What Every Homeowner Needs to Know About Their Chimney
There is more to a chimney than lighting the fireplace on a chilly day. Having a basic understanding of the chimney and its components will help you maintain it properly, increase its efficiency, and keep your family safe.
There are three basic types of chimneys, and homeowners should know which type was built with their home.
Brick masonry: Undoubtedly, the majority of chimneys built are brick masonry. Known for its durability and iconic design, it has been the standard type of chimney for centuries. There are also stone masonry chimneys, but brick is the more popular type.
Single wall metal: Another type of chimney is a single-wall metal chimney pipe commonly used for the venting of wood-burning stoves. Generally, the wood stove is installed on the lowest level of the home, either the first floor or the basement. A metal stovepipe connects to the flue through the wall or ceiling to a chimney or external vent. The exhaust travels through the stovepipe and exits the vent.
Prefabricated metal: Many newer homes have a prefabricated or factory-built fireplace that contains a prefabricated metal chimney.
Some prefabricated fireplaces look so much like a traditional fireplace that it is often difficult for homeowners to know which type they have. However, factory-built fireplaces have a circular metal chimney sticking above the roof. The firebox may also be encased in a metal frame.
Homeowners should also know which type of damper is installed in the chimney. The damper keeps moisture, pests, and debris out of the flue when you are not using the fireplace. It also prevents warm air from escaping after the fire burns out. There are two types of dampers:
Throat damper: The most common type of damper in the chimney is the throat damper. Its located in the throat of the stack, which is just above the firebox. A metal lever opens or closes the damper.
Top Sealing damper: A top-sealing damper is installed at the top of the chimney. It is more efficient than a throat damper because it prevents water and debris from getting into the flue liner when the damper is closed. It also helps retain more heat by preventing the external air from cooling the interior bricks and liner. You can open and close a top damper by pulling on the rope that extends from the damper.
Its also important to know whether your chimney is lined, and which flue liner is installed because some liners require more maintenance than others.
Clay tile: Most traditional brick chimneys have a clay tile liner. They are inexpensive, but the intense heat of the fire and moisture in the flue make them prone to frequent repairs.
Cement: Another type of chimney liner is cast-in-place cement. Since the cement mix is poured directly into the flue, it is a good fit for chimneys of any size or shape. While cement liners are durable and have good heat resistant properties, like clay tiles, they are prone to cracking when exposed to moisture.
Stainless steel: UL-listed stainless-steel liners are growing in popularity. They offer superior insulation and are fire, moisture, and pest resistant. They also require the least amount of maintenance when compared to other types of chimney liners.
The firebox is at the lower part of the chimney. It is where you build a fire inside the fireplace. Since some fireboxes are constructed better than others, it is important to examine it before lighting the fire. If you notice any cracking, crumbling, or other signs of deterioration, contact a qualified chimney professional for an inspection.
Your fireplace may have a standard mesh screen to help keep sparks at bay. Installing a tempered glass door is highly recommended for additional safety, especially if you have pets or small children. After the fire burns out, closing the glass door will help prevent heat loss and reduce energy costs.