When it comes to your chimney and winter weather there are quite a few things to be wary of. If you’re diligent about investing in annual inspections, regular sweepings, and preventative maintenance, then you should be able to get through even those harsher weather periods just fine. That said, even the most responsible homeowner can experience unexpected difficulties during these colder months.
One common concern is ice forming on the chimney cap.
What Is the Chimney Cap?
Your chimney cap is the component that sits over your flue opening, ensuring rain, sleet, snow, and any other forms of moisture don’t have easy access to the inside of your chimney. Without one in place, water would run right into your system, causing damage to your masonry, liner, and likely your smoke shelf and firebox, as well.
Chimney caps also work to keep out any excess debris that could potentially work its way into your chimney and clog things up. This includes leaves, twigs, grass clippings, or even flying garbage. And don’t worry about birds or other animals bringing these things, either! Chimney caps are able to keep these critters (along with their nesting materials) out, too.
And it doesn’t end there – chimney caps also help prevent downdrafts from swooping into your living space (which invites an unwelcome chill and ups your energy bills), and they can even stop stray sparks from potentially landing on any flammable roofing materials or piles of leaves near your chimney.
As you can see, chimney caps protect your chimney in multiple ways, so having a sturdy one properly installed is a must for every fireplace owner! Unfortunately, when ice builds up near it, dangerous situations can arise.
The Dangers of Ice on Your Chimney Cap
Now, if you ask around, you might hear friends and neighbors say this is nothing to worry about, and sometimes that is just the case. A small amount of ice on your chimney cap is normal and shouldn’t trigger any major issues. What we do ask you to watch for is when ice builds up so much that it blocks your air flow or causes damage.
Air flow and proper draft is vital to running your fireplace safely and efficiently. Without it, your fires won’t be as high quality and smoke will be much more likely to back up into your home, triggering health issues, stinking up your living space, and causing stains to form on your walls, ceiling, and fireplace front.
There’s also the risk of damage to your chimney cap itself. Because water expands when it freezes, your cap may experience extra pressure which could then cause cracking and other problems. And once damage starts to form, water, animals, and other debris could easily enter and wreak havoc. This is one piece of chimney anatomy you don’t want compromised!
Finally, too much ice on your chimney cap also increases your risk of carbon monoxide exposure. Carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer due to its poisonous nature and it’s inability to be easily detected. It’s both colorless and odorless, so most people won’t even know it’s there until they experience symptoms, and by then it may be too late.
It’s imperative to do everything you can to avoid carbon monoxide in the home. Things like investing in dryer vent cleanings, regularly servicing gas appliances, always scheduling annual chimney inspections, and – you guessed it – avoiding flue blockages are all important. Also, be sure to have carbon monoxide detectors installed on every level of your home. Sync them up (so they all go off if one detects the gas), and be sure to change the batteries every 6 months, too.
What Causes Ice to Form?
So, what causes the ice to build up around the flue in the first place? Well, as you burn fires, all of the smoke, gases, and fumes that your system produces float up to the top of your chimney where things tend to be a lot cooler. This change in temperature causes condensation to form, and when temps are below freezing, it can cling to your cap and turn to ice.
A lot of times this ice will quickly melt up one temps rise up a bit, but it’s when we go through longer stretches of below freezing temperatures that one should worry. This is when ice is known to build up. And since it’s so cold, you’ll likely be using your fireplace more, too.
Preventing Ice Build-Up
So, can anything actually be done to minimize ice building up on your chimney cap? Well, we certainly can’t control the weather, but we can control how much condensation forms at the top of your flue. The less moisture you have, the less chances you have of ice forming, which can ensure you stay in the clear until things heat up again.
Keep these practices in mind as you move forward into the notoriously cold weeks ahead.
- Burn only seasoned wood. The less moisture there is in your wood, the less acidic water you’ll have floating up into your flue (and the less condensation you’ll have overall).
- Install a top-mounted damper. This will keep your flue warmer when it’s not in use, so that things aren’t as chilly up top once you get your fire going.
- Warm your flue before starting fires. The warmer your flue is, the easier and quicker fumes will flow up and out, thus reducing linger fumes and condensation. You can warm your flue by tightly rolling a newspaper, lighting it, then holding it up into your chimney for a bit.
- Schedule an inspection. If this is a common issue for your household, get an inspection booked as soon as possible. It may be that you need a smaller flue, a fresh air intake, a B-vent, or something else implemented to reduce the likelihood of ice forming down the line.
Turn to Us for Trusted Solutions
Ready for the quality chimney care you deserve? Call the team at The Chimney Doctor today or reach out to us online. We can’t wait to find the right solutions for you!