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I have an older wood-burning fireplace that is missing a chimney cap. I'd like to install one prior to rain season here in California but would still like the ability to use the fireplace now and then (with the cap on).

I was originally thinking that this is a fairly simple DIY project but another post suggested that this can/should be done by a professional. I'm not sure if this was because the other post involved a Gas fireplace or not.

I have a couple questions:

  • What information is needed to purchase an appropriately sized chimney cap? I found a checklist here but wasn't sure if more info was needed.

  • Is chimney cap installation widely accepted as a task best left to professionals?

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For a typical masonry chimney installing a chimney cap is something you can tackle yourself. However, do not try to fabricate a cap yourself. A chimney cap is not something that you want to make at home. The cap you purchase should come with the proper fasteners which will usually be screws that are pointed on the ends to penetrate the flue liner that is exposed at the very top of your chimney. Some caps have a flue built in that requires a cable to run down the length of the chimney. Unless there is a problem with your fireplace I would not use one like that. The materials used to construct the cap are important. Don't buy one that could rust and consider a finish that will never need repainted.

While you are up there take the time to inspect your chimney inside and out. Look for any areas that are missing mortar. Check the inside for shiny black covering or cracks. Make sure there are no missing bricks and the top of the chimney properly sheds water. Any of these issues and I recommend brining in a professional.

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Thanks! That's awesome info. I agree that fabricating the cap myself would not be advisable. I'm considering getting one of the life-time warranty caps like the Chimney Champion - youtube.com/watch?v=AVKljomx9Q4 –  Mike B Oct 6 '10 at 16:12

We are in process of getting ours capped.

One thing that put me off doing it myself is getting up on the roof, this and the fact it wasn't that expensive to get an "expert".

However, one unexpected problem we encountered - the "expert" we hired considered capping to be filling with cement and completely cutting off air supply. So if you do hire someone it may be worth your while double checking terminology. Capping/Cowl/Crown are all used and be clear that you intend using it as normal.

(If anyones worried, our "expert" was happy to dig out the cement and do as we originally requested/intended. And I'm still not sure what the difference is between a Cap,Cowl or Crown).

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Thanks! I'm not too concerned about getting on the roof considering that I have a one-story house and it's reasonably flat. That's quite interesting about the different terminology at play here. I assumed (incorrectly) that "capping" ALWAYS referred to the process of placing a breathable covered metal vent to prevent rodents and rain from entering the flue. –  Mike B Oct 6 '10 at 16:06

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