A chimney cap is a critical accessory to have installed on your chimney. Installed at the top of the chimney, it prevents water intrusion, protects the chimney from weather damage, and helps keep the birds at bay.
The good news is that many homes already have a chimney cap. If you haven’t installed one, this guide discusses everything you need to know about the chimney cap, including the benefits, types, and installation process. We’ll also discuss chimney cap costs, and address frequently asked questions.
What is a Chimney Cap?
Chimney caps are protective coverings that go over the top of your chimney. The typical chimney cap is made of steel, aluminum, or copper mesh. The units come in a variety of styles to match the architecture of your home.
The standard cap consists of a top plate, a mesh screen, and an anchoring mechanism. The top plate’s primary function is to keep out rain and snow from going into the chimney. Water that enters inside the chimney can accelerate the rusting of the throat damper. The water may also drip into the fireplace.
The mesh screen and top plate work together to keep out leaves, twigs, and animals (raccoons, birds, bees, etc.) from entering the chimney.
These two also combine forces to arrest sparks, keeping large pieces of ash and dangerous embers from escaping via the flue and landing on the roof or vegetation on the ground.
Finally, the anchoring mechanism can be one of several designs and primarily helps fasten the flue’s chimney cap assembly.
Types of Chimney Caps
Although they serve the same purpose, chimney caps come in multiple shapes and designs. The following are six of the most popular styles;
Standard Chimney Cap
The standard chimney cap is mounted in one of three ways. You can screw it to the base angle of the cap, tightening it to the tile of your flue.
Alternatively, if your flue doesn’t rise high enough, you can mount the cap to the inside. Finally, some standard chimney caps come with mounting angles as well as fasteners to attach the cap to your chimney.
The standard chimney cap’s key advantages include side screening, which keeps birds and other animals from nesting in the chimney.
The traditional chimney also traps large sparks that find their way into the flue and keeps them from getting out of the chimney onto your roof or yard. Lastly, standard chimney caps are designed to increase draft during windy weather.
Draft Increasing Chimney Cap
These chimney caps use the wind to create stronger updrafts. They typically cut down on a cross-section of the chimney and are popular because they help if your chimney has a problem with drafts.
However, the draft increasing chimney cap has a few downsides. For one, models that use spinning turbines can get gummed up with smoke and other deposits from the fireplace. Secondly, cross-sectional models may cause issues in fireplaces with an open flame rather than stoves.
Electric Draft Chimney Cap
As heating technologies improve, so have chimney dampers. The electric draft chimney cap is a two-in-one unit that also helps control your fire’s draft. The cap comes with an electric fan attached. This fan often includes an option for different speed levels.
Therefore, aside from helping keep out water, snow, littler, and animals, owners can use the cap to increase or reduce, based on weather and fire conditions, the amount of draft reaching the fireplace.
It’s excellent for people who struggle to get a good draft on their fireplaces. However, it’s also one of the pricier options – some cost over $2,000.
Integral Damper Mechanisms
Integral damper chimney caps, also known as integral mechanism caps, are designed for old fireplaces that don’t have dampers inside. Dampers are vital in stopping cold drafts from entering your fireplace from the chimney. Some old properties don’t have these valuable accessories.
The damper mechanism chimney cap is installed inside the chimney, with a cable from the cap running inside the chimney to a lever placed inside the fireplace wall. Remember that integral damper mechanism chimney caps won’t work in modern fireplaces.
Customized Chimney Caps
As the name suggests, customized chimney caps are customized to fit your chimney. The manufacturing company sends expert chimney professionals to your home, who inspect the fireplace and determine what it needs to function best.
If you have draft issues or are at the risk of infestation, they can design a customized chimney cap to eliminate those risks.
Customized chimney caps are considered the best solution, budget allowing. They guarantee utmost comfort and complete peace of mind. You’ll also know who to call in case of any chimney cap issues. However, they are also the most expensive solution.
