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Basic Fireplace & Chimney Terminology You Need to Know

Like every industry, the hearth industry has its own words and terms that aren’t automatically understood by everyone. If you use a fireplace and chimney, here’s some terminology you should be familiar with.

Structure & components

chimney services, shelbyville tnChimney: Differentiated from the flue, which is an area, the chimney is the actual structure itself and is usually made of bricks and mortar.

Flue: The channel within the chimney structure through which smoke is drafted. In addition, vent systems for furnaces also are called flues.

Chimney liner/flue liner: A chimney liner is a protective sleeve that is either installed or built inside the flue to safeguard interior masonry from heat, flames and acidic compounds. Flue liners also prevent smoke and harmful gases from seeping into the air of the home. Liners most commonly are made of clay tile, stainless steel or a poured-in-place material.

Smoke chamber: The area above the firebox where smoke and heat mix and then are funneled up into the flue. Within the smoke chamber is a smoke shelf, which keeps smoke from traveling back into the fireplace.

Damper: Dampers open and close to control air flow between the house and the air outside the house. Dampers must be open when the fireplace is in use and should be closed when the fireplace is dormant. Throat dampers sit just above the firebox; top-mount dampers are located at the top of the chimney and perform many of the functions of a chimney cap.

Masonry fireplace: A custom-built fireplace, often surrounded by brick or stone and connected to a masonry chimney.

Firebox: The space within a fireplace into which wood logs, gas log sets or fireplace inserts are placed. Informally, firebox and fireplace are interchangeable terms.

Prefab fireplace: A fireplace that was built in a factory ready to install in a home.

Chimney cap: A chimney component that covers the entire top of the chimney, protecting the flue from incoming water and debris. Also protects the chimney crown. (Flue covers are components that cover only the flue opening.)

Chimney crown: The concrete structure at the top of the chimney that seals off the inner flue area. Usually beveled to allow rain water to run off and away from the masonry.

Chimney breast: The part of the chimney below the roof line.

Chimney stack: The visible part of the chimney above the roof.

Ash dump: A large compartment behind the firebox of some masonry fireplaces into which ashes can be pushed and deposited. Ash dumps are cleaned through a door located outside the house or in the basement.

Hearth: The flooring or foundation on which the fireplace sits. Typically made of special bricks and refractory mortar, hearths can extend away from the fireplace forward and/or to the sides.

Hearth area: This general term refers to everything in the fireplace area including the fireplace/firebox, mantel, brick hearth and fireplace surround.

chimney sweep and inspection in manchester tnOperational and maintenance terminology

Chimney sweep: As a noun, it refers to a professional who cleans chimneys. As a verb, it refers to the process of chimney cleaning, which involves the use of scrubbers, rods, brushes, solvents and vacuums to remove creosote and debris.

Tuckpointing: The process of removing decayed mortar in the chimney’s masonry and replacing it.

Smoke chamber parging: The process of smoothing out the surfaces of the smoke chamber to enhance drafting and reduce the creosote buildup.

Updraft: The draft of air coming from within the home that moves smoke up into the flue.

Downdraft: Outside air that moves down the flue, typically caused by high air pressure, cold air in the flue or the absence of a chimney cap.

Contact Your Local Chimney Experts

A-1 Chimney Specialist provides all the services you need to keep your chimney and fireplace system working safely and correctly. If you live in or around Winchester, TN, call (931) 967-3595. In the Huntsville, AL, area, reach us at (256) 285-4895.