Each year before you begin to burn your fireplace, it is prudent to inspect your chimney cap. After a year, animals may have gotten debris stuck in the wire mesh that keeps animals out of the chimney in the first place or creosote may have clogged it up in extreme cases. You want to inspect it or have a professional inspect it because a clogged chimney cap will cause the chimney’s draft to drastically decrease. To inspect the chimney cap you will need to get up to the top of the chimney. A safe ladder set up is necessary, and it is wise to have a buddy hold the ladder for you just in case. If you do not feel safe climbing up to the top of your chimney to inspect the cap, do not have the proper tools to reach the cap, or are just generally unable to, your chimney professional who comes out to sweep your chimney will be able to inspect it for you.
You should clean your cap, especially after a long winter of frequent burning. Generally speaking you will save money by performing this service by yourself. It is not difficult; the most difficult part is safely accessing the chimney top. After you’ve reached the top of the chimney, use an appropriately sized wrench to unscrew the screws holding the cap to the top of the chimney. If you have a stainless steel cap, detergent and water is the first
method of cleaning you should try. You can use a stiff bristle brush to try and scrub away any creosote buildup on the cap. Vinegar is another great cleaner that may come in handy if the detergent doesn’t work; while working on the ground soak a cloth in a vinegar and water mixture and let it sit on the cap so the vinegar can break down the creosote.
Some folks who actually do go through with the cleaning of their cap do so because they have a copper chimney cap which will turn greenish over time without proper maintenance. These caps are more expensive but really do look great on the home. To clean a copper chimney cap you can either pour vinegar on the cap and dump salt on it, rubbing the salt with a dry rag and rinsing dry with water or you can make a paste from salt, white vinegar, and flour. This paste should not run but be viscous enough to spread onto the cap. It will need to sit for about an hour on the cap, rinse with water and towel dry to prevent water marks from forming.