Three other chimney cap types you’ll likely come across are top-mount, band-around, and single-flue models. A top-mount chimney cap is a basic model that screws through a flange to the chimney crown.
It’s best used when the flue rises above the chimney. Band-about models are designed for brick chimneys that shoot from the roof. They are fitted around the brick exterior of the chimney snugly and cover the whole chimney.
Finally, single-flue chimney caps are designed for square or small rectangular chimney crowns where the flue sticks above the crown. These chimney caps screw to the outside of the flue.
Why is a chimney Cap Important?
The chimney cap is vital because it keeps “outside things” out and “inside things” in. It also lets out “inside things” that may not be good for the fireplace and your home.
Here’s a summary of reasons why you should strongly consider getting one (if you haven’t done so yet);
Keep Out the Moisture
One of the first reasons to install a chimney cap is to reduce moisture in the home. This is especially true if you live in an area where it rains a lot. Without the chimney cap, you’re going to get a lot of water in the home through the chimney.
The water inside the chimney can cause damage to the chimney liners, dampers, and chimney mortar joints. It can also raise the humidity in the home, potentially affecting indoor comfort.
Keep Out Stray Animals
A chimney that burns fires every night might not seem like the place animals would want to live. And, that’s true. However, fast-forward to the summer months when you don’t need heating.
You’ll most definitely have a number of critters set up shop there, from birds to raccoons and so forth. Then, these animals may have babies! It creates all kinds of havoc. Installing a chimney cap keeps these animals at bay.
Prevent Blocked Flues
We’ve already mentioned the birds and animals. But, these aren’t the only things that can get into an uncapped chimney. Leaves, twigs, small tree branches, and other materials may also find a way into the chimney.
Over time, these materials can build up, causing a blockage. A blocked chimney significantly increases the risk of carbon monoxide and smoke poisoning. The debris can also catch flame when the fireplace is lit. a chimney cap helps keep the debris out.
Think about it – chimneys aren’t a one-way passage where air can only leave but not enter. I can also serve as an entryway for cold air from outside.
This is typically worsened if you live in a windy area. Powerful wind can force a downdraft down the chimney and into your home. If you have a fire going, the draft may be accompanied by smoke. A chimney cap is one of the best ways to block downdraft.
Finally, you’ve likely seen sparks from a campfire or wooden fireplace drifting up to the skies. This same thing happens inside the fireplace when you light the fire.
Lots of sparks and embers will rise up the chimney and, unless stopped, drift outside the house, potentially landing on the roof or somewhere on your lawn. Even a single spark can set your roof on fire. A chimney cap with a spark arrestor helps catch those embers.
How Do I Choose a Chimney Cap? Tips and Considerations
Since chimney caps come in many different shapes, designs, and styles, picking one for your home is never an easy challenge. We recommend that you prioritize the following four considerations;
Identify the Type of Chimney you have
Concerning chimney types, there are two main types of chimneys – masonry and factory-built. For masonry chimneys, three options exist.
The first type is single-flue chimneys with extended flues. Perfect chimney caps recommended here include square, rectangular, and oval caps that attach with clamps and screws and round caps or slip-in caps.
The second type is single-flue chimneys without extended flues. Here too, square, rectangular, and round caps are good solutions, as well as top-mounted caps. Finally, single-flue chimneys with flexible liners require slip-in chimney caps. Multi-flue chimneys need top-mounted chimney caps.
Factory-built chimneys can be single-wall, double-wall air-insulated, double-wall solid-pack insulated, triple-wall air-insulated, and triple-wall solid-pack insulated. In all these cases, the manufacturer will recommend the best cap for the chimney.
Select the Right Chimney Cap Size
Different types of flues and chimneys require different measurements, and if you’re not familiar with them, choosing the right size can be a challenge.
Basically, if you have a masonry chimney, you need to measure the flue (L x W) area, the inside/outside of the flue diameter, or the area + height of the tallest flue.
