Chimney pots, also known as chimney caps or chimney tops, consist of copper or terracotta (fired clay) materials. Copper chimney pots weigh much less than their clay cousins, but tend to have higher price tags. If you decide to install one (or more), consider hiring a professional. These trained individuals will set up their own scaffolding to safely work on your roof. Never carry a terracotta unit up a ladder yourself. The extra weight could cause your imbalance and result in an injurious fall.
From afar most chimneys seem simply to be square towers of brick or stone. Chances are you do not spend much time thinking about them as you move about town. However, once you start noticing chimneys adorned with pots, your view will magnify. The best analogy is that a chimney pot is to a house, as a cherry is to an ice cream sundae. But before choosing which style is right for you, a brief history will provide a cultural perspective.
Crude chimneys appeared in Europe after the 1066 Norman conquest of William the Conqueror. For the next 200 years primitive hearths were constructed in the homes of serfs. These structures were essentially fire pits in the center of homes without vents to remove smoke. By the mid 1200s, chimney pots were built to purposely increase draft flow. To this day that innovation, known as the Venturi effect, increases airflow by releasing draft pressure by up to 15%.
With mechanics refined, a great surge in design occurred in England. Many chimney pots survive from that period–what author Bill Bryson calls the golden age of brick building (1660-1760). Today these antique units are sometimes for sale. Popularity peaked during the Victorian age (1837-1901) in the Americas and throughout the British Empire. After World War I, modern architecture and heat advances, such as oil burning furnaces, caused chimney pot usage to decline.
Since the 1980s chimney pots have slowly become more in vogue again. Skilled artisans manufacture copper chimney tops in copper shops, whereas skilled potters mold terracotta units fired in industrial kilns. Nevertheless, these chimney embellishments have been added to restore classic traditional styles and applied to enhance bland 1950s designs. Many homeowners appreciate how their relatively low prices indisputably increase home values.