furnaces I would certainly want a screen or weather cap at
George and Len both described things the way that I understand them, too.
This latest is pretty good advice, in my book . . . because in spite of what
many roofers and bricklayers would call the "cap" (that is, the cement "hat"
which surrounds the flue and shields the bricks from rain), there are many
others including roofers and masons who might just call the "cap" what I
would call the "flue screen" or "squirrel preventer". So, if you ask the
HVAC guy which one he had in mind, and he tells you, then you know! All
discussion here, while interesting, would at least be unlikely to cause you
problems with fire safety or spending money on something not necessary.
BTW, if the masonry cap on your chimney needs to be replaced, you should
really get a mason or chimney sweep to do it. They should know which parts
of the masonry need a strong mix (the "cap") and which should have a weak
mix ("tuckpointing" between the bricks) to ensure that your bricks are
properly protected from moisture. It would not be uncommon for the masonry
cap to need repair or replacement after 45 years, especially if minor damage
had not been repaired during that time. If it does need it, then get it
done for your safety. You don't want to mess with flue gasses improperly
getting into your living space.
That must be a local or archaic term. But it does describe it pretty well.
"Frosting" just wouldn't sound right.
However, Googling up "Chimney Cap" gets mostly stuff which looks like this:
Which is probably what the OP's after.
Jeff Wisnia (W1BSV + Brass Rat '57 EE)
"If you can keep smiling when things go wrong, you've thought of someone to
place the blame on."
You want a stainless steel cap. Chimney sweeps sell them. I paid
$100 installed 6 years ago. Just had ocassion to inspect it and it
looks brand new. The black galvanized or painted ones don't last at
Good..you would be surprised at the number of units that are about shot at
5...thats a third of the way through the life of the typical unit
today...(no..not a sales technique, but simple facts..built in obsolecence)
Like an old birds nest perhaps...
Or it might have been there from before the cap was placed on it...
A CAP, is a CAP. Meaning, it seals off the flue completely.
HVAC companines that are legit...since it is allowed by our licence, some
roofers, masons, and chimney sweeps...
Depends...we just did a real cap, with a drop down chain and spring loaded
cap for about $375 installed, but the cap was the most expensive part.
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