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Chimney caps allow smoke and gases to escape your fireplace while ensuring that no unwanted materials or pests get in. The type of cap you need depends on your aesthetic preferences, the functions you need it to perform, and the configuration of your chimney.
What Is a Chimney Cap?
A chimney cap is an overlay for the top of your chimney that keeps debris, moisture, and pests from entering your chimney. The cap is mounted above the crown, typically has a mesh-type structure, and can be made from different materials. Chimney caps are not exactly a requirement, but they are a nearly indispensable safety device.
Types of Chimney Caps
There are several different types of chimney caps designed for different styles of chimneys and flues. The right chimney cap fits the shape and size of your flue, otherwise the cap itself serves little to no purpose.
- Single-flue chimneys with extended flues: All flue shapes for this type of chimney typically need a cap that attaches with either clamps or screws. For oval-shaped flues, make sure the cap is designed for the shape. Round flues may also use slip-in caps.
- Single-flue chimneys without extended flues: Oval, rectangular, and square flues that are not extended require a chimney cap that uses legs or brackets. Legs allow an externally-mounted cap to be converted to one that slips inside the chimney, while brackets let you mount it to your chimney's crown. Round flues can use a cap that slips directly into the opening.
- Multi-flue chimneys: Chimneys with more than a single flue need top-mounted chimney caps for both extended and non-extended flues.
- Double-wall air-insulated metal chimneys: In this type of chimney, two walls are separated by open space, using air to cool the flue. They are highly specialized, requiring caps designed specifically to be used with double-wall, air-insulated metal chimneys. It is recommended to use a cap made by the same company that made your chimney.
Custom Chimney Caps
The most common type of chimney cap is a standard design to keep pests and the elements from entering. However, there are other types of chimney caps developed for specific purposes. These special caps include:
- Chimney cap and damper combinations: Older chimneys and those with damaged or missing damper mechanisms allow cooled and heated air to escape. That escaping air wastes energy, which costs you money in the long run. Luckily, there are cap and damper combinations that place a damper on top of the flue. A cable runs through the chimney and connects to a lever on your wall, allowing you to open and close the damper with ease. It should be noted that these combination caps are only available for square flues.
- Draft-increasing chimney caps: Just about every properly installed chimney cap improves draft. But in areas that experience heavy winds, a standard chimney cap isn't always enough. Draft-increasing chimney caps are designed to force smoke upwards, using the wind outside to create stronger updrafts. However, these caps do not solve draft problems that are not caused by wind and are typically designed for factory-built metal chimneys.
- Flue stretcher chimney caps: Short flues tend to leave more smoke in your fireplace, and therefore your home, than extended ones. Flue stretcher chimney caps add an extra one to two feet to your flue, while preventing unwanted invaders from entering your chimney.
What Are Chimney Caps Made Of?
Chimney caps are available in several different materials. The one you choose depends largely on your budget, the intended purpose of the cap, and personal preference.
- Aluminum: Chimney caps made from aluminum are quite affordable, but the lower price tag comes with some disadvantages. Aluminum caps resist corrosion well, but are less durable and sturdy than other materials. Since aluminum is a fairly soft metal, it weighs less, making it more susceptible to bending and removal during storms.
- Copper: For a classic look and an incredibly durable chimney cap, look no further than copper. Copper chimney caps are highly resistant to corrosion and their weight makes them perhaps the sturdiest type of chimney cap available.
- Galvanized steel: The cheapest type of chimney cap, galvanized steel is also one of the least durable caps on the market. However, you can still get a good five years out of it, though they are far more prone to corrosion than other materials. Once the zinc coating is gone, it won't take long for the cap to rust.
- Stainless steel: This is widely considered to be the best cap in terms of balancing cost and performance. Stainless steel chimney caps are more expensive than aluminum or galvanized steel models, but offer far more durability and stability in the face of the elements. They require very little maintenance and are usually backed by a lifetime warranty.
How Much Does a Chimney Cap Cost?
The following prices are for a standard top-mount chimney cap.
- Including installation, a galvanized steel chimney cap costs between $200 and $350
- Stainless steel chimney caps cost between $300 and $600 installed, on average
- An aluminum chimney cap, including installation, costs between $200 and $400
- Copper chimney caps cost much more, up to $2,000 installed
- If you want a customized chimney cap, add anywhere between $100 and $500 to the cost, depending on the metal