For extended flues, rectangular or square, you’ll need to measure the area of the flue (L x W). For non-extended flues, measure the area (L x W) for rectangular/square flues and the flue’s inside/outside diameter for oval flues.
Single wall liner flues are typically round, so you’ll need to measure the inside/outside flue diameter, while single-wall flues always require that you measure both the area and height of the tallest flue.
If yours is a pre-fab chimney, measure the inside pipe diameter for single-wall models and inside/outside flue diameter for all double wall flues. Finally, for triple-wall flues (air-insulated and solid-pack insulated), measure the innermost and outermost pipe diameter.
If your chimney doesn’t have a flue, your options are limited to standard flue caps with brackets or cap models designed for multiple flues.
Whichever option you pick, you’ll need to measure the length and width of the chimney’s opening. This will give you the minimum area that the chimney needs to cover.
Choose the Right Chimney Cap Material
Finally, chimney caps can be made from galvanized steel, stainless steel, copper, or aluminum. Here’s how to make the right pick;
- Galvanized steel caps: These are some of the least expensive but also least durable. They guarantee at least five years of service but are prone to corrosion than other materials. The units also tend to lack in design options. The majority are colored black.
- Aluminum caps: Aluminum chimney caps are also relatively inexpensive, with prices often in the range of galvanized steel models. They are also not very durable, prone to bending, and less sturdy. However, they are more corrosion-resistant than galvanized steel caps.
- Stainless steel caps: These are regarded as the best balance of performance and cost. Although slightly more expensive than galvanized steel and aluminum models, they are also stronger, more weather-resistant, and more rust-proof. They are naturally shiny and often come with a lifetime warranty.
- Copper caps: Copper chimney caps are the best option for styling. They enhance most brickwork and have an elegant look that other chimney caps can’t provide. Remember that copper is also extremely durable. The material is corrosion-resistant, heavier, and stronger than even stainless steel. Live stainless steel, most of the caps are backed by a lifetime warranty.
Chimney Cap FAQs
How Much Does a Chimney Cap Cost?
The average cost of a chimney cap installation in the US is $300. Actual prices, however, range from as low as $75 to $1,000. The chimney cap alone costs between $35 and $550, depending on the device’s make material and size. Installation costs range from $100 to $200.
How Long Does a Chimney Cap Last?
Chimney caps last between 3-25 years, depending on several factors, including the material, how often you use the chimney, the area’s climate, and quality of maintenance. With regard to material, stainless steel and copper caps last longer than galvanized models.
Chimney Shroud vs. Chimney Cap, Which is Which?
The two are nearly the same. The chimney cap is a protective covering that goes over the chimney’s top to protect the chimney from rain and downdrafts.
Also known as a fireplace shroud, the chimney shroud is also primarily a protective appliance that prevents rainwater from getting into the chimney.
However, the shroud also performs a decorative function. It adds an aesthetic element to your chimney.
How Do I Install a Chimney Cap without a Flue?
You have two options – mount the cap to the brick from the sides or mount the cap to the top of the chimney. To mount the cap from the sides, you’ll need anchors.
How high should a Chimney cap be above the flue?
The chimney cap’s lid should be at least five inches above the top of the chimney flue tiles it’s covering. Ideally, though, you want to have it slightly higher than 5” above the flue tiles.
Do Chimney Caps keep water out?
Yes. The primary function of a chimney cap is to keep water out of the chimney. The entire chimney, including the flue and masonry, is completely exposed to water and snow without the cap.
Why is Air Blowing down my Chimney?
There are two common reasons. First, it’s possible that the fire isn’t burning hot enough. If the fire is hot enough, it produces sufficient updraft to prevent cold downdrafts. Secondly, it could be pressure differences. Both issues can be easily resolved.
How to Prevent Downdraft in Chimneys
If you live in a windy location, install a wind-resistant chimney cap. Otherwise, consider igniting some fast-burning wood or paper to make the fire hot enough to overcome the pressure difference.
