Some fireplace issues can be solved by troubleshooting fireplace damper problems. The damper acts like a window inside the flue which keeps cold air from flowing into the house when the fireplace is not in use. It also helps to regulate the flow of oxygen that reaches the burning fire. There are some things to check for to see if the fireplace damper is the culprit.
The Damper is Non-functioning or Stuck
If the damper won’t budge, there could be a few things wrong.
First, the damper mechanism could be suffering from corrosion or blockage. The best solution to this problem is to have the chimney cleaned professionally. This will remove any debris in the flue as well as give the chimneysweep the chance to lubricate or adjust the moving parts.
Second, the handle could be disconnected or broken. Damper handle assemblies are generally simple to operate. If the damper can be opened using other means, then the broken handle is the problem.
The Damper won’t Close Tightly
An open damper is the equivalent of an open window in the house, allowing all the cold inside and the heat to escape outside. A drafty room is a good indication that the damper isn’t closing into the proper position.
Sometimes the damper blade is lined with metal tabs that fit into slots or holes in the flue when closed. If the tabs aren’t lining up correctly, it may be necessary to reassemble the handle so that the blade will rest in the proper place.
The Damper is Frozen Shut
Dampers located toward the roof inside a flue can be sealed by ice and snow. Depending on the manufacturer, there may be a mechanism, such as a cable, that can be pulled to release the ice from the damper.
Too Much Smoke Floods the Room During the Fire
There are a few different reasons why smoke may flood a room when the fireplace is used.
First, the flue may be clogged with ash or debris and may require a good cleaning.
Second, the damper may be causing the smoking problem. If the damper will not open fully, it will cause the smoke to go back down into the room instead of exiting up the flue. Debris or ash buildup inside the flue can cause this.
Third, if the damper is cold when the fire is lit, and the smoke flows into the room instead of up the flue, the damper needs to be warmed before lighting the fire. To warm the flue, wrap a few sheets of newspaper into a long cone shape and wave the flame back and forth underneath the flue. When the damper is warm, it will create the current that will draw the smoke up and out of the house.
While it is possible for do-it-yourselfers to clean and maintain a fireplace system, it is not recommended. The best course of action is to hire a professional chimneysweep who is prepared to handle the safety issues involved and already has the necessary protective gear.