A reclaimed chimney pot, having weathered over many years, is a far better match for a period property than a new one. Reproductions are available in many styles but can be expensive, whereas a 150-year-old chimney pot can still be in excellent condition, and is more environmentally friendly.
Chimney pots are usually made from brick, stone or more commonly clay, with three main finishes – terracotta red, buff or salt glazed, which gives a smooth, weatherproof exterior. From very plain to extremely ornate, some pots were produced in thousands whereas others were just one-offs, and historically were very decorative to represent the owner’s wealth.
If you are buying a period property, and suspect that the Chimney pot may be damaged, it might be worth getting a professional to take a look at the whole chimney. Problems with damp in the bricks and potential cracks could be symptomatic of a larger problem. It is also worth taking a look at the fireplace and chimney internally, as some simple maintenance could save you problems down the line.
How much do reclaimed chimney pots cost?
Make sure the pot you choose is in good condition, as prices vary greatly depending on it, as well as the age and style – from £20 up to a few thousand for one that is very old or rare. Don’t forget that it is not only the cost of a pot, but also the scaffolding and labour.
Which type of reclaimed chimney pot should I go for?
This will depend on the age of your property and whether the pot has been replaced. Early Tudor chimney pots were made from brick and often in a twisted design, whereas some late Gothic Tudor stacks have elaborate carvings.
Examples of more common pots are the King and Queen, which are normally round with points to represent a crown; the Bishop, either square or rectangular with a point at each corner mimicking the hat, and the Strawberry, resembling an upturned strawberry plant pot.
Some pots were designed to stop rain entering the stack and wind side drafts. These ‘T’ or ‘H’ pots were often also salt glazed, offering further protection. Those that weren’t designed for adverse weather often have cowls on top. Again there are different styles, including Pepper pots (also known as Elephant’s Feet), the vented vertical and the Mushroom.
What should I look out for?
One of the most important things to check for with a reclaimed chimney pot is cracks. If a coal fire has had high sulphur content, this eats and corrodes the texture of the clay inside and out. Over the years, water then penetrates and freezes, causing the pot to expand and contract then crack.
If the walls of the pot are cracked or decayed it is of no use, even as a garden planter, as it will only be a matter of time before it rains and the water freezes, expands and shatters the pot. Cracks are not always visible, and the best way to check for them is to lift up the chimney pot and tap it. If it rings then there are no cracks, but if it sounds hollow – beware!
Is it better to replace or restore old chimney pots?
Restoration very much depends on the type. Some stone pots are sectional so a stonemason can carve a replacement piece, or with Tudor twisted-style pots, it may be possible to replace individual bricks. For either option, a professional is recommended to carry out the repairs.
With terracotta, buff or salt-glazed pots, once they have cracked all you can do is replace them, and while it may seem cost-effective to do that yourself, it is important to ensure it is secure and watertight. If it becomes loose or leaks, the cost of a replacement and repairs could outweigh having paid a professional in the first place.