Chimney pots were traditionally unglazed terracotta pots with a tapered shape, designed to increase the draft of a chimney while providing an ornamental cap to a building. Their use is first recorded in the thirteenth century, and they were an important aid to home heating during the time when fireplaces were the main source of warmth. They also helped to vent the fumes from burning coal.
Originally found in Europe, chimney pots seem to have been brought to North America with settlers from France and England. The craft was taken up in the United States, and there are now several chimney pot manufacturers and suppliers in the US. Today, copper chimney pots are available as well as traditional terracotta ones, and terracotta pots with a glazed finish also exist.
Belying the name pot, chimney pots are available in a wide variety of sizes -- important because they must fit the flue. Besides that, they are available in a range of colors and designs to suit various architectural styles. Although one may purchase antique or reproduction chimney pots either to fit the house architecture, from an appreciation of history, or for beauty, the new diversity of patterns means that chimney pots are no longer associated exclusively with Tudor architecture. Among the shapes available are chimney pots that imitate chess pieces, octagonal columns, and those shaped like gun or cannon barrels. Custom pots from at least one US manufacturer sport ornamental dragons.
Chimney pots fit around the outside of the flue, but inside the chimney, so proper measurement is important to getting a good fit. Securing a piece of wire mesh over the top of the chimney pot can keep both leaves and small animals out, as well as keeping sparks in. Local fire code determines the requirements for spark arrestors, so checking before installation is important. Rainguards and special chimney pot designs to minimize downdraft are also available.