The Besio Custom Copper Lighthouse Shaped Chimney Cap
Details & Photo Page

Glen Arbor, Michigan (3/09)
Updated 5-1-2009

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This is the largest and most elaborate copper chimney cap project I have worked on to date. This is for Greg Besio in Hinsdale Illinois, who had a house built on the lake in Glen Arbor, Michigan. He first contacted me 2/17/08 and we gradually worked out this project through 60 some e-mails along with several photos and finally to this diagram on the right.

I had to explain how his first diagram (shown on the left) idea would not have worked out. Mainly since it would not have allowed for a sufficient exhaust flow. He has 3 flues in a single chimney and he was originally thinking of covering each one separately with this taller one resembling a lighthouse. He also realized this would be too small to be recognizable as a lighthouse shape, so he decided to have me re-quote this to make one larger lighthouse shaped chimney cap to cover all 3 flues and this is what we came up with from our collaborative efforts.

I have since changed this design even more to enhance the look. Mainly bringing out the railing another 3" from the base and making the upper base 6" narrower to make the catwalk look more realistic. This is still only about 1/2 scale of an actual lighthouse, but quite a large chimney cap at over 7' tall plus a 53" long finial above that.

Here is some shots of the hardwood support frame I needed to build to cover the whole top of his chimney and anchor this down in high wind storms. This also needs to support the lighthouse shaped chimney cap under thick snow loads of Michigan. It was important to get the alignment just right to have this octagonal ring clear the flue liners and have the chimney cap sit level.

This was far more tricky to build than I had imagined. It took me a over a weeks to build and another week to cover with copper. The weight of the chimney cap has to be distributed out to the sides of this framework. I used over $250 worth of this ipe hardwood; with 69.5' of boards cut into these 32 pieces and held together with Gorilla Glue and stainless steel screws. I used 9 of these 1/4" (#14) stainless steel screws to hold each corner together, with each hole pre-drilled. This wood is so dense and hard that if I did not drill the hole just the right size the screw will snap off in the wood before it was cinched down, which happened a few time building this frame.

This design evolved and changed several times before it was finished. I designed this frame with a 1/2" gap on each side, so hopefully it will go on with out giving the installers any grief. The corner pieces you see here are what will rest over the top of the concrete slab.

As you can see this octagonal ring is strong enough for me stand on top of it at each side. This wood frame weighs 115# at this point, before I covered it with copper. This wood frame should rest just below the top edges of the flue liners, so they should not get too hot

Here is some shots of this wood framework being covered in copper with the first section started.

I had literally put twice as much into his than I had predicted in the quote I sent on 7/2/08, but I've felt this is what is needed. That still does not mean this is going to cost you more than we had agreed on. I have also decided to use a thicker 32oz copper for this next section that will attach to this base/pan, in stead of just the 20oz copper I normally use. This 11" tall section has 16.8 sq' in it, so at 2# per sq' = 33.6#.

I also needed to make a liner to go inside the ring dropping down. I also had to cover the center brace to keep it dry and from exposure to sparks. Below are a few shots from underneath.


I decided to use a much thicker 32oz copper for this next octagonal base chamber for added strength. It is not as tall as I had planned in the diagram, since the pan is so much taller by 9". I made it only 11" tall, in stead of 16" shown in the diagram.


These pics show the mid section being formed that goes just under the vent windows. The blue is just a plastic film over the copper. I decided to make this chamber a little smaller at just 3' wide, so there is a more noticeable transition from the lower section. The railing will be 3" set out past the 4' 9" wide base bringing the difference from 9" to 14", so it will look more like a full catwalk.

This is the SS screen vent section that is to resemble the windows/light part of a lighthouse. In stead of bending copper sheet metal to frame this I decided to use copper pipes. At the base is less than 10' of 1.5" copper pipe, which happen to cost over twice as much as the 32' of 1" vertical pipes I used here. They do sell 45 degree pipe connectors, but I wanted a more sharp look at the corners, so I cut them at a 22.5 degree angle on each end for these to miter together at this 45 degree corner. It is then riveted to the screen from behind and underneath with a copper plate under each corner.

I used a pair of 1" copper pipes for the corner framework attached from inside, so that took 32' of pipe to make just this little 2' tall section, yet still did not cost even 1/3 what that 10' base pipe cost me.

Here is it with the cap metal formed and attached to this section, which is now 24" tall and 33.5" wide, not including the copper chamber it is sitting on.

Here is the copper sheets for the graduation from the first octagonal base chamber up to the upper base chamber. I angle it with a 6/12 pitch the be sure to shed not just rain water, but fallen debris from tree as well. This angle also adds a lot of support strength. I would normally not build this with standing seams, but it was the best way to connect the triangular support pieces underneath.

I made these internal supports to help hold the weigh of the sections above with snow loads. I also chose to extend this tapered cover a 3" inches out past the sides of this section to attach the railing to, so it looks more like the light house in the photos he sent than the diagram shows.

