Fireplaces installed in most homes in the 80’s til now are no longer masonry. They are called zero-clearance or factory built fireplaces. They have a metal firebox and metal flue and typically a stucco chimney with a metal chase cover. In the business, they are often, derogatorily, called temporary fireplaces, especially if they are located near the ocean. What happens is that the salt air and higher humidity causes the chase cover and cap to rust and decay fairly rapidly. When they deteriorate they allow water inside the chimney, causing more problems. This is a replacement we did in Manhatten Beach, using copper which in time will patina that lovely shade of green.
These before and after pictures of a traditional masonry chimney flue. That ugly matierial you see in the before is creosote. Creosote is a byproduct of incomplete combustion of wood, typically most prevalent when first starting a fire and when burning unseasoned wood. Creosote is very flamible and where large deposits accumulate in a chimney, a chimney fire is very possible and extremely dangerous. The normal temperature in a chimney during a regular fire would be around 500 degrees. When a chimney fire occurs the temperature can go as high as 1800 degrees. When they occur, they can destroy the chimney and set the house on fire. Removing the hazardous creosote and inspecting the chimney for safety and integrity are the two main purposes of a chimney sweep. I get calls regularly from people who have had a chimney fire. It is commonly observed, when flame is shooting out the top of a chimney like a giant torch, with flame reaching 10 feet in the air. Quite a sight. Another call i get is people thinking a jet engine buzzed their house. When a chimney fire occurs it can make quite a roaring inside the house. I sometimes make the possibly poor joke, that a chimney fire can suck up small animals and children up the flue, so much air flow occurs to support the fire.
This is a very beautiful custom chimney cap we built for a house in Long Beach, again out of copper which will patina. We have a very wide variety of ones we can build and install.
Our Mediterranean-style home has three large chimney caps that were painted the same color as the house. We replaced them about 10 years ago when they had rusted, but we live very close to the ocean, and they again were badly rusted. (In fact, one had toppled due to the rust and corrosion.) We found Lucky Sully on Angie’s list, and had them come out to measure and give us an estimate. Dan recommended we replace the rusted caps with copper caps, which would be more durable in the salt air. He produced the caps and installed them for us. Read more