A Guide to Chimney Design

Your fireplace is composed of two major parts: the firebox and the chimney. And the mantel, but that's just for hanging stockings, so we'll leave that for another time.

The firebox, of course, gets all the glory, what with the cheery fire and cozy warmth. It is the chimney, however, that does the real work of keeping you and your family safe. The chimney is responsible for venting all of the smoke and harmful gasses out of your breathing space. The chimney must do its job, while at the same time keeping the rest of your house from going up in flames.

As you might imagine, chimney design is an important part of the overall construction of your fireplace.

The Sum Of Its Parts
Your chimney has several major components:

  • Damper. The damper is a metal flap or valve that you open when you light a fire and close when the fire is out. The damper is used to control the flow of air into the chimney and to keep cold air out when the fireplace is not in use.
  • Flue. The flue is the tube that carries the smoke, hot air and exhaust gasses out of your home. In a brick and mortar chimney, the flue can be composed of cement or clay pipe or (more typically) fireproof ceramic tile. In a factory built fireplace, the flue will be a metal tube designed to handle the heat of fireplace exhaust gasses.
  • Outer shell. The outer shell of a chimney is designed for two purposes: to look good and to keep the flue separated from any combustible materials. The bricks and mortar of a masonry fireplace form the outer shell. For a factory built fireplace, the outer shell may be wood, masonry or other building materials kept at a proper distance from the flue.
  • Flashing. Chimney flashing is made of thin metal strips. These flexible strips are sued to cover the gap between the chimney and surrounding roofing materials. Chimney flashing is used to keep water from leaking under your roof.
  • Cap. The chimney cap serves a number of purposes: It keeps rain out, prevents drafts and (if screen) will keep out wildlife. The chimney cap may be made from masonry or metal.
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If you are a hands-on homeowner, you may be able to skip the professional and clean your chimney yourself. It is a dangerous and messy job, so be sure that you know what you are up against before choosing this option.

Your chimney is crucial to making your fireplace safe and enjoyable. With a little effort and a few essential chimney products, you can make sure your chimney works safely and efficiently all season long.

Frequently Asked Questions on Ask.com
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