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What is a Chimney Crown?

By Dantzel Cenatiempo
Updated May 16, 2024
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The chimney crown does exactly as its name suggests: it tops off the upper end of a chimney. Another name for a chimney crown is a chimney wash. It’s one of many essential chimney parts, but few people realize that its main purpose is to act as a protective roof or chimney cap that shields the chimney’s structural elements from weather-related deterioration. This is important because, in many cases, mortar is naturally weaker in the chimney’s upper section and will slowly fall apart if exposed to repeated rain and snow.

Since a good crown is vital to the longevity of the chimney itself, homeowners should know how to spot both bad and good crowns when buying a home with a chimney attached. The most basic thing to watch for is how far out the crown extends. The crown should reach well beyond the edges of the chimney walls, preferably 2 to 2.5 inches (5 to 6.35 cm), with a lip that is known, oddly enough, as a "kerf." Kerfs act as miniature rain gutters to prevent water from rolling to the underside of the crown and finding its way onto the chimney.

Having all the right elements on a properly built chimney crown can give a chimney enough structural integrity to last for a hundred years. One of these elements is called a "flashing" and although it isn’t technically part of the crown itself, all good crowns are conventionally installed alongside a flashing to provide an added measure of security. Flashings can be made of copper or steel. They look like a simple metal band placed directly below the chimney crown, and they deflect any excess water that may have reached the upper chimney bricks despite the kerf’s protection.

When a chimney crown is added to a home, the homeowner should make sure it is made of the right materials. Masons will sometimes build a crown that isn’t up to par, and if the homeowner doesn't know the difference, he’ll end up paying only to watch the chimney rapidly deteriorate over the next few years. The number one rule is to never use bricks. The whole reason for a chimney crown in the first place is because mortar isn’t weatherproof, so if a mason is using mortar and bricks to construct the crown, that should be a warning sign. Instead, opt for metal, stone, or concrete slabs.

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Discussion Comments
By Catapult — On Jul 16, 2011

@amysamp - The funny thing is that it can happen in a chimney that isn't useable either. My parents' house was built in 1901, and the chimney is not even visible anymore from the outside, unless you know just where to look. However, that doesn't change that it needs a good chimney crown. We had an issue with bats several years ago and had to call in chimney repair for the crown. Unfortunately it would have been way too much money and work to get them to make the chimney fully operational again, so we paid the money to fix something we can't use.

By amysamp — On Jul 15, 2011

@tolleranza - You get used to the noise luckily, because the final interesting fact about my long drawn out story, is that in the state where I live it is illegal to get the birds out of your chimney. So we couldn't call a chimney sweep to come get the birds out of our chimney!

By tolleranza — On Jul 15, 2011

@amysamp - This may be animal insensitivity on my part (but I am sure that noise, especially in your living room is driving you crazy); why don't you have someone come get the birds out of your chimney?

By amysamp — On Jul 14, 2011

My husband and I just began hearing animal-like sounds coming from our fireplace chimney. Well I actually thought he was overreacting, and that the sounds were just coming from our flat screen television that was hanging above our fireplace.

We didn't want to investigate too far and have some type of critter roaming our house (though I am sure our labrador retriever puppy would have loved it). So we began asking around if anyone had heard of certain animals getting into chimneys.

This is where I learned that snakes could climb walls (ew), luckily it wasn't a snake. This is where I learned squirrels can get into chimney, but it wasn't that either. A friend of ours who also has a chimney, said they were birds! I think he said they were a type of swallow.

As soon as he said bird, the noises made sense. Our friend mentioned the bird makes nests in the chimney. So that is why the sounds changed over time. First it was just a nest and one bird. Then it was a whole bunch of chirping as the little birdies hatched!

We will definitely be putting on a chimney crown or cap as soon as the birds leave!

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