Chimney caps are meant to last a long time, but they certainly don’t last forever. While it’s not uncommon to get 50 years or more out of a chimney cap, they’re just like any other part of your home: eventually, they’ll need to be repaired or, more likely, replaced.
But how do you know when it’s time for a new chimney cap? What should you look out for?
At HY-C, we’ve manufactured well over a million chimney caps in the past few years. We’ve seen it all. From storm damage and wear and tear to defacements caused by raccoons, bats, or squirrels, we know what it looks like when an old cap finally reaches the end of its days.
In this guide, we’re going to cover the five signs to look for to know when it’s time to replace your chimney cap. By the time you’re done, you’ll know how to inspect your chimney cap for damage and how to determine when it’s time to pull the trigger on a new one.
We’ll even provide some resources to help you find a new cap if your old one isn’t up to par anymore.
1. You Don’t Have a Chimney Cap
In the IT world, the most basic question is, “Is your computer turned on?” In the world of chimney caps, the most basic question is, “Does your flue currently even have a cap?”
It may seem rudimentary, but next time you’re out in your neighborhood, take a peek at some of the chimneys on your neighbors’ roofs. You may be surprised by just how many chimneys out there don’t have any kind of cap or cover over their flue tile.
Not having a chimney cap can lead to quite a few problems:
- Rain, sleet, snow, hail, and other precipitation will get in your fireplace
- Raccoons, squirrels, bats, and other critters will get in your chimney
- Sparks from your fireplace could float out and cause a fire
If you have a fireplace and chimney and you don’t have a chimney cap, we’d strongly encourage you to install one soon to mitigate these issues. A good chimney cap doesn’t cost much, and it can save you from a lot of future frustration and repairs.
2. Your Chimney Cap Is Missing Key Features
Like any other industry, chimney caps have evolved over time. Research and development have led to improvements that offer homeowners better protection and more long term peace of mind.
If you have an older cap, check to see if it has wire mesh on the sides. Some older caps don’t. These meshless caps still include a cover (or hood) to keep precipitation out, but animals can still access the flue(s) and get into your chimney.
If your cap doesn’t have mesh sides, it’s very wise to get a new cap that does.
Some newer caps also have a removable hood on them. This makes it easier to clean your chimney. If your current cap’s hood is not removable, upgrading to a new cap with a removable hood will make cleaning your flue a breeze.
3. Your Chimney Cap Is Rusty
Nowadays, chimney caps are made of robust materials like stainless steel, galvanized steel, or copper. These strong metals resist rust and corrosion, helping to maintain the structural integrity of the cap.
Old chimney caps or caps made from subpar materials may be susceptible to rust. Rusted chimney caps are brittle. They can be damaged much more easily. Nuisance wildlife looking for a safe spot can take advantage of these vulnerable caps, too, breaking through them and setting up camp.
If your chimney cap is rusty, you should replace it as quickly as possible. A new, rust-free cap is a relatively small investment that will pay off well over time.
4. Your Chimney Cap Is Damaged
A chimney cap may become damaged for several reasons:
- Animals may chew through it or bend it
- Strong winds may deform it (or blow it off entirely)
- Broken tree limbs may land on it and compress it
- General weathering/wear and tear may cause it to deteriorate
If a chimney cap is bent, smashed, or contorted in any way, it should be replaced as soon as possible. The hood of a chimney cap needs to be high enough above the flue tile to allow for a good draft. If it isn’t (because the cap is damaged), fireplace gasses (like smoke or carbon monoxide) could blow back into your home.
If a chimney cap’s mesh is broken or bent, that cap will need to be replaced, too. Wildlife constantly looks for ways to exploit openings in homes. Even the slightest deformity in a chimney cap’s mesh could give a bat or squirrel that little bit of extra room they need to get in.
5. Your Cap Doesn’t Match Your Home’s Aesthetics
Chimney caps are available in a few different colors, most commonly stainless steel, black, and copper. Each of these three colors can either compliment or clash with the aesthetic of the rest of your home. If your current cap’s color isn’t to your liking, that’s as good a reason as any to replace it.
Maybe you recently had your roof redone and have different-colored shingles now. Maybe you just had your brick or siding painted. Whatever the case, if you make any major changes to the exterior style of your home, it’s a good idea to get a chimney cap that matches that style, too.
What if You Need a New Chimney Cap?
As you can tell by now, there are plenty of reasons why you may need a new chimney cap. From simply not having a cap in the first place to incurring damage to your existing cap, it’s important to make sure your chimney and flue are properly protected.
So, you know the diagnoses now. But what if your chimney cap does need replacing?
The best place to start is finding the right size chimney cap for your flue. Whether you have a square flue, a rectangular flue, or a round flue, most shapes have a wide range of sizes to choose from. You may even want to get a custom chimney cap made just for your house.
After you’ve found the right cap, the next step is to install it. If you feel uncomfortable installing your own chimney cap, reach out to a chimney sweep or a wildlife control professional. They’re well-equipped to complete an installation for you.
After your new cap is on — and barring any major weather events or ornery critters in your area — it should keep you well protected for years to come.