Best Chimney Cap Reviews
1. HY-C SC99 Shelter Bolt-On Single Flue Chimney cover
Made in the USA from black galvanized steel and stainless steel, the HY-C model SC99 chimney cap is the perfect protection for single-flue chimneys.
The simple design means you can quickly install the chimney cap with a screwdriver. The corner-mounting design provides a secure fit into a masonry chimney.
The hood is made from 24-gauge galvanized steel and features scalloped corners, the base from 14-gauge galvanized steel, and the ¾-inch expanded mesh from 18-inch galvanized steel.
It fits outside tile dimensions from 7 ½ x 7 ½ inches to 9 ½ x 9 ½ inches and comes with a 5-year limited manufacturer warranty.
- Durable steel construction
- Corner-mounting design
- Slotted hex-head bolts included
- 5-year warranty
- It’s a bit shallow
2. Draft King CBC913 Black Bolt-On Galvanized Steel Single Flue Chimney Cap
Another excellent chimney cap choice, the 9 x 13-inch black galvanized steel Draft King, is a durable, economical hood that works well in many regions.
Like all Draft King chimney caps, it provides maximum free air space and exceptional draft, while the attractive powder coating offers resistance to weather elements.
The hood is made from 24-gauge galvanized steel and features scalloped corners for easy installation. The roll-formed edges make installation even easier. The base and 5/8-inch expanded mesh are also made from galvanized steel, 14-gauge and 18-gauge, respectively.
- Durable steel construction
- Simple outside mounting
- Slotted hex-head bolts included
- Seven (7) year warranty
- Not very wind-resistant
3. Shelter SCADJ-S Adjustable Clamp-On Black Galvanized Steel Single Flue Chimney Cap
Designed and engineered to bolt-on to existing clay flue tile, the model SCADJ-S from Shelter Store is another outside mounting chimney cap perfect for square and rectangular chimneys from 8 x 8 inches to 13 x 13 inches.
It can also be used with round chimneys from 8-12 inches in diameter. In all cases, the unit is outside mounted.
The unit comprises a 24-gauge powder-coated steel hood with scalloped corners and all-formed edges, and an 18-gauge, ¾-inch 100% galvanized steel expanded mesh.
It’s designed for single-flue chimneys and features steel mounting clamps for easy installation and increased durability.
- Simple, bolt-on installation
- Convenient outside mounting
- Durable steel construction
- 5-year limited warranty
- Supplied screws are a letdown
4. The Forever Cap CCFS8, Eight-Inch Stainless
The Forever Guard Liner Top Chimney Cap is a professional model heavy-duty cap designed to fit all factory-built double and triple-wall chimney systems.
It also fits single wall stove pipes, masonry round clay flue pipes, and flexible reclining systems. The best part is that it slips inside the flue and easily secures with a pressure fit. The upper piece fits over the outside of the chimney and has a maximum outside diameter of 13 inches.
This unit is 100% made from stainless steel and comprises a roll-formed 24-gauge hood and base. It is five inches high and features an animal-proofing mesh screening with ¾-inch oval holes that prevent creosote build-up.
- Stainless steel construction
- Fits double and triple-wall chimneys
- Simple, slip-in installation
- Features protective mesh screening
- It’s one of the pricier options
5. REPA Market Galvanized Steel Round Roof Rain Cap, 8-Inch
If you’re looking to spend less than $40 on the chimney cap, this model from REPA makes every sense. Made of high-quality galvanized steel.
The chimney cap resists even the most extreme weather. It also features a mesh to allow smoke and other combustion gases to exit while keeping birds and other external elements out of the flue.
The 8-inch unit is usable as a roof vent, stove pipe cap, or roof rain cap and can be used on new constructions or as a replacement part with other after-market REPA parts. It’s very lightweight at just 1.3 pounds.
