The chimney is often the most neglected system in the whole home. Homeowners rarely give it the attention that it desperately needs despite the fact that it must perform properly in order to be safe for use. In fact, many homeowners don’t realize that a chimney is actually a complex system of important components that keep it working safely and efficiently. Having a good understanding of your chimney’s anatomy will not only help you identify potential problems, but it will help you properly maintain and care for the vital safety system that lies at the heart of our homes.
Remember that CSIA certified chimney sweeps are thoroughly familiar with all the parts of your chimney and fireplace and can quickly address any issues that may be causing common chimney problems. To help you get a better understanding of all of the components that make up your chimney, here’s the quick and dirty version of your chimney anatomy:
Chimney Damper- A chimney damper is what seals off your chimney flue when it is not in use. Generally, chimney dampers are installed just above the fireplace and are used to keep the air in your home from escaping out of the chimney. This helps conserve energy and reduce heating and cooling bills. If you have no chimney cap installed, your chimney damper is also your main line of defense from keeping critters and birds from entering your home through the chimney flue. If you close the damper when the fireplace is not in use, it’s extremely important to remember to reopen it once you start a fire, otherwise smoke and dangerous carbon monoxide can back up in your home and cause some serious health hazards.
Smoke Chamber- The smoke chamber is a pretty important part of your chimney. It actually starts right above the damper and continues up to where the flue tiles begin. It’s is often one of the most neglected parts of the chimney, even though approximately 60% of all chimney fires start here. Many smoke chamber boxes are constructed of brick and start wide at the base then narrows towards the top where it meets the flue. It’s important to make sure that this area of your fireplace is parged, or smoothed out to make a flat surface so that smoke and combustibles can escape cleanly out of the fireplace without escaping through cracks or gaps in the masonry in this area.
Smoke Shelf- The smoke shelf is located where the smoke chamber intersects the firebox. Its main purpose is to collect rain water and small amounts of debris that have fallen into the chimney flue. It is used to help transition large billows of smoke from the fireplace into the narrower space of your chimney flue. The smoke shelf also assists with preventing downdrafts to ensure smoke won’t back up in your living space.
Chimney Flue- The chimney flue is the narrow passage way that runs from the top of the smoke chamber all the way to your roof. This is how all gases and combustibles exit your home when your burn a fire in your fireplace.
Chimney Liner- The chimney flue liner is the non-combustible lining in your chimney that allows all smoke, gases, and other particles to exit your home safely. This important component of your chimney vents toxic gases and smoke produced by the fireplace, furnace, or stove up and out of your home. It is imperative that the chimney liner is free of cracks, holes, and deterioration. Liners can be made of clay tiles, aluminum, stainless steel, or casted masonry materials. Talk with our chimney specialists to determine which style is best for your home and fireplace usage.
Chimney Chase- Most factory made chimneys come with a metal casing called a chimney chase. If you have a masonry chimney, you more than likely do not have a chimney chase installed.
Chimney Crown- The chimney crown can be considered the roof of your chimney. It caps off the top end of your chimney, only leaving the flue open. The chimney crown protects the chimney from weather-related deterioration and damage. To avoid expensive moisture damage in the rest of your chimney, it’s important that the chimney crown be in good repair and free of cracks or openings. Many crowns can actually be coated with a waterproof sealant to increase its resistance to wet weather.
Chimney Cap- A chimney cap is a small metal roof that is installed over the chimney flue opening. Its main purpose is to keep water and debris out of your chimney. It comes with screened sides to stop critters and birds from nesting in your chimney. This relatively inexpensive component can help prevent hundreds to thousands of dollars in future chimney repairs so it is well worth the money spent on purchase and installation.
As you can see, chimneys are complex systems that contain many different components. Your annual chimney inspection can make sure that each of these areas of your chimney are functioning as they should and are not in need of repair or replacement. Call our chimney sweep professionals if you are due for your annual inspection or chimney cleaning.
Chimney Solutions, Inc.
1155 McFarland 400 Drive, Alpharetta GA 30004