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4 Signs Your Fireplace Damper Is In Need Of Repair Or Replacement

Whether you rely on a modern fireplace insert for heating or just enjoy your old-fashioned brick chimney for looks, you need a working damper installed inside the chimney to block off air flow. Even if you never use a fireplace for burning a real fire, you need a working damper to keep your warm air from escaping up the chimney. Determine if your damper needs attention from a repair professional by keeping an eye out for these four signs of damper trouble.

Indoor Smoke

A damper stuck in the closed position won't let enough air escape up the vent for proper drafting. This means your home will fill up with smoke, either immediately after you start a fire or slowly as the flames burn. The damper can be partially open or completely closed, depending on the amount of smoke forced back into your home. If you find it difficult or almost impossible to start a fire in an enclosed device like a wood stove or insert, it's possibly due to a damper that is stuck closed since there's no draft to help start combustion.

Stuck Handle

When you turn the handle on the side of your chimney or stove vent pipe, you should feel the metal damper plate moving in response. Can't turn the handle at all in any direction? The handle is either disconnected from the damper or it is frozen in place. There's no way to tell without inspecting the inside of the chimney of what exactly is causing the handle to stick in place, so you'll need the help of a professional to determine what's causing the frozen handle. Don't try to force it open or closed or you could end up breaking the damper off and making it harder to fix in the long run.

Cold Drafts

Noticing a cold draft of air drifting across the room and up the fireplace? If you've got the damper in the off position and still feel a draft, you've got a damper that won't shut completely. Have the problem remedied quickly or you'll spend more on both heating and cooling your home.

Black Flakes

Most black flakes falling down from the chimney when you close the damper are made of creosote, a natural by-product of burning wood. It's possible that these are flakes of metal coming off of the damper instead, but in either situation, these flakes are an indicator that there's interference with the damper. Creosote flakes indicate your chimney needs cleaning before it starts a dangerous house fire, while flakes of metal mean the damper is falling apart and needs replacement.