- Durable steel build
- Multi-use cap
- No mention of warranty
6. HY-C 188B Dura Shield Single Flue Aluminum Band-Around Brick chimney Cap
So far, we’ve only looked at caps made from galvanized and, in a few cases, stainless steel. Aluminum is another excellent material for chimney caps. It’s rust-resistant and can last many years, explaining why some aluminum chimney caps have a lifetime warranty.
This particular model, the 188B from HY-C, is made from non-corrosive aluminum for even greater durability. The hood is made from 18-gauge diamond embossed aluminum, while the mesh is made from 16-gauge aluminum expanded metal.
It fits outside brick walls and is designed for chimneys measuring 15 ½ x 15 ½ to 17 ½ x 17 ½ inches. The lid is 22 x 22 inches.
- Non-corrosive aluminum build
- Extremely durable
- Installation steel nuts and bolts included
- Attractive design
- Some assembly required
- No warranty
7. The Forever Cap CCSS1418 13×17-Inch Stainless Steel Spark Arrestor Mesh Cap
Some chimneys also double up as spark arrestors, and this unit from Forever Caps is one of them. A spark arrestor is a device that prevents the emission of flammable debris from combustion sources such as the fireplace. The model CCSS1418 conforms to all California spark arrestor codes.
The unit is made from heavy-duty 100% stainless steel. The base is constructed from 20-gauge steel, and there’s an 8-inch high animal-proofed mesh screening with superior 5/8-inch oval holes.
Inside corner tabs ensure the cap doesn’t rock on round or oval clay flue tiles. It fits masonry sizes from 11 x 16 inches to 16 x 14 inches.
- Easy installation
- 100% stainless steel build
- Spark-arresting capability
- Roll-formed 24-gauge hood
- Most expensive on this list
8. HY-C LC4 Round Stainless Steel Clamp-On Single Flue Liner Chimney Cap, 4-Inch
This chimney is a little different from the others. While the others are primarily built for masonry chimneys, this model is specifically designed for metal chimney applications. It’s not to be used for masonry flues. It fits outside tiles between 3.5-5 inches.
The unit is exceptionally durable. Constructed from 100% 304 stainless steel, it withstands the toughest weather conditions. No assembly is needed, and the unit also installs with exceptional ease. A lifetime warranty backs it.
- Durable stainless steel build
- Includes 1.5-inch gear drawn clamp band
- No assembly needed
- Lifetime warranty
- Not ideal for masonry flues
9. FAMCO Chimney Flue Cone Top Rain Cap – Galvanized 4-Inch
The FAMCO CT4 cone top chimney cap is a standard replacement chimney cap used as an all-weather chimney cap to keep rain and snow from getting down the chimney flue. It is built for single-wall chimney flues and comes with a mesh screen to keep birds and debris at bay.
The unit is constructed from galvanized steel, comes in a round shape, and is designed for 4-inch flues. It measures about 7/8 inches in length. You’ll find a draw bolt included for easy installation and a secure fit.
- Galvanized steel construction
- Features bolt collar included
- Excellent for single-wall flues
- All-weather applications
- No mention of warranty
10. FAMCO WDC5 Wind Directional Chimney Cap – Galvanized 5-Inch
Finally, a great chimney cap also help prevents wind-induced draft from entering the home. FAMCO has found that the best chimney caps separate wind streams as the wind flows over the cap and rotate to align with the wind direction.
This is what inspired the WDC wind directional chimney. The rotating hood aligns to the wind direction, effectively preventing drafts.
The WDC is engineered to slip over the outside diameter of a single wall flue pipe with the help of an adapter or fit inside insulated double or triple-walled pipes. It’s constructed from 26-gauge galvanized steel.
- Durable steel construction
- Prevents wind-induced downdrafts
- Extremely weather-resistant
- Reasonably priced
- Rotation may stop if the unit gets stuck
The chimney cap is a critical component of the chimney structure and the fireplace in general. It protects the chimney structure, including the flue, and the fireplace from rainwater and snow damage.
It also blocks out stray animals, especially birds and raccoons, which may block the chimney. If you haven’t installed one, maybe you should reconsider.