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Types Of Chimneys (Design Guide)

Welcome to our guide to the types of chimneys including popular designs, cost, pros & cons and features.
Masonry chimney on houseIf you live in an area that experiences winter, you might be wondering how best to heat your home. While a fireplace might not be the most efficient way to keep your entire household warm when the temperature begins to drop, it is a cozy addition to any room.

If you’re dreams of a White Christmas include visions of you and your loved ones gathering around a crackling fire, clutching warm beverages, and listening to holiday music – then a fireplace will indeed be the perfect addition to your living space.

Before you decide on what type of fireplace you want, however, you should also consider the different types of chimneys you can install.

A chimney is a vital component of any home with a fireplace, furnace, or even a boiler, so you need to make a decision on the chimney before you even begin installing the fireplace.

What Is A Chimney?

Traditional house with brick chimneyA chimney is an architectural feature that is used for ventilation. It is a vertical channel or pipe that is connected to a furnace, boiler, stove, or fireplace and is meant to conduct smoke, heat, and gases created by the operation of these features outside of a building.

While the chimney starts inside a building, it typically protrudes up and out of a building’s roof. This visible part of the chimney is called the “chimney stack”.

While holiday greeting cards may depict the chimney stack as a cute obstacle that Santa Clause needs to circumvent in order to deliver gifts, there is a more important purpose for a chimney stack. It is the through the chimney stack that the smoke and gases from your fireplace are eventually vented outside.

How Does A Chimney Work?

A properly working chimney keeps smoke and fumes from spreading inside your home by redirecting them outside. A chimney works by using the properties of “airflow” or the movement of air.

Hot air naturally rises, while cold air sinks. Chimneys take advantage of this property of air in what is called the stack effect or the chimney effect. With the stack effect, warm air from say a furnace or a fire place, moves up through the chimney. This air is called the “draft”

Types of Chimney Designs

There are several types of chimney designs that are commonly installed today. You should make your decision on what style of chimney to select depending on the type of fireplace that you want to install as well as the style and design of your home.

Metal Chimneys

Metal chimney designIf your home has a metal chimney, it merely means that the chimney shaft and stack are made of metal, usually stainless steel.

Metal chimneys are a great choice for almost any home as they will compliment almost any design style. They are usually the “go to” for any architect who is designing a home in the industrial or modern styles.

Metal chimneys are versatile; you can install them in double or triple walled structures. Just make sure that the wall that your chimney runs along is fully insulated. Also, if you are installing a metal chimney on a triple wall, make sure there is airflow between the layers.

Pros and Cons of Metal Chimneys

The major reason for the rise in popularity of metal chimneys is their durability. Metal chimneys will not corrode or rust easily and they are also abrasion-resistant. Metal is also a good heat conductor, which makes it a good material for a chimney.

One downside to metal chimneys is that can only be installed at 15 and 30-degree angles. Also, some people don’t like the look of “plain” metal chimneys.

While metal chimneys can be painted attractive colors or have a decorative top installed, the preferred way to make a metal chimney more attractive is to encircle it with masonry, wood, or even just an additional decorative metal casing.

Masonry Chimneys

Masonry chimney designA masonry chimney is often thought of as a “standard” or “traditional” chimney. It is the most common type of chimney used in homes and residences.

If you’ve never seen a chimney in real life, just seen pictures or illustrations, chances are that these are the chimneys you’ve seen. They are usually made up of bricks, blocks, or stones stacked upon each other and held together by cement or mortar.

Pros and Cons of Masonry Chimneys

One of the advantages of a masonry chimney is that the bricks that make up these types of chimneys often have heat absorbing properties. This is especially handy during winter months as the heat absorbed by the bricks will be radiated back into the room. This adds an extra warming effect to your fireplace or furnace.

Masonry chimneys are also considered quaint and charming, so having a nice masonry chimney stack sticking out of your roof often adds to the aesthetic appeal of your home and will increase its resale value.

One disadvantage to a masonry chimney though is, because of the material they are made out of, they can be very heavy. A typical masonry chimney will eight around 6 to 7 tons and could put a strain on your home’s foundation.

You will have to make sure you build a strong and solid foundation for your masonry chimney and that can increase the overall building cost of your home.

Prefabricated Chimneys (Factory Built)

Prefabricated chimney designMany contemporary homes, if they have a fireplace or furnace and need a chimney, have a prefabricated chimney.

A prefabricated chimney is made in a factory, usually made from some sort of sheet metals. Prefabricated chimney manufacturers offer chimneys in a variety of designs and sizes, you just need to pick the appropriate one for your home.

Once you’ve chosen what sort of prefabricated chimney you need, the manufacturer will deliver the chimney to you in several parts; these are then assembled or installed on site at your home.

Pros and Cons of Prefabricated Chimneys

As we mentioned, prefabricated chimneys come in a variety of designs. This means that there will be a prefab chimney that is sure to fit you overall home design.

Installing a prefabricated chimney is also cheaper than building masonry or metal chimney. It is also quicker to install a prefab chimney rather than to build one.

It should be noted, however, that prefabricated chimneys tend to be less durable than masonry and metal chimneys. They are also less able to withstand high heat, so you will have to regularly inspect your chimney and maybe repair or replace some sections.

