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Federation Chimneys

The Picturesque Chimney

Chimneys were given full architectural expression in the Federation period.









































Rebecca Gross writes:

"Chimneys on period houses do more than just blow smoke.

The grandness of a house – and the status and taste of the original homeowners – can be portrayed through

a chimney’s size and decoration, as well as

the number of chimneys featured.

Aesthetically, chimneys also reinforce the roof, add height, attract attention and draw the eye upwards." [1

Whether still in use or standing dormant, chimneys help retain the external character of a heritage home and can be restored or remodelled to work more efficiently." 

The terracotta chimney pots of Federation chimneys improved the draw of the chimney and reduced rain access.


Gallery of Federation Chimneys

The terms ‘flue’ and ‘chimney’ are often confused.


The flue is the working section of the chimney which takes the products of combustion up and out into the atmosphere, while

the chimney is a structure built around a core of clay or concrete flue liners, terminating with a pot.

-see Chimney components explained at left-

Chimney Components Explained

If you are planning on having a fire or stove, you’ll need to understand the inner workings of a chimney. With the help of a detailed diagram, we guide you through the chimney, from flue to hearth.

NB: The diagram below dissects a masonry chimney with one flue. A chimney may in fact contain more than one flue, and its type is dictated by the heat-producing appliance required. To open up an old chimney, the flue must be cleaned and inspected by a professional chimneysweep, and possibly relined to meet regulations.
























1. Flue lining: An approved fire-resistant material which lines the inside of the FLUE, usually made of refractory concrete or impervious clay, but sometimes metal. All chimneys have to be built with a flue lining to protect the masonry from combustion gases, of which the lining also improves the flow. It was not uncommon for old flues to be pargeted (lined) with lime mortar as the chimney was erected, but many were not lined at all. There are two types of liner: Class 1 (solid fuel) and Class 2 (gas).

2. Flue: A vertical pipe or duct that provides a safe pathway for heat, smoke and other combustion byproducts away from the fireplace. Lies within the interior of the chimney. Flues must be high enough to ensure sufficient draught — around 4.5m in most cases.

3. Flue connector: Connects the fireplace to the FLUE. Bends shouldn’t exceed 45°, to enable them to be swept clean.

4. Smoke chamber: The space directly above the DAMPER, where the smoke ‘gathers’ before passing into the FLUE.

5. Combustion air inlet: The fire must be supplied with air from outside the home in order to safely burn fuel; this inlet controls the quantity of the air supplied for combustion.

6. Hearth: A base that isolates a heat-producing appliance from people and combustible items. The hearth’s thickness is dependent upon the appliance.

7. Firebrick: Laid masonry of refractory brick forming the rear and side walls of a fireplace. Refractory bricks are made of a ceramic material built primarily to withstand high temperatures.

8. Gather: A narrow opening between the outlet of the fireplace and FLUE, over which a DAMPER is usually situated, to improve draught and reduce pressure in the SMOKE CHAMBER.

9. Smoke shelf: A horizontal surface directly behind the DAMPER of a fireplace to prevent downdraughts. It also helps the chimney draw the smoke up into the FLUE.

10. Damper: Also called a ‘throat’. A pivoted or sliding metal flap in the FLUE that regulates the amount of draught, preventing excessive variations. It can also close off the fireplace from the outside of the house, preventing air loss when the fireplace is not in use. Sometimes it is located on the appliance. [3]

- Read more

Restore and Renovate your Fireplaces and Chimneys

Probably the most common issue with chimney stacks is eroded pointing (mortar).

  • In itself, eroding mortar may not sound too serious, but if neglected it will hasten the onset of more serious problems such as

    • instability,

    • water penetration and even

    • disintegration.

  • If caught in time, all that may be required to fix this and prevent further deterioration is a spot of localised repointing.


Interior designer Fiona Austin says that from an aesthetic point of view, restoring a fireplace that has been covered is really the only option in a room where the chimney breastwork remains, unless the entire chimney breast is removed.

