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Homeowners often question whether a chimney cap is something they really need. The truth is, this minor and relatively inexpensive installation provides significant protection against several things that may cost you thousands in damage and repair expenses. A chimney cap isn't necessary for functional purposes, but it is a great way to protect your home from embers, moisture, and small animals.
Chimney Caps and Animals
While not as much of an issue in the warmer seasons (few people, if any, run their fireplace during summer), the colder months bring a possibility of animals nesting close to the warmth of your chimney. It's a short trip from making their home around your chimney, to making their home inside your chimney. Birds, squirrels, or other animals building nests in your chimney leads to several issues.
When animals block that space, it prevents the smoke and gases produced by the fire from exiting the home. With nowhere to go, these gases move back into your home, causing smoke and soot damage and possibly carbon monoxide poisoning to the people inside.
Chimney Caps and Downdrafts
One of the reasons some owners choose not to install a chimney cap is the worry that it impedes chimney draft. While this is sometimes true if the cap is installed incorrectly, a professional installer makes sure that it is done right. In fact, a properly installed cap has the ability to fix draft problems. There are even specially designed chimney caps developed to correct or reduce common draft issues. However, it is important that you contact a professional to do the installation, as even specially designed caps have the ability to cause problems if improperly installed.
Chimney Caps and Debris
Debris entering your home via the chimney is more than just a nuisance; it can quickly become a hazard. Twigs and leaves fit easily into your chimney on a windy day, as do trash and other debris. While it is unlikely that your fireplace will quickly become nature's and the neighborhood's trash can, it is possible and may lead to a variety of issues.
Debris causes draft issues, keeping smoke from properly exiting the chimney into the outside air. It also doesn't take much to start a chimney fire, and a buildup of debris throughout the chimney is dangerous. But a chimney cap prevents these issues and leaves your chimney safe and free of debris. You should still clear any leaves or other detritus it catches, but that's a small price to pay for safety.
Chimney Caps and Sparks
There is no such thing as a fire without sparks. Each and every time you use your fireplace, there are sparks, most of which stay within the fire chamber or at least the chimney's base. However, some of them are able to (and often do) reach the top of your chimney. Installing a cap ensures that you are able to light that cozy fire, without sparks flying out the top of your chimney to possibly cause a fire. This may seem like a reach, but the sparks from your fire are more than enough to cause brush, grass, or leaves to catch on fire themselves.
Chimney Caps and Moisture
Beyond preventing you from lighting a fire, moisture damages to your chimney. Ice, rain, and snow all cause deterioration and other structural problems in a chimney, especially when that moisture mixes with soot. Even on their own ice and snow cause plenty of damage, as the process of freezing and melting is incredibly hard on the crown, liner, and walls of a chimney's masonry. This eventually leads to chips, cracks, and expensive repairs. A properly fitted chimney cap prevents these issues and saves you the expense of repairing your chimney every season.
How Much Does a Chimney Cap Cost?
Costs vary according to the size and type of cap as well as the material. An additional cost is installation, which varies according to average labor rates in your area.
- Aluminum chimney caps cost between $40 and $175 on average
- Galvanized steel chimney caps have a broad price range, starting as low as $25 and going up to around $300, with an average of around $150
- Stainless steel chimney caps cost between $50 and $500, with around $200 being the more common price
- Copper chimney caps start at around $200 and go up to over $1,500, but the average price is around $600
- A non-metal chimney cap costs around $300 to $500 on average
- Add around 30 percent to these prices for customization
- Add around $75 for a handyman to install, $125 for a chimney sweep or pest control company, or $150 for a fireplace company
Chimney Caps: The Right Choice
A chimney cap is a great choice for a variety of reasons, but you still need to make sure you have the right cap for your chimney. Different caps offer their own strengths and weaknesses depending on your particular setup, so it is important that you research your options thoroughly. There are different materials available, the most common of which are copper and stainless steel, because of their durability.
There are also larger caps for multi-flue chimneys, so you don't have to get multiple caps for each individual one. Basic caps are fairly cheap, with specially designed options (such as draft-enhancing models) increasing price. Regardless of the type of chimney cap you choose, the cost is always less than that of the repairs you may require without one.