If you’re planning to install a functional fireplace in your living room and looking for fireplace accessories, the first item on your list should be a fireplace damper. 

What is a fireplace damper?

A fireplace damper is a little door inside a fireplace, close to the chimney’s base. Its purpose is to open and shut the chimney access whenever required. If you’ve heard the term opening the flue, it’s nothing but opening the damper. This door is usually made of cast iron, ceramic, or some other heat-resistant metal.

Keep in mind that an open chimney has an updraft. This negative pressure pulls the smoke up and out. The problem is that it can also pull out air-conditioned air. This can be prevented if you have a damper. 

What does a fireplace damper do?

rustic fireplace

A damper is important for a safe fireplace. A lit fire without a damper is a recipe for disaster. The reason is that without a damper, the smoke and toxic fumes from the fireplace will waft out into your home – making it dirty, smelly, and unsafe.

Moreover, a damper seals up the chimney when the fireplace is not in use – preventing warm, interior air from drafting up the chimney and keeping cold air from entering the house. 

Keep in mind that a functional fireplace requires a damper to let out smoke and harmful gasses such as carbon monoxide. And, keep the rainwater, debris, and animals out. 

A faulty fireplace damper can lead to massive heat loss that can cost you big money by increasing your energy bills

What are the different types of fireplace dampers?

Typically, wood or gas fireplaces can have any of these dampers.

  • Throat damper: This is installed near the chimney base, over the firebox. It’s usually opened by turning a damper handle, a crank, a lever, or a chain present inside the fireplace.
  • A chimney cap or top-sealing damper is installed at the top of the chimney and can be opened with a chain inside the fireplace.

When is the best time to open and close a damper?

chimney cap

When there’s a fire burning in the firebox, the damper should always be in an open position. It will also help control the fire. When the fire is out and has completely cooled down, you can close the damper. This will help prevent the heated air from escaping and the outside cold air from seeping into the house. 

How can you know if a damper is closed or open?

To confirm whether the damper is open or closed, look inside at the top of the firebox. An open damper will allow you to see the chimney flue or at least a part of it. On the other hand, you’ll not be able to see the chimney through a closed damper.

Another visual inspection method is to check the controls or feel for a draft. If you feel cold air coming down the flue, then it’s open. 

Some dampers operate on a worm gear mechanism, some may open and close with a lever, while others may slide on a rod or bar. Irrespective of the mechanism, you must ensure that the damper is completely open before burning a fire. And, closed when the fire is out. Remember to wear heavy leather gloves to close the damper as it may be hot and dirty. 

What is the average cost of a fireplace damper installation?

An average-sized cast-iron damper costs between $150 and $250, while a chimney cap damper costs between $200 and $300. Installing a screened chimney cap costs $90 to $120. An installation by a licensed professional will cost you about $200 to $400 for labor, in addition to the cost of the new damper.

When it comes to the damper repair cost, the amount will depend on the severity of the issue. A thorough fireplace and chimney inspection will give you a good idea of the extent of the damage. 

Read more: Fireplace installation cost

Last thoughts

A fireplace inside the home helps keep indoor air warm and toasty. Having said that, keeping a good fire in the fireplace is not an easy task. You’ll need to ensure its safety and control the amount of smoke as well as other emissions. A fireplace or chimney damper ensures all this and more. It keeps the warm air inside the house and the cold air out when the fireplace is not working. So, if you’re thinking about putting together a fireplace, do not forget one of the most important accessories – the fireplace damper.

Understanding the importance of a fireplace damper was last modified: January 23rd, 2023 by Ramona Sinha
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