Don’t Forget Chimney Caps and Dampers

There are a couple of chimney parts that you might overlook: chimney caps and dampers, which are really more important than you might think. Most fireplaces do come with a simple lever throat damper but most do not come with a chimney cap. Let’s take a few minutes and talk about these overlooked components of your fireplace and chimney system.

Why You Should Have a Chimney Cap on the Flue

Chimney caps protect the flue from rain, leaves, birds, raccoon and squirrels. The rain can end up in your fireplace and on your outer hearth. Birds can be noisy and, as in the case of Chimney Swifts, are federally protected migratory birds that cannot be removed. You have to wait until they leave (mid-September/ early October) then sweep the chimney and cap it.

Raccoons and squirrels can bring fleas into the home as well as urinate and defecate on the smoke shelf. If the damper is left open, squirrels have been known to venture into the home and wreak havoc trying to get back outside. Raccoons will usually stay in the chimney and just climb in and out.

Chimney technician installing new stainless steel chimney cap

Spending a little money up-front for a simple chimney cap is a very good investment into your system. Make sure the cap incorporates a screen to insure animals do not get into the flue and make sure whoever inspects your system each year checks on the condition of the flue cap as well.

Throat & Top-End Dampers

Most fireplaces have throat dampers that sit at the top of the firebox and close the flue off when the unit is not in use. You simply open the damper when you want to have a fire so the smoke and chemicals can be exhausted up and out the flue when a fire is in the firebox. Most people are fine with these types of dampers until they break or get off the track they sit on. Once that happens, it might be time to think about a top-end damper.

Chimney technician installing new chimney cap with top-end damper

A top-end damper is one that actually sits at the top of the flue like a chimney cap and is closed by a handle at the side of the firebox when not in use. The handle is also used to spring open the damper when in use. The difference in these two types of dampers has to do with energy savings that is possible when you are not trying to heat the cold core of air in the flue in the winter and cool it in the summer.

Studies have shown that these types of dampers can save up to 10% of your heat loss in the winter months. The hard rubber gasket at the top allows for a much tighter seal than metal on metal  This is the main reason people are changing over from the old style throat dampers to the top-end dampers.

Installation By Professionals

All the technicians at Winston’s are fully trained in the installation of all types of dampers and chimney caps. We can also come out and take measurements for custom chimney pots and toppers and install them as well. Some are heavier than you think and can be very difficult to install. We always recommend you let a certified tech install everything associated with your fireplace and chimney for two reasons:

  1. You will maintain your warranty
  2. It’s dangerous on a roof

Contact us today and let us wow you!


If you begin to notice unpleasant odors and smells coming from your fireplace, you need the help of the pro’s at Winston’s Chimney Service to take care of it. This is one place our many years of providing services for chimney and dryer vents really comes in handy!