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  • Writer's pictureKelsey Chrisman-Jones

What Is a Chimney Damper

Chimneys are ventilation systems built into our homes to regulate heat from fireplaces, stoves, and furnaces. Chimney dampers are devices attached to and seal off your flue when not in use. It controls the airflow in your fireplace and can be opened or closed to regulate the air going through the firebox, ensuring that smoke is properly released from the chimney instead of entering the home.

Chimney dampers play an important role in helping to keep cold air out and warm air in and preventing heated smoke from escaping up the chimney and into the environment. Here’s what you need to know about chimneys, dampers, and their benefits.

What Is a Chimney Damper?

A chimney damper controls how air and smoke move through your flue and escape through the top of the chimney. It sits at the top of the firebox before the flue starts. In the open position, a chimney damper allows exhaust to flow freely through the chimney. But a closed damper seals the flue shut, ensuring air can’t flow between the fireplace and the flue.

By controlling how open, the chimney damper is, homeowners can control the start and maintenance of a cozy fire. Homeowners can also close the damper when the fireplace isn’t in use, so cold air can’t sink into the house. It’s a manual mechanism that users can open or close as needed, and the damper itself is a metal disc that moves to seal or open the passageway between the flue and the firebox.

Does My Chimney Have a Fireplace Damper?

Fireplace dampers are an essential component in most fireplaces. They provide safety by allowing users to control the movement of exhaust and help in home maintenance by sealing the home from any contaminants, rain, or cold air that might otherwise get inside the home. However, not all fireplaces have them.

You can visually inspect your chimney to determine if you have a damper and what position the damper is in. Look for a metal plate. If you can see it and it’s obstructing your view of the chimney beyond, you have a damper that’s sitting in the closed position.

You can also look for the damper handle. In a wood stove, the handle sits at the base of the flue; it may have either a latch or a rotary screw mechanism. The handle is typically a chain if you have a traditional chimney.

Types of Fireplace Dampers

Every chimney is different, and the damper may have different mechanisms, parts, or even placement. Two of the most common types of fireplace dampers are:

  1. Throat dampers: Sit at the throat of the chimney or the transition between the firebox and the flue.

  2. Top-sealing dampers: These dampers sit at the top of the chimney. Along with controlling airflow and exhaust when a fire is lit, a top-sealing damper keeps hot air from escaping the home during the winter and stops rain, pests, and debris from getting inside.

Your damper may have different mechanisms for opening and closing the plate, including a chain (for top-sealing dampers) and a rotary screw or latch (for throat dampers).

How to Be Sure the Fireplace Damper Is Open

Before you light a fire, it’s important to be sure the damper is open. Not only can the flow of oxygen help start the fire, but it ensures exhaust and potentially hazardous gas by-products exit the home as cleanly as possible. You can check the damper with these methods:

  1. Peer through the chimney (if you have a throat damper) to ensure you can see the flue beyond the plate.

  2. Feel for a draft, which indicates the damper is open.

  3. Light a piece of paper on fire; if the smoke disappears up the flue, the damper is open.


Have Issues With Your Damper? Call Chim Chimney

Sometimes, dampers get stuck in a closed position or damaged over time. Chimney damper repairs are one of the most common repairs needed to get Nashville-area chimneys ready for a cozy winter with safe, easy fires in the fireplace.

If you want to ensure your damper — and your chimney overall — is in great operating condition, contact the experts at Chim Chimney. You can schedule a repair or inspection appointment at any time.

Image credit: Stonel / Justin_Krug / Shutterstock

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