Chimneys: Their History and Construction

The Roofers TeamBuildingLeave a Comment

As roofers in Devon, we may well be tempted to take the chimney for granted. Almost every residential property has a chimney and experienced South West roofing contractors are familiar with all different types. However, not too many householders are familiar with the history of the chimney nor the technicalities behind its construction. To remedy that, we have written this article to give a better idea of just how chimneys first came into being and how different designs have evolved over the years. To begin, we should say that the chimney on a house or other building provides ventilation for hot gases and smoke from a solid fuel fire or gas burning appliance to be emitted to the outside of the property. Chimneys are almost always made vertically to allow them to efficiently draw out the gases to the stack through the internal channel of the chimney, which is known as the flue.


Chimneys made their first appearance in large houses in Northern Europe around the  the 12th century, with what is believed to be the oldest surviving chimney being in Yorkshire, at Conisbrough Castle, which dates back to 1185. Despite this early start, however, chimneys did not really begin to appear in conventional houses for another four to five hundred years. The Industrial Revolution marked the birth  of the industrial chimney, which became a feature of the Victorian skyline in many Northern towns and cities. became common in the late 18th century.

Chimneys in houses were constructed from wood and plaster or even mud. However, as we all know, most chimneys in the present day are made from bricks or stone. In order to prevent the smoke blowing back down the chimney, the chimney pot was introduced as an additional design feature.

Devon roofers chimney inspection
Chimney Construction

As a result of the somewhat limited capacity to manage transverse loads, chimneys in residential properties were frequently constructed in a “stack”. In this way, the fireplaces of every room of the house were able to share a single chimney. To take account of the requirements of every room in the house most properties were built with one chimney stack at the front of the house and one at the rear. The advent of central heating, as a replacement for solid fuel made the issue of where the chimney is placed less important and, in fact, gas flue pipes can now be bent around any obstructions and through the walls  of the house in a way that chimneys never could. In reality, most of the more modern means of heating a house do not really require a chimney at all but if the chimney is already there it is normally used as a flue. In modern houses, the gases are expelled through a vent pipe that goes through an external wall.

Where a chimney is  constructed on a house with a pitched roof, flashings are used to seal the joints to prevent water infiltration, as we have described in an earlier article on our blog.


Because the chimney is responsible for removing dangerous gases from the home it  should be kept in good order. Not only should a chimney sweep be regularly engaged to check the internal state of the flue, it is also prudent to engage the services of a firm of local roofers and roofing contractors to examine the fabric of the chimney. In that way you can not only ensure that dangerous gases are contained inside the chimney until they are emitted into the atmosphere but also that there is no leakage into the house that might cause damage to the property’s fabric and/or its contents.

For advice on you chimney or an other work that you would like to be looked at by our roofers in Torquay, Newton Abbot, Exeter and the rest of Devon

Contact The Roofers SW
The Roofers SW, South Devon Roofers,
Sterling House,
Decoy Industrial Estate,
Newton Abbot,
Tel 07515 393231 07710 621755 0800 0322213

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Captcha *