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Speak Like a Masonry Pro: Common Chimney Terms

Most homeowners understand the basics of how to use their fireplaces. But your chimney is an entire system and without knowledge of all the working parts, your fireplace can be tough to maintain and can even become unsafe.

Knowing about your chimney will help save you money by catching small issues that could turn into expensive repairs down the line and can help you keep your home safe while enjoying cozy fires all winter long. Here are the top chimney terms that every homeowner with a wood-burning fireplace should know:

  • Baffle – An object in the fireplace that helps change the direction of flue gasses, assisting fires to burn more efficiently.
  • Breast – The portion of the chimney indoors that protrudes out from the wall to accommodate the fireplace.
  • Cap – The protective covering over the top of the chimney that keeps out the elements and wild animals.
  • Creosote – The deposits from smoke, made of hydrocarbons, that accumulate and build up on the flue liner. A professional chimney cleaner will remove these deposits, which can lead to house fires if left to accumulate for too long.
  • Crown – A cement layer that covers the top of the flue liner and stops water from coming in between the flue liner and the brick exterior.
  • Damper – A moveable plate built into the fireplace that controls the air or smoke flow up through the flue. Homeowners often use it to seal the flue when the fireplace is not being used so that the warm air from the home doesn’t travel out through the chimney.
  • Flashing – The metal pieces around the area where the chimney and roof intersect. The flashing helps direct water away from this vulnerable area in your roof. Flashing should be inspected annually and can last up to 30 years, but the caulking used to seal flashing will fail faster and need to be replaced.
  • Flue – The tunnel or open part of the chimney that smoke travels up to exit the house.
  • Firebox – The chamber where the fire burns made up of brick, stone, or in prefab fireplaces sometimes metal. Sometimes referred to as the hearth, which is the bottom or floor of the firebox.
  • Flue Liner – An interior layer (often required by code) made of clay tile, stainless steel, or a cast-in-place mortar-like mixture that covers the inside of the flue protecting the outer chimney walls. Depending on the material, flue liners can last anywhere from 15 to 50 years and should be inspected for damage or creosote buildup regularly.
  • Mortar Joints – The spaces between the bricks filled with mortar or grout.
  • Saddle or Cricket Flashing – When the chimney is more than 30 inches wide, a saddle flashing is required. This special type of flashing can be covered in shingles or metal and directs water around the chimney, so it does not sit on the chimney seam closer to the top of the roof.
  • Tuckpointing – A procedure crucial to preserving a chimney as the brick lasts much longer than mortar, a mason will remove damaged mortar and replace it with fresh mortar.

Now that you are familiar with the parts of your chimney, inspect it from the inside and outside of your home. If you see any warning signs such as eroding bricks, a cracked flue liner, or rusted flashing, it’s time to schedule a consultation with a chimney specialist. Brothers’ repair experts have experience checking every point of your chimney, and our master masons can do everything from tuck-pointing to a full brick chimney repair.