Chimney Anatomy 101: Knowing Your Chimney from Top to Bottom

January 28, 2020

A chimney might look pretty simple from the outside, but it’s actually a very complex system of internal and external components. While there’s no sense in becoming a chimney expert—(that’s our job!)—being able to identify the basic parts of your chimney can help us troubleshoot a potential issue over the phone. (Of course, the only way to know what is wrong with your chimney is scheduling a comprehensive chimney inspection; but we will at least be able to determine whether you are in any immediate danger.) Keep reading to learn some basic parts of a chimney system! 

The Chimney Damper

 The chimney damper is used to close of your chimney to the outside world when it’s not in use. It consists of a pair of doors that can be closed with a pulley or lever. Closing your damper is important for several reasons, especially for a long period of inactivity, like the spring and summer. If the chimney cap on top of the chimney has been broken or moved, the damper is the only thing preventing animals and birds from entering your home! 

The Smoke Shelf 

The smoke shelf is located behind the chimney damper. Its purpose is to catch any falling debris and water that may seep down into the chimney, and to help transition large billows of smoke from the fireplace into the narrower chimney flow. The smoke shelf also helps prevent downdrafts. 

Chimney Flue & Chimney Liner

Most people know that the chimney flue is the long passage through which gas and smoke travels. Less well-known to the general public is the chimney flue liner, which protects the chimney’s masonry and the wood surrounding the home. A flue liner is typically constructed of clay tile, ceramic, or stainless steel.

Wood burning fireplaces often have ceramic flue liners because the ceramic resists corrosion, is easy to clean, and it provides excellent insulation. Although the chimney liner does contribute significantly in reducing debris and creosote build-up, debris will eventually attach to it over time, which is why you should hire a professional chimney sweep at least once a year.  

Chimney Cap & Chimney Crown 

These two terms are often used interchangeably, but they are two different components. The chimney crown just refers to the top part of the chimney, usually constructed from cement. Above it is the chimney cap, a small metal roof above the chimney designed to prevent water, debris, and small animals from entering the chimney flue. 

Get Your Chimney Cleaned & Inspected with Our Apex Chimney Services! 

As you can see from this partial list, chimney systems are more complicated than they seem, which is why it’s important to have yours regularly inspected by a CSIA-certified chimney sweep. Our Apex chimney sweeps are thoroughly familiar with all the parts of your chimney, and you can trust them with the care and maintenance of every internal and external component. To schedule a cleaning or inspection appointment, click here.