How to Fix a Stuck Fireplace Damper

Use a wire brush and WD-40 to open a stuck fireplace damper.

Not being able to open your throat damper makes your fireplace unusable.  If you light a fire, smoke will flow out of the fireplace into the room, if the damper is closed.  It’s not unusual to find that the handle that opens and closes the damper is stuck.

(If the damper handle is not stuck, but you just aren’t sure how to open or close the damper, click here for directions.)

Put on goggles and a dust mask.  Look up inside the fireplace with a flashlight.  Look for evidence that the damper is jammed by debris, nests, or dead animals that have fallen into the chimney.  If you suspect a jam, it’s best to let a chimney sweep clear it.  Bird and bat droppings can contain bacteria that are extremely dangerous to humans.  A chimney sweep has the equipment to clear the jam safely.

The most likely cause of a stuck fireplace damper is a build-up of rust, soot, and creosote on the hinges of the damper.  Soot and creosote can build up from the normal use of the fireplace.  Dampers rust when rain comes down the chimney because there is no chimney cap or the chimney cap has deteriorated.

Rusty fireplace damper

The damper will have pins on each end that drop into grooves in the sides of the fireplace, forming hinges.  If the damper is not resting in these grooves, it will not open and close properly. So you must re-seated it in the grooves.  (You can remove most steel plate throat dampers by detaching the damper handle and then lifting the damper out of the grooves.) You can have a chimney sweep clean the damper area, or you can do it yourself.

First Repair StepsHigh Temperature Lubricant

Lay 4-mil plastic sheeting on the floor in front of the fireplace and tape some to the sides of the fireplace.  Put on old clothes or a disposable paper suit, and a hat.  You’ll need safety goggles, a disposable dust mask or respirator and a wire brush.

  • First, brush the damper, giving special attention to the hinges.
  • If the step above doesn’t work, you will need to clean the track that the handle runs in and the point where it is attached to the damper. 
  • If the prior two steps don’t cure the stuck damper handle, tap the handle with a sledge hammer after applying WD-40 to the part of the handle that is inside the fireplace.
  • Once you have the damper opening and closing easily, apply some high temperature lubricant to the hinges and you’re done.

WD-40 was first used to prevent rust on the Atlas missile in the 1950.  The WD actually stands for water dispersal.  Spray WD-40 on your chimney damper to protect it from rust.  It will also keep it lubricated so  it opens and closes easily.

How to Fix Stuck Fireplace Damper

To begin with, if the handle of the stuck fireplace damper is broken, there are replacement damper handles for both fireplace throat dampers and chimney top-sealing dampers.

Vestal Poker Style Damper Handle

If the steel plate in the throat damper is too rusted, you need just a replacement damper plate.

Replacement damper plate or replacement throat damper?

If the whole throat damper has rusted through, you need to replace the throat damper (which includes the damper plate.)

Throat damper: valve plate only

Throat damper: valve plate only

Finally, if the damper is missing, replace it with a top damper, so called because it installs at the top of the chimney.  A cable running down the chimney to the firebox allows you to open and close the damper.  Top dampers fit more tightly than most throat dampers. Therefore, they pay for themselves in energy savings by keeping heated air inside the home.

Posted in Fireplace and Chimney Maintenance Tagged with:

2014 Olympics Trivia

Olympics Trivia - Will you score Gold, Silver or Bronze on the Trivia Quiz?

As you watch the 2014 Olympics, safe and warm in front of your fireplace as the athletes perform amazing feats on freezing cold ice and snow, enjoy this 2014 Olympics trivia. Keep track of how many you get correct, so you will know if you earned a gold, silver or bronze medal (or if you are Off the Trivia Podium).

Question: Which has the fastest top recorded speed — a luge racer or a downhill skier?

Olympic Trivia: Which has the fastest recorded speed?Answer: At 156.2 miles per hour, the fastest recorded speed for a downhill skier is faster than the 95.7 m.p.h. record speed for a luge racer.

Question: How many new events will debut at the 2014 Winter Olympics?

Olympic Trivia: New Olympic Sports include mixed-sex team figure skating and snowboard slopestyle.

Answer: Twelve new sports debut at the 2014 Olympics include three mixed events (biathlon mixed relay, figure skating team event, and luge team relay).  Also included for the first time in the Olympics are men’s and women’s ski halfpipe, ski slopestyle, snowboard slopestyle, and snowboard parallel slalom and women’s ski jumping.

Question:  What is the weight of an Olympic curling stone?

2014 Olympic Trivia: What is the weight of an Olympic curling stone?

Answer: An Olympic curling stone weighs 42.1 pounds.

Question: Approximately how many people carried the Olympic torch to Sochi  for the 2014 Winter Olympics?

Olympic Trivia: How many people carried the Sochi Olympic torch for the winter games?

Answer: Approximately 14,000 people carried the Olympic torch the 40,000 miles from Olympia, Greece to Sochi, Russia.

Question: How much was the least expensive ticket to attend the Sochi opening ceremony?

Olympics Trivia: Cost of the least expensive ticket to the Sochi opening ceremony

Answer: $180.00.


So, how did you do on the Olympics Trivia quiz?

