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A Chimney Guide

It won’t be too long now before a certain jolly man brings gifts into your home via your chimney. So what exactly is a chimney? When most people think of chimneys, they’re really envisioning fireplaces. Since the dawn of civilization, humans have gathered around open fires for a sense of safety and community. Keep reading to learn more about the various components that make up your chimney system.


Chimney CapChimney caps cover the top opening of the flue for the purpose of keeping animals, debris, rain and other elements out (which is important because moisture is the #1 cause of chimney and fireplace deterioration). The flue is a safe pathway for heat and combustion by-products to exit your home. A chimney liner is the safe, approved material that lines your flue’s interior; it’s commonly made out of either clay or stainless steel. The chimney itself is the structure that passes through the construction of your home and encases your flue.

Smoke Chamber Assembly

The smoke chamber is the dome area of brick that supports the flue tiles and directs flue gases safely to the flue. Below the smoke chamber is the smoke shelf, which is located behind the damper and prevents down drafts from coming into the firebox area as well as your home. The damper closes off the fireplace from the outside of your house and prevents air loss from your home when the fireplace isn’t in use.

Firebox Assembly

The firebox is where you build the fire; it’s also referred to as the interior of the fireplace. The lintel is a horizontal architectural header above your fireplace opening that provides the support for the brickwork above the fireplace opening. Heat-resistant firebrick lines the firebox of your fireplace. The floor of your fireplace is known as the inner hearth; this encompasses the entire floor inside the opening of the fireplace. The floor immediately outside of your firebox is known as the outer hearth (or simply just the hearth) and is required for safety (NFPA code requires the outer hearth to extend 18” from the fireplace opening).

Base Assembly

An ash dump is an opening located in the inner hearth of some fireplaces, which leads to an ash pit – a cavity underneath the fireplace firebox used as a receptacle for ashes – for convenient ash removal and fireplace cleaning by way of a clean-out door located either outside your home or in your basement.

The fireplace is still the focus of family living in many homes, especially around the holidays. Memories of cold winter evenings spent relaxing cozily in front of a crackling fire are hard to beat. Having read this article, you will be able to schedule an appointment for your next chimney inspection and/or sweeping with confidence, as you have become a more informed consumer. Happy holidays from the A-1 Chimney Specialist team.