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.
That said, now is the time to find the pot that is right for you. First, question whether you want copper or clay? Keep in mind that eventually copper will age to a verde green hue. Picture the color of the Statue of Liberty. If your home has copper gutters or greenish shutters, copper chimney pots may be the perfect option for you.
An alternative is a clay chimney pot. This unit comes in terracotta, the color of baked earth. Each one is handmade and heated in a kiln. Note that salt glaze finishes require an added cost, typically ranging from $100 to $200 dollars (USD) extra depending on vendor. As previously mentioned, clay weighs much more than copper and will necessitate building scaffolding up to the rooftop chimney.
The most important step before purchasing any chimney pot is selecting one with a large enough diameter. It is crucial that the pot fits snugly over your currently exposed chimney flue. Here is what to do. Measure the outside diameter of your flue. Pots are fabricated to fit over 8-, 24-, 30-, 36-, 42-, 48-, 60-, and 72-inch flues. Allow lead-time in your project schedule if you should need to order a custom size.
In the same vein, since every chimney-pot type will unlikely be stocked at your local building supply store, many must be special ordered. Remember that some styles are very popular and will require more time (3-4 weeks) to manufacture.
Schedule work once you have purchased a unit. A word about building will explain why this affects either your or a contractor’s workflow. To construct, a chimney pot will be placed around or on top of the current flue. It will then be set in a bed of mortar to fasten, making sure it does not protrude more than 3/4 of an inch at the corners. In tornado and hurricane prone areas, ancillary anchoring will likely be added by drilling holes on opposite sides of the pot. Positioning an anchor bar into the grout of the chimney walls will further secure the pot.
To help select a pot, first print off a few images of interest. Cut and paste them on a picture of your home. See what looks right. If you have multiple chimneys, mix and match different styles to create an appealing Victorian montage. The most popular unit from charm and cost standpoints is the mini Edwardian because of its understated elegance.
Pots are usually transported on a pallet to your house via special delivery. Make sure to talk to the courier company to ensure that your unit is placed in a safe and secure location. Taking this precaution will (hopefully) prevent breakage. Another option is to pick up the unit at a building supply yard.
Last, consider maintenance after installation. Fortunately, unless demolitions occur or severe disasters strike, chimney pots endure for centuries. If yours gets dirty, use a reputable product to remove stains, grease, and grime. Such concentrated cleaners refurbish terracotta to look like new. Rain guards are also available to install as a tactic to prevent water seepage.