Did you score

  • Gold (5 correct)
  • Silver (4 correct)
  • Bronze (3 correct)
  • Off the Podium (2 or fewer correct)

Let us know in the comments section!


Posted in General

How to Open Fireplace Damper

How to Open Fireplace Damper - copyright 2014

A throat damper is a metal door located above the firebox, but below the flue pipe.  (See a diagram of the parts of a chimney here.)  When the damper is closed, it slows the loss of heat that would otherwise go up the chimney.  When it is open, it allows smoke and exhaust gases from the fire to escape up the chimney.  A handle beside or just inside the fireplace operates the damper.

If you start a fire before opening the throat damper, smoke will flow out of the fireplace instead of going up the chimney.  Worse yet, if you have a gas fireplace, burned gas can escape the fireplace and create the conditions for carbon monoxide poisoning.

What happens if you forget to open the damper before you light the fireplace fire.

What happens if you forget to open the damper before you light the fireplace fire. Photo courtesy

How to Open Fireplace Damper

You can easily check to make sure the damper is open by looking up the chimney with a flashlight.  If the damper is closing off the flue, use the handle to open it.  When you operate your throat damper, be sure to use a pot holder or pliers in case it is hot.

To open your fireplace throat damper

  • From the starting position (1) …
  • Lift the handle (2),
  • Push it forward (3) , and
  • Latch it by pulling down (4).
How to Open a Fireplace Damper - Image copyright 2014

How to Open the Fireplace Damper – Image copyright 2014


To close the damper

  • Lift the handle and
  • Pull it back toward you.

More on when (and why) to close your damper.

When you look up the chimney, you will see a flat, rectangular steel trapdoor.  That’s the throat damper.  It has short rods on each end that fit into holes in the sides of the chimney.  In most cases, you can remove the throat damper by removing the cotter pin that attaches the handle to the damper plate and then lifting the damper plate out of its mounting holes.

Before lighting a fire you may need to warm the throat damper area by burning some twisted-up newspaper near the top of your firebox in order to get the upward flow started.  Once the fire is burning and a good draft is established, close the throat damper slowly, (this applies to wood fires only, not gas!) but not to the point that the fireplace gives off smoke.  This step will reduce the volume of heated air that escapes your house along with the exhaust gases.  You may need to open the damper again as the fire burns down and the upward draft slows.

When to Close Fireplace Damper

Close the throat damper after the fire has cooled completely.  Doing so will keep some of the warm air from your heating system from escaping up the chimney.  However, most throat dampers allow some heat to go up the chimney.  To improve the energy efficiency of your home, remove the throat damper and replace it with a top damper.  Top dampers attach to the top of your flue and completely close off the flue.  There’s a stainless steel cable that runs down the flue to a handle located inside the firebox.  You can open and close the top damper by means of the cable.

top-mount fireplace damper

Lyemance Damper seals the top of the flue

See How to Fix a Stuck Damper.

Posted in Fireplace and Chimney Maintenance, Using Your Fireplace Tagged with:

DIY Gas Fireplace Safety Tests

gas fireplace safety tests homeowners can do

Do-It-Yourself Gas Fireplace Safety Tests

Before you turn on your gas fireplace for the first fire of the season, have it serviced by a certified chimney sweep or other gas product professional certified to work with gas fireplaces.  You will need a professional who knows the relevant regulations of your local jurisdiction.

There are some inspections, however, that homeowners can do themselves.  If your gas fireplace fails any of these Gas Fireplace Safety Tests, you will want to have it serviced immediately.

Test 1:    With the unit off, wipe a white tissue along the entire length of the front log.

fail Fail:  The tissue is dark gray or black.

Problem:  Either the ceramic logs are improperly positioned or the logs’ burner ports are clogged.

Test 2:  With the unit off, visually inspect the interior of the glass

failFail:  White film on the glass.   You can remedy this yourself with a good cleaning.

Problem:  If the white film builds up, it can be difficult to impossible to clean off.


Test 3:   With the unit off, wipe the inside of the fireplace glass with a white tissue.

failFail:  A black, ashy substance comes off the glass.

Problem:  Either the ceramic logs are improperly positioned or the logs’ burner ports are clogged.

Test 4: Inspect the glass for irregularities.

failFail:  Cracks or chips can indicate the glass should be replaced.

Problem:  Imperfections in the glass can cause it to explode when heated.

Test 5:  With the unit off, check the glass for tightness of fit.

failFail: Loose glass.

Problem:  Carbon monoxide can escape into the house.


Test 6 (for Vented Models):  Inspect the exterior of the house near the vent

failFail:  A sooty or scorched look on the brick or siding

Problem:  Either the ceramic logs are improperly positioned or the logs’ burner ports are clogged.


Test 7 (for Vented Models):  Inspect the gas fireplace vent

failFail:  Anything that can block the air passages in the vent such as loose mortar, birds’ nest, spider webs, leaves or other debris

Problem:  The blockage can affect the fireplace’s air-gas mixture and the fireplace’s ability to stay lit.

Test 8:  Visually inspect the pilot light (usually located between the front and rear ceramic logs)

failFail:  Pilot light not covering the top 3/8” of the thermo-pile