During the winter months, there’s a lot to worry about when it comes to your fireplace. Like, is the freeze-thaw process breaking down your masonry? Are snow and ice getting easy access to your chimney and wreaking havoc? Is too much creosote present, increasing your risk of experiencing a chimney fire?
All of these are common concerns, and they’re all things the team here at Firesafe Chimney Services would be happy to help you with! But today we’d like to address a concern that doesn’t tend to get a lot of thought or attention – ice on your chimney cap.
The Dangers of Ice & Snow on Your Cap
Now, the good news is that some snow on your chimney cap isn’t something you’ll likely have to worry about. If the temperature in your area is regularly going above freezing, and the bright sunshine is melting some of that snow and ice outside every day or two, then there’s no need to stress.
But sometimes, especially here in Worcester and its surrounding areas, we get day after day of freezing temps and snowfall. It’s during these times that buildup occurs, and that you may need to worry… especially if you’re putting your fireplace to more frequent use, which tends to be more common on those colder days!
During these times, it’s important to be wary of anything that may be blocking up your chimney. When it comes to operating your fireplace efficiently, proper ventilation is key. Without it you could wind up with smoke, carbon monoxide, and other harmful fumes entering your home, causing serious illness or even death.
It’s because of risks like these that the team here at Firesafe urges all homeowners to invest in both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends installing both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on every level of the house, inside each bedroom, and outside of all sleeping areas.
You’ll also want to test them once a month, change the batteries every 6 months, and replace them per the manufacturer’s recommendations (usually every 5-10 years, depending on the device).
The final concern about ice on your chimney cap is the damage it can do to the cap itself. It could trigger rust or cracking (due to the freeze/thaw process), which will then make it incapable of effectively doing its job once the snow and ice finally do melt. Come spring and summer, you’ll be welcoming in water, animals, and all kinds of other debris before you know it!
What Causes the Ice to Form? Can I Prevent It?
Now, these concerns are probably making you wonder what can be done to prevent ice from building up. Well, first let’s look at what causes it in the first place…
As you probably realize, your fireplace fires produce smoke, fumes, and heat that travel up your flue and safely outside, so that they don’t cause illness for anyone in the home. This is a good thing and means your draft and airflow are working efficiently!
Unfortunately, because the temperatures at the top of the chimney tend to be cooler, once these fumes reach the top, they quickly cool and condense. And if temperatures are below freezing, this causes that condensation to quickly freeze to the chimney cap. As we stated above, if your ice is able to melt regularly, this isn’t something to stress about, but if temps stay below freezing for a long time, you could notice some significant buildup.
So, what can be done to stop it? Here are some things that you can do that might help.
- Burn Only Seasoned Wood: Hopefully you’re doing this anyway (as it makes for cleaner, hotter fires and reduces creosote accumulation), but if not, it’s time to start! Basically, seasoned wood has less moisture, which means less acidic water going up your flue and less condensation overall.
- Upgrade to a Top-Sealing Damper: Top-sealing dampers seal your chimney from the top when it’s not in use, so that no cold air can sneak in the meantime. This ensures your flue is warmer when you light that first fire, and that things aren’t so cold near the top when your fires are first getting going, which then leads to lots of condensation. (They also work with your cap to keep out debris, animals, and water.)
- Warm Your Flue: A warm flue ensures fumes move quickly up and out, which leaves less time for smoke and gases to linger and condensate. You can warm things up beforehand by tightly rolling a newspaper, lighting it, then holding it up inside of your chimney to reverse that cold airflow that’s coming down.
- Insulate Your Liner: If you have a stainless steel liner, there are often options for insulating them, which will keep your flue warmer when not in use and will minimize the amount of condensation able to form once your fires are lit.
If you’ve tried it all and you’re still facing problems, reach out! We can do an inspection and see if your flue size needs to be adjusted, or you could potentially need a different cap or some type of device implemented to help with airflow.
Firesafe Is Here for You!
If you live in Worcester County, Hampden County, Hampshire County, or Franklin County, don’t hesitate to reach out if you need chimney care. Our CSIA-certified sweeps are here and happy to help with it all!