Chimney dampers, or fireplace dampers, usually are located just above the firebox and can be opened and closed from inside the home. Some dampers are installed at the top of the chimney and are called top-mount chimney dampers. How do you know if your damper is working safely and efficiently? Here’s how to find out.
Dampers are made of plates that open and close to control the flow of air between the outside and the inside of your home. They also open the path for smoke and harmful combustion gases including carbon monoxide to draft into the flue during a fire.
If your damper is damaged to the point it won’t open, you’ll know this pretty quickly as soon as you get a fire started. Smoke from the fireplace backing up into your home usually means either the damper isn’t fully open or your flue is obstructed with outside debris and/or built-up creosote and soot.
Smoke backups also can be caused by burning damp, moisture-heavy logs in your fireplace, or by using way too much firewood for your fire.
If the backup is because of a damper issue, you’ll be able to resolve it by opening the damper. (It’s not uncommon to forget that you have the damper closed, particularly when using the fireplace for the first time during a new winter season.)
Malfunctioning chimney dampers often will squeak and make grinding sounds when you open and close them. Any kind of unusual noises are signs there is an issue to look into.
Another sign is wildlife in your home. Not lions, tigers and bears, but rather squirrels, birds and the occasional rodent, all of which like to get into chimney flues. A damper that won’t shut completely is akin to a welcome mat for these and other critters.
Old age can cause dampers to malfunction – as with most mechanisms and appliances around your home. Old dampers can be replaced. The problem becomes much more serious if the damper isn’t working right because of rusting and deterioration.
When water leaks flow into a chimney system, it flows downward, just like it does everywhere else in nature. For a chimney flue, downward means eventually onto the damper assembly. Over time, water can start rusting the damper, which will cause squeaky operation and eventually the inability to fully open and/or close.
Unless you understand the construction, function and installation of fireplace dampers, it’s best to leave damper repair and replacement to the professionals. Step one with a damper issue is a chimney inspection. Your technician will test your damper and determine exactly what the problem is and what’s causing it.
In some cases, a damaged damper can be repaired. If rust is the problem, a chimney leak must be fixed before or during the time the damper is being worked on, which means addressing tings like damaged chimney flashing, masonry damage, or a missing chimney cap. Most licensed chimney inspectors have the tools and training to repair chimney leaks and install new dampers, and can also offer chimney waterproofing to prevent future leaks.
A1 Chimney Specialist of Winchester, TN, and Huntsville, AL, is on call year-round to help keep your fireplace damper – and every other component and area of your chimney and fireplace system – working safely and efficiently. We provide complete inspections, repairs, chimney cleaning and installation services.
Speak with a chimney expert in Winchester at (931) 967-3595. In and around Huntsville, call (256) 285-4895.