Here is the copper pipes for the railing. I used 29.75' of 3/4" pipe for the top and bottom horizontal rail, and 32' of 1/2" pipe for the vertical railing. This required 80 connectors to solder to these 112 pieces of pipe together to form this railing. This railing is about 14" tall and the slats are spaced 6" apart.

This took 12' of copper gutter to form the eaves here, cut into 18" segments. I bent the bottom down to form this rim that drops down over the SS screen cage rim that will be the attachment flange. This one section took me about 6 hours to cut and form this together. This is 42" wide.

This is showing the finial support pipe cross brace being made and installed. The tricky part is making sure this will be straight and level

Here is the curved roof slats for the internal supports for the roof skin being installed checking the level as I go.

I then began to attach some of the roof skin over these slats. Do you think this will be strong enough?

This is showing the seamless sheet of 16oz copper I attached up under this woof piece to close this off from the exhaust. It is also important for the sake of looks, as this will be seen from underneath after it is installed on his chimney. Also if the roof even begins to leak then the water will be diverted outside the SS screen.

The top of this roof is pretty flat, so I made this small come to shed the rain off to the sides and also help support this pipe at the top. Then this round flange is soldered to the pipe and makes a perfect seal to this octagonal cone.

This may bit be the prettiest bell shaped roof at close inspection, but it is a good deal stronger than it would be otherwise. I need to minimize the use of solder, knowing that it would melt at 1/4 the temperature that this copper can handle.

Here it is outside my workshop to get some better shots assembled. This discoloration in the right shot is from adding solder to help hold the railing in place after I had used 64 rivets. This part is low enough to the exhaust screen that it should never get hot enough to melt the solder. They will need the extra strength if they choose to lift this from ropes attached to this railing. to lift the 300# below it.

I know it would have looked better to have made the wider octagonal chamber below this railing much taller, but I also needed to keep the cost down, as I am already over $2k over budget on this, which I have to eat, since there is a ceiling cost of $7.5k before I started.

This is showing the crate being fabricated to safely house this unusual chimney cap for it's long journey across the country. I felt the need to get a 3" thick foam cushion pad for this to rest on, so it does not get dented up on the bumpy roads it will travel over.

This is 462.5# in all and 72.5% of this is copper weight.
Weights and cost breakdown of these pieces are as follows:

Main base/pan weight 209# -

  • 115# - wood framework inside the pan

  • 94# of copper sheet metal over the wood

  • $1,880 - 75.2 sq' of copper X $25

  • + $395 for 5/4 x 6 hardwood boards

  • + $225 for 2 x 2 hardwood boards

Lower octagon base w/railing weight 102.8#

  • 33.7# of 32oz copper = 16.84 sq'

  • 38# of 20oz copper = 30.4 sq'

  • 31# of copper pipe railing

  • $2,414 - 102.8# X $20

Mid octagon chamber and SS screen section weight 71.2#

  • 24.2# of 20oz copper mid chamber

  • 27.4# of copper pipes

  • 13.4# of SS screen = 18.6 sq' X $20

  • $1,404 - 51.6# copper and SS screen

Roof & finial weight 87#

  • 12' of K-5 style 20oz copper gutter for eaves

  • $1,512.50 - 60.5 sq' copper

  • $125 for the finial mount built into the roof

  • $340 - 53" x 10" Morgana style finial w/43" solid brass mast rod w/15% discount - 11.4#

I had to make a separate smaller crate for the SS screen chamber and the copper chamber below that, since it would not fit inside this crate. Trust me I tried to make it work. this crate is 8' long, 7' 4" tall, and 42" wide. If it was even 1" taller it would not have fit in the delivery truck. This one crate was around 700#

We had agreed to keep this project cost within a cap of $7,500 including the crate and shipping cost, so this shows how my ideals of quality well exceeded the cost in building this chimney cap with him saving over $2,000 on this project. I did my best to build these pieces stronger than I imagine it would need to be to withstand a century of harsh Michigan Winters.

It will be no simple task to install this over his chimney, so I also had to keep this in mind and design these sections to be easily attached together with the stainless steel screws I provide. Each piece has to carefully test fitted and the holes pre-drilled for those screws.

From: Gregory Besio <gjbesio@att.n*t>
Date: Thu, 30 Apr 2009
Subject: Installation Finished Today

Hi David,
The cap was installed by my builder today. Here are some pictures showing the installation and a couple of views of the finished project. Looks great.


I noticed in the photos the mid section got a little bent up in transit, so I offered to rebuild it for cost, maybe with thicker copper.

Date: Fri, 1 May 2009

Thanks for your note. Yes, one section was slightly bent in shipping, but I think it looks fine on the house. I don't know what measures the installation team took to straighten it. The only reason I would replace it would be if it impacted the structural integrity of the overall cap. I leave it to you and Don to make a recommendation, but think the accelerated aging adds character to the overall look. Why don't you contact Don about details of the install. Based on my conversations with him, it went pretty smoothly, but his foreman would have all the specifics.

Thanks again for all your efforts on this project. The cap really looks great - better than I envisioned it. I think our collaboration based on your expertise has really created a unique feature on our new house.



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