Your chimney cap is the small device that sits atop your chimney. This may not look like much from ground level, but it plays an important role. The roof of this cap keeps snow, ice, and rainwater out of your chimney and fireplace. Meanwhile, the mesh screen that wraps around the sides lets smoke escape while keeping small animals, leaves, and sticks out. A quality chimney cap may last for years, but not forever. Here are some signs that you need to think about chimney cap replacement:
Your Cap and Chimney Are Rusted
You probably don’t need to schedule a chimney cap replacement at the first tiny spot of rust. However, rust is a progressive problem. Eventually, it can eat through your metal cap and the chimney, if that’s also metal. This creates gaps that let water into your home heating system. Sometimes, if you catch the problem soon enough, the cap can be cleaned and repainted to extend its life. Other times, those streaks of rust are a warning sign that you need an entirely new device.
Your Chimney Cap Squeaks in the Wind
This is a telltale sign that the cap is not attached correctly. Maybe the one installed was the wrong size or style. Maybe the nails or adhesive are coming loose or the cap is unscrewing. This squealing problem can lead to sleepless nights when it’s windy. Eventually, your loose cap will blow away and your fireplace will be unprotected.
You’re Experiencing Downdrafts
Do you notice cold air gusting from your fireplace? This mysterious problem comes down to simple physics. Cold air is heavier than warm and tends to sink. Sometimes, the cold air blowing over your roof can enter your chimney, sink down, and send shivers through the household. This can be due to a failing chimney cap or one that is simply the wrong design.
The Cap Looks Strange
Does your chimney cap have an uneven or sagging appearance? Has part of the mesh peeled away and is sticking out? These devices can warp due to summertime heat, winter snow and ice, and rust taking out important structural components. Minor problems may be repairable, but there comes a point when you simply need a new one installed.
You Notice Water and Debris in the Firebox
Walk outside and check that your chimney cap is still on. No? See below. However, even if your cap is still in place, the debris in your firebox is a warning sign of problems. The mesh screen around your cap may have rusted away, or something may be loose. This problem tends to worsen during bad weather, which is exactly when you don’t want your fireplace doused. If you see this issue with no clear cause, give your chimney service a call and schedule an inspection.
Your Cap is Gone
Did a storm come through and blow your cap off? This can happen during severe weather. However, an older chimney cap that has rusted through may be fragile enough to come off during relatively mild weather. Even if you find it on the ground, it’s likely been so damaged by the fall that there’s no point in having it put back on. Your chimney service can take a look at the device and let you know if it can be reattached.