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Chimney Terminology: Chimney or Flue or Vent?

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Chimney Flue or Vent - Ann Arbor, MI - Clean Sweeps of MIDespite its simple appearance, your chimney is much more complicated than it might seem. While chimneys may decorate your roofline, they serve a much more important purpose than for mere aesthetics.

Because there are a variety of different kinds of chimneys, many homeowners do not know the correct chimney terminology to use when describing their fireplace system. Below is a discussion of three of the most commonly confused fireplace terms: chimney, flue, and vent.


The chimney is the vertical stack that extends from the top of your roofline, allowing smoke, gas, or other products of combustion to exit your home. A chimney may pass through other parts of the house before exiting your home; this is especially true in homes where the chimney is not on an exterior wall or is on the first floor.

Chimneys are typically constructed of bricks, mortar, or other masonry or are factory built and made of stainless steel. Some factory built chimneys are covered with a decorative chimney chase or siding or other roofing materials to match the rest of the house.

In a discussion of the parts of your fireplace system, the chimney tends to be the exterior portion that is exposed to the elements.


The term flue refers to the passage by which smoke, gas, or products of combustion are moved to the outdoors. Ducts, pipes, vents, and even chimneys can all be considered types of flues. The purpose of the flue is to protect the rest of the home from the heat of the byproducts of combustion caused by a fire.

Most homes with modern fireplaces have a lined flue. Many flues are lined with tiles, although they may need to be relined over time due to damage or decay. Chimneys with damaged flue liners are often repaired with cast in place or stainless steel liners to ensure the flue has no gaps or holes through with hot air, gas, embers, or sparks could escape.


Vents are similar to fireplaces and flues in that they may pass through other parts of the house and they do need temperature protection to prevent a transfer of heat from the vent to the surrounding building materials. However, vents are not designed to handle the high heat produced by wood burning fires. Because of this, vents are most commonly used with gas fireplaces.

Vents may exit vertically through the roof, but may also exit horizontally through a wall. Like chimneys and flues, vents allow the byproducts of combustion to exit the home while simultaneously drawing in outside air to fuel the fire. By drawing in air from the outside into a closed combustion system, fireplaces with vents are able to operate much more efficiently than their open hearth counterparts.

If you’re unsure as to whether your fireplace system has a chimney, flue, or vent, contact Clean Sweeps of Michigan today. Our highly trained staff can evaluate the health of your fireplace system while making sure you know the correct terminology to use for the future.