”When you’ve got a chimney breast that pokes out into a room … and it’s been bricked up, it does look really strange,” she says.


Brick chimneys and open brick fireplaces are considered less desirable than slow combustion heaters and flues, due to being less efficient, dirty and emitting a lot of particles into the air.

Existing brick chimneys can be fitted with fireplace inserts and stainless steel flues to help improve efficiency. [2]

Home owners contemplating restoring a fireplace to a functional feature need to be sure the chimney is in good order.

A chimney in a poor state can lead to house fires, Mr Bradbury warns.

”If there’s an existing fireplace, just make sure it’s safe to use. If householders are not sure, they can get someone like us to come in and, for a fee, we’ll inspect the chimney and make sure it is safe to use.”

And, of course, any work on a fireplace needs to comply with the building code.

Mr Bradbury’s final word of advice?

”Spend a little extra and get it looking right,” he says.

”When people walk into a home, especially a period-style home, they want to see the fireplace and, whether it’s working or not, it’s got to look right.” [2]

Some typical chimney problems

The following are some of the most frequently encountered problems which are the result of inefficient or deteriorating chimneys. Read about some likely causes for these problems. You can also download ourLaymans Guide to Chimney Problems as a PDF. You may need Adobe Acrobat Reader to open the PDF file.

The fire is not drawing properly
This is usually the result of a cold or an obstructed flue or it can arise from insufficient height relative to the ridge of the roof or an adjacent building. Large unnecessary voids at the base of the chimney may also stop the fire drawing properly. Sometimes double glazing and very efficient draught excluders around doors, etc, may prevent an adequate flow of air for the fire to work correctly.

The fire creates excessive soot
This usually means a lazy and inefficient flue although some bituminous coals are particularly prone to this. Such a flue may not be the right diameter for the fire or stove, or may not be satisfactorily insulated so that the fumes do not rise fast enough and therefore create soot deposits. Excessive soot and tar can be a considerable fire hazard, particularly if the chimney structure has deteriorated; or where, on 19th century property for example, floor joists have been built into the stack, when the whole house can be at risk.

Mortar falls into the fireplace
Bits of brick or mortar falling down the flue indicate a serious deterioration in the chimney structure. Such deterioration normally occurs from the inside of the flue but if there is any indication of weakness on the outside of the chimney then attention is obviously necessary.

There are fumes in the rooms
These may not be easily detected on closed appliances although if, with an open fire, the chimney smokes back into the room they are then obvious. Fumes contain carbon monoxide and are dangerous. Where there are leaks in the chimney the fumes can find their way into upstairs rooms and attics. Sometimes a tell-tale smoke stain around the edge of a carpet shows the presence of fumes.

Left: There are fumes in the room

The chimney breast feels hot
This means that the chimney has deteriorated and may be dangerous. A hot wall in the room above may be a similar symptom. If stains also appear on the chimney breast this is a sign that tar or acids have condensed and are eating into the chimney mortar and brickwork.

Left: The chimney breast feels hot

The fire or stove is using too much fuel
Large uninsulated flues require a lot of heat and fuel to make them draw. In particular high efficiency modern appliances have only a relatively small outlet pipe for the fumes. If these discharge into a much larger uninsulated flue, their rise can be decelerated to the point when the appliance just will not draw. An insulated flue of the correct size is required to ensure that an adequate draught is created for them to burn as their designers intended. Otherwise they will use too much fuel and the slow moving fumes will also condense into acids which will attack the internal surface of the chimney.

Left: The fire or stove is using too much fuel

Fire Risk?
Tar and soot deposits are a considerable fire risk; combine this with poor chimney structure or floor joists built up into the stack and the whole house is at risk.

Is your chimney a fire risk?


Federation-House Information

Details about renovating Australia's Own Housing Style - latest: Federation Gardens
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