Although you probably rarely if ever see your chimney damper (or fireplace damper), much of your enjoyment of your fireplace and hearth area is made possible by this important component.
Typically set just above the firebox, but sometimes at the top of the chimney, dampers are simple assemblies that include moveable plates, clamps and a mechanism for you to open and close them.
What your chimney damper does
The three main jobs of a damper are:
- Open fully to allow sufficient air to be drawn into the fireplace during a fire and then channeled up the flue and away from the home.
- Close completely to keep conditioned air inside your home and prevent outside air from getting in.
- Prevent small animals from invading your home.
If your damper doesn’t work . . .
A damper that won’t open fully can cause fires to burn inefficiently due to lack of oxygen (air). A fully open damper creates a natural draft, and wood logs need this draft to combust completely and vibrantly.
A sluggish fire usually creates a lot more smoke, much of which will make its way into the flue and deposit excess flammable creosote.
A partially open damper also can send smoke back into your room. Smoke is bad enough, but even worse is the carbon monoxide that smoke contains. Carbon monoxide is an odorless and invisible gas that can be fatal to people and pets when inhaled.
When a damper is so rusted or warped that it leaves a small – or large – gap when it’s supposedly closed, your home can be open to all kinds of creature invasions.
Birds, squirrels, snakes, rodents and the like enjoy getting into chimney flues, and some of them set up birthing headquarters. Very often, these critters will wander down through a gap in the damper to see what’s going on inside your house.
A properly sealed damper will keep these animals out of your house. A custom full-width chimney cap will keep them from getting into your flue in the first place.
How dampers get damaged
The main reasons a damper malfunctions are
rust and warping.
Chimney leaks cause the rust. Years of extreme heat cause the warping. Unfortunately, these damages are often unknown to homeowners and keep on progressing until serious problems occur.
If you use your fireplace regularly or even periodically, it’s a smart move to schedule an annual fireplace and chimney inspection. Damaged dampers – and other problems in their early stages – can be discovered during an inspection and repaired quickly and at much less expense than full-blown repair projects.
You can watch for signs of damage
While regular inspections are the best way to ensure a well-working damper system, there are a few things you can watch out for:
- Noisy operation when opening and closing your damper
- Drafts in your house that can’t be accounted for
- Backups of smoke when using your fireplace
- Water or crumbling debris on the floor of your firebox
- Signs of small-animal intrusion – or the animals themselves
Get your damper fixed
High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, is ready to help with all your chimney damper needs. We repair dampers, and if the damage is too severe, we replace them with fine new products that will serve you well for many years. We offer licensed inspections and all manner of chimney and fireplace repair work.
Speak with an expert technician today at
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