Chimneys: Masonry vs. Metal

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chimneycapA fireplace adds a sophisticated beauty to a home. Many homeowners struggle with the decision to use a metal or masonry chimney. The decision is ultimately up to you. Today I’ll go over some pros and cons for each to help you decide.

Choosing Your Chimney Style

No one can choose your chimney style for you. Compare the pros and cons of each style, and look online and in your neighborhood for ideas. Gather pictures of chimney styles you like so you can show your builder. Ask the advice of others who own homes with chimneys, and after you’ve gathered a significant amount of information, make your choice.

Metal Chimney

Flexibility – The most effective chimney goes straight up, reducing buildup of creosote in the long run. However, some chimneys must be off-set, meaning something is in the way of their ability to go in a straight line. A stainless steel chimney offers the flexibility required for an off-set.

Efficiency – Metal chimneys don’t generally have the ability to produce a high heat reflection. This is the primary area that allows a masonry chimney to outshine a metal chimney.

Structural Limits – Weight is often an issue with the placement of chimneys. Those located on the first or second floor of a home can usually be safely built using masonry, but those located on higher floors should consider metal due to the weight of masonry.

Aesthetics – Stainless steel chimneys, whether they’re finished in a reflective steel finish or a black finish, are very lovely for a variety of house builds. A rustic looking cabin or a cape cod, for example, looks beautiful with a stainless steel chimney.

Masonry Chimney

Flexibility – Masonry chimneys allow for very slight off-sets, but they do not offer the flexibility of a metal chimney.

Efficiency – Masonry chimneys ensure higher heat reflection than metal chimneys which serves a dual purpose; it keeps the area around the fireplace warmer and increases smoke removal capabilities of the chimney.

Structural Limits – Masonry chimneys are beautiful, but heavy additions to a home. Precautions are taken to ensure safety, but masonry should be limited to fireplaces on the first and second floors.

Aesthetics – Masonry encompasses a variety of materials including brick, block, or stone. All are very beautiful when built correctly. This theme is often carried through to other areas of the home such as covering for the foundation, a porch, or patio.

Fireplace and Chimney Maintenance

Regardless of the style you choose, your chimney isn’t a build-it-and-forget-it structure. Regular maintenance is required to ensure proper functionality, and to reduce the chances of chimney fire. Chimney maintenance may be done by you as a DIY project, but it is a messy job.

A once-yearly inspection of both the structure and the liner are highly recommended in order to ensure there are no problems. I am a F.I.R.E. Certified Chimney and Fireplace Inspector and IAFCI Certified Professional Chimney Inspector with years of experience with chimneys in the Philadelphia area. Give me a call any time to set up a consultation or an appointment.

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