wood fire burning in fireplace allowing smoke to escape through open damper

Chimney Damper Repair | How to Identify a Broken Damper

Your chimney damper controls the flow of smoke that rises through your chimney and is responsible for ventilation. When these become damaged or completely break, it dramatically impairs your ability to use your fireplace effectively.

Continuous heat and cold air from fires and downdrafts warp or crack your chimney damper through continued use and seasonal changes. This takes a relatively long time, but as it’s not something people think to check often, the damage compiles and leads to disrepair. Chimney damper repair is the only way to correct the problem.

What is a Chimney Damper?

A chimney damper, sometimes referred to as a throat damper, is essentially a lid or seal located inside your chimney flue. This is operable by a chain or pull system situated near the top-front of your firebox.

Your chimney damper covers the flue, preventing cold air from downdrafting into your chimney and entering your home when not in use. When the fireplace is in use, you open the damper to allow smoke to exit through the chimney.

How to Tell if the Chimney Damper is Open or Closed

Your fireplace damper plate must be open to allow smoke to rise and leave your home. You can inspect your fireplace to see if it’s open by:

Feeling for a Draft: Place your hands into the fireplace (when no fire is currently lit), and feel for a draft of air coming from the top.

Manually Check: As long as the fire is out, use your hand to gently feel where the damper is located. You should be able to feel around and either locate the frame or find that the damper is open (you’ll generally feel a draft before this).

Look: As long as the fireplace is off, place your head inside of the firebox and look upward. This is best to do with some form of eye protection. You will see if it’s open or closed.

Common Chimney Damper Problems

If you don’t maintain your chimney damper, you could run into one of the following problems:

Flue Damper Being Off Track: This can affect the direction of smoke rising through your chimney.

Cold Air Drafts: Cold air from the outside travels down your chimney in a downdraft, entering your home and disrupting your heating and cooling costs.

Incorrect Operation: You use the damper as you usually would, but it doesn’t allow the right amount of smoke to escape.

Damper Won’t Close: This furthers downdraft problems and allows air to escape from your home.

Damper Won’t Open: Your fireplace becomes inoperable until this can be resolved.

Broken Dampers: The damper is visibly cracked, broken, or has fallen into the firebox completely.

These common problems are precisely why annual chimney sweeps and inspections are critical if you have a fireplace. Even if you don’t use it often, you want to ensure your chimney’s bricks and other components are in functioning order for safe and efficient operation.

How to Repair a Chimney Damper

This is a brief step-by-step guide on how to repair your chimney damper yourself.

Remove Debris

Start by cleaning debris and creosote from the damper before removing it. You might find that debris was blocking hinges and preventing it from closing or opening (if that was one of your primary concerns).

Stage 1 creosote buildup may be easily removed, but stage 2 and 3 creosote may prove impossible without causing further damage to your chimney system. Later stage creosote buildup may require replacing the damper and other parts of your chimney to keep your chimney and fireplace running safely.

Remove the Damper

While looking upward from your firebox, you’ll see a rod affixed to the chimney/frame by a nut. Loosen the nut and remove the rod. Your damper will either come down right away, or it might need to be twisted to come down depending on the model. If the damper is cracked or warped, you’ll need a replacement piece.

Clean Everything

Clean the frame where the damper rests, the damper itself, the rod, and check for corrosion. Most problems are due to debris and rust. If you purchase a new damper, the frame and firebox still need to be cleaned out.

Replace the Damper

Once everything is cleaned, and you determine that there are no further problems, replace the damper. Be sure the rod and nut go on tight, and that everything is aligned. Check to see if it opens and closes effectively.

How Much Does it Cost to Repair a Chimney Damper?

Costs can vary depending on what the problem is. You essentially have ten basic components to your chimney, extending from the bricks to the crown, the smoke chamber, and more.

Isolating repair costs for your damper door, we see an average of around $55 up to $70 for a DIY repair. However, it’s challenging to properly replace the more expansive damper frame and you may get in over your head with repair costs if you damage other parts of your chimney during damper repairs.

You may be better off hiring a professional to repair and replace your damper and damper frame. Maintenance specialists that replace the chimney damper and the frame will run you around $325 up to $500.

Is a Top-Sealing Damper a Better Choice?

A top-sealing damper is certainly more efficient. These help with heating and cooling loss in the home and prevent animals, moisture, and debris from falling into your chimney.

These come in two different types. One features a stainless steel hood that’s operable via springs, allowing you to compress or expand the top-sealing damper at your leisure if you want to use your fireplace.

The other utilizes a hinge instead of a pop-top design. Both use steel cables to operate from the top of the firebox or top of the chimney, just like a standard flue damper chain.

With either of these models, the steel cables can break over time (another reason to schedule annual chimney sweeps). If this happens, the top-sealing damper opens automatically.

It’s a Messy Job, Call the Pros

While you can attempt to repair your chimney damper yourself, the professionals at Priddy Chimney Sweeps can save you time and effort when it comes to repairs and maintenance for your chimney. Our professionals have the tools and experience needed to properly repair chimney dampers and doors.

Having your chimney inspected annually can also prevent future damages that may be missed if someone is not looking for potential risks. Contact Priddy Chimney Sweeps to schedule an appointment for your needed chimney repairs and maintenance.