Tag Archives: chimney fire

Roof showing chimney on fire

5 Reasons for a Chimney Cap

Roof showing chimney on fireWhy have a chimney cap? Well, let me tell you a not-so-funny, but very ironic little story.

A few years ago, a man called me up asking about a chimney cap to protect his new roof. He was burning wedding photos after a somewhat bitter divorce. A short time later, his neighbor was banging on the man’s front door telling him that his roof was on fire. Apparently, the burning embers from the photos landed on his roof and caught the roof on fire. Thanks to the observant neighbor, the firemen arrived in time to save the house, although there was major water damage. If he had had a chimney cap BEFORE he used his fireplace, he would have saved a lot of money and heartache.

What is a chimney cap?

Caps are called “chimney caps,” “rain caps,” or “flue caps,” but these are all Black stainless steel chimney capdifferent terms for the same thing. They look like upside boxes with the spark arrester mesh around the four sides of the box and the top is typically a solid metal lid to prevent most of the rain from coming into the system. Ideally, the lid is removable to make it easier for the chimney sweep to maintain the chimney.

A chimney cap serves several important purposes

Fire Safety– Here in Southern California where wildfires are always a major concern, a chimney cap is essential. Fly-away embers can land on your roof, on your neighbor’s roof, on dried leaves and landscaping, patio covers, fabric canopies, or cars. The spark arrester mesh on the chimney cap prevents most of these dangerous embers from escaping.

Critters– A chimney without a cap is like an open door for any unwelcome critter to come into your home through the chimney. As far as the critter is concerned, you just welcomed it into your home. It’s not uncommon for birds, raccoons, squirrels, snakes, and even roof rats to make your chimney their home. If an animal creates a nest inside a Raccoon in chimneychimney, it will create a blockage in the chimney, making it unsafe to use the fireplace. On another note, if an animal dies inside the chimney, the smell will be horrendous, making the house unlivable for a period of time.

Rain– A chimney cap with a lid will prevent most of the rain from coming down the chimney. Chimneys aren’t built straight up and down. If they were, every time it rains outside, the rain would come straight onto your fire. Chimneys are typically built with an offset so the rain lands in the smoke shelf area behind the damper. The water sits in the smoke shelf, up against the metal damper plate, until the water either evaporates or it seeps into the backwall of the firebox. Rain will deteriorate the chimney from the inside out and will cause premature damage to the metal parts of your system, such as the damper. Caps will save thousands of dollars in preventable chimney repairs.

Leaves and debris– The cap will prevent leaves, pine tree needles, and branches of nearby trees from entering the chimney. Dead leaves, pine tree needles and branches inside a chimney will create a fire hazard.

Downdrafts– Houses built on hillsides, in canyons, along beaches and in mountain areas are particularly prone to downdraft problems. A specially-designed wind cap can prevent these downdrafts.

Some caveats

Pre-fab fireplaces and free-standing stoves automatically come with and are listed with very specific caps already. Installing an incorrect cap on these systems will not only void out the U.L. listing on the system but may create a potentially dangerous situation because of overheating.

Be careful of chimney caps purchased from the “big box” home improvement stores. These caps, because of how they’re attached to the flue, may damage the flue lining. Also, they don’t stay on very well and, with a strong wind, they’ll go flying. Hopefully, they won’t land on your solar panels, your car, or even worse, a person. You want a heavy-duty chimney cap that’s going to stay on even in major winds. Also, these chimney caps purchased from big box stores are typically made from galvanized steel which may create rust stains down the chimney after a period of time. Most professional chimney sweeps carry special heavy-duty chimney caps that aren’t available directly to homeowners.

The chimney sweep will also install that chimney cap, saving the homeowner a trip on the roof.

Stainless steel chimney caps are recommended to prevent rusting and many caps have a lifetime warranty.

One last suggestion: Never use your fireplace to burn unwanted photos!

A house on fire

5 Things to consider when hiring a Chimney Sweep

A house ablaze due to a chimney fireImagine watching the local evening news that shows a story of a hapless victim of a chimney fire, resulting in a house burned to the ground. It makes you realize that it’s been far too long since you had your own chimney looked at, and you make a mental note to call a chimney sweep to set up an appointment. The next morning, you get on the internet to search for a chimney sweep and you realize that you don’t even know what to look for.

Many people aren’t aware that in most of the United States, there are absolutely no regulations on the chimney sweeping trade. This means that anybody can go out and claim they’re a chimney sweep and start a business. They may know little or nothing about chimneys, so it’s imperative to hire a chimney sweep company that has been specifically trained and is experienced with chimneys and fireplaces. Your family’s lives, pets and belongings may depend on hiring a qualified chimney sweep.

So what do you consider when hiring a chimney sweep? Certainly not someone dressed like Dick Van Dyke from Mary Poppins!

What to consider in finding a qualified Chimney Sweep


There are a number of chimney sweep certifications in the U.S. but by far thLogo that reads "Certified Chimney Sweep"e most mainstream is the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). To become certified, an individual is required to take a test every three years based on the International Residential Code, the National Fire Protection Association 211 Manual, the Successful Chimney Sweeping Manual, and then sign a strict code of ethics. To find a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep, go to the CSIA website at www.csia.org and put in your zip code in the upper left corner. It will then provide you with a comprehensive list of all the CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps within a 50-mile radius.

General Liability Insurance

Whether it’s a tree removal company, a plumber or a chimney sweep, make sure that any contractor working on your property always carries general liability insurance. Ask to see the proof of insurance. This is for your protection as a homeowner. As an example, if a tree removal company chops down a tree and it lands on your neighbor’s roof, if that contractor doesn’t have insurance, guess who pays for the damage to your neighbor’s roof? YOU!

State Contractor’s License

In California, any work that amounts to $500 or more (labor and materials) requires a contractor’s license. This protects the homeowner. Find out the statusLogo for the California State Licensing Board of a contractor’s license by going to the California State Licensing Board website at www.cslb.ca.gov. You can check the license by license number, contractor’s name or name of the business. An average chimney sweeping service falls well short of the $500 limit, but if the chimney sweep performs any repairs, it could exceed that limit and it’s best to know in advance. The contractor’s license also adds to the legitimacy of the business.

References by friends, family, or co-workers

One of the best ways to find a reputable chimney sweep company is word of mouth. Find out from your friends, family or co-workers if they were happy with the chimney sweep they’ve used, but be sure to follow up by checking the status of their certification, insurance, and contractor’s license.

Reviews and Reports about the Company

Check out the company’s reputation on Yelp at www.yelp.com, Angie’s List at www.angieslist.com or Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org. If you see a lot of bad reviews, it’s best to go to the next company on the list.

Caveat Emptor – Phone Scams

This is Latin for “Let the Buyer Beware” and this is especially true for any homebuyer who receives a phone call from someone, anyone, who calls you on the phone to solicit your business. You have absolutely no way of knowing who is actually calling you. Even though you are on the Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov, that won’t stop an unscrupulous company from lying to you and convincing you that they are your chimney sweep company and it’s time for a chimney sweep. We’ve even had these unscrupulous companies call our loyal customers. Our customers have even responded by saying that they use our company and these unscrupulous companies have said that we were no longer in business. Remember: NEVER do business with anybody who calls you on the phone!  And this rule of thumb doesn’t just apply to a chimney sweep service.

In conclusion…

Spending a few minutes of extra effort will ensure that you find the right chimney sweep company and that your house won’t end up on the local evening news!