Types of Prefabricated Chimneys

Home with air insulated chimneyIn general there are four types of prefabricated chimneys. These are air insulated, air cooled, combination and double walled chimneys. You should know the differences between the types as it will also help you decide which one will work best for you.

Air-Insulated Chimneys

An air insulated chimney is designed to minimize the air flow through the chimney by trapping air between its metal layers. Because the heated air doesn’t dissipate, it acts like an insulator.

The advantage to these types of chimneys is their increased heat effect. Since hot air in “trapped” within the chimney walls, it allows the heat to be radiated back through the chimney and into the room.

An air-insulated chimney is a bit more expensive and difficult to install than other prefabricated chimneys but it is an excellent choice for homes in areas that experience extreme cold. They can stand up to the cold better than other types of chimneys and will last longer.

Air-Cooled Chimneys

An air-cooled chimney has multiple layers of metal with some space in-between to allow for air flow. It’s similar to air-insulated chimneys in that way, but the difference is that an air-cooled chimney doesn’t “trap” the air.

Because the chimney is designed to let the hot air out, the heat from the chimney is dissipated, resulting in a slight cooling effect. Because of this, it’s not really recommended for installation in areas which experience extreme cold.

Another reason to avoid an air-cooled chimney if winters are particularly harsh in your area is, because extreme cold can result in a lot of condensation within the metal layers which could prematurely corrode your entire chimney.

Combination Chimneys

A combination chimney is a prefabricated chimney that combines several features from other chimney types. For example, some chimney manufacturers offer a chimney that is both air-cooling and air-insulating.

The types of combination chimney that you can get will often depend on the manufacturer, so make sure to look closely at their catalog to find a chimney that will suit your needs and will stand up well to the weather conditions of where you live.

Double Walled Chimneys

Mid century modern house with metal double walled chimneyA double walled chimney is also known as a mass-insulated chimney. It is made up of double layers of metal, usually stainless steel, and a layer of insulation.

Usually, these chimneys look like a steel cylinder within a bigger steel cylinder with the space between packed with insulation. Having insulation in between the two layers of metal reduces the amount of heat exchanged.

Wood Burning Stove Chimneys

Wood burning chimneyIf you want to have a wood-burning stove as a heat source, you will need to make sure that you connect it to a proper wood burning stove chimney.

Many styles of wood-burning stoves can be easily connected to existing chimneys. Wood-burning stoves can be connected to metal and masonry chimneys. Many prefab chimney manufacturers will also offer chimney that will work with a wood-burning stove.

Wood burning stoves come with a stove pipe that you can attach to a chimney that will carry the exhaust from the body of the stove and out through the chimney stack.

Pros and Cons of Wood Burning Stove Chimneys

A wood-burning stove is easily attached to an existing chimney, so installing a wood-burning stove is easier and cheaper than building or installing a fireplace. It is highly efficient for heating a room.

Before installing a wood-burning stove and chimney, however, you need to make sure you have the room for it. You will need to keep some space free around the stove as the heat radiating from it can damage walls and warp wood floors.

Fireplace Insert Chimneys

Installing chimney fireplace insertA fireplace insert chimney is a chimney that is designed to be used with a fireplace insert.

A fireplace insert is a special type of wood stove that is designed to fit into an existing masonry fireplace. This type of stove then needs to be connected so that the flow of smoke and gases are directed through the masonry chimney.

A fireplace insert chimney connects to the fireplace insert stove through the use of a liner system that is inserted into the existing masonry chimney forming a connection which will allow smoke and gas to be diverted away from the room and vented outside the building.

Pros and Cons of Fireplace Insert Chimneys

The advantage of a fireplace insert and a fireplace insert chimney is it makes use of existing infrastructure so it is easy to install. It is a cute and cozy addition to any room.

Care needs to be taken, however, that the connections are made well, otherwise the smoke and gas could leak out and discolor the surrounding areas.

Cost to Add A Fireplace And Chimney

House with decorative stone chimneyThe cost to add a fireplace and a chimney top your home will largely depend on the type of fireplace and chimney that you decide to install.

A custom built stone fireplace will cost you about $7,500 to $15,000 to build, including labor and materials. A brick fireplace, on the other hand will cost you about $5,500 to $11,000 to build.

Building a chimney will add to the overall cost of building a fireplace. The average cost to install a new chimney will be from around $4,000 to 8,000.

The final cost of a chimney will depend on the type of chimney you decide on and the size that you will need.

• Metal chimney $75-100 per foot

• Masonry chimney $120-240 per foot

• Prefabricated chimney $85-150 per foot
o Air-insulated $85 -100 per foot
o Air-cooled $100-130 per foot.
o Combination $120-150 per foot
o Double walled $90-100 per foot

• Wood Burning Stove Chimney $175-350 per foot

• Fireplace Insert Chimney $100-200 per foot

Chimney with metal snow guardThe prices for chimney construction that we quoted above include labor and materials. It will not include any extras like decorative caps, finishes, or cases.

What are your favorite types of chimneys? Let us know in the comments section. For more related content visit our article about gas vs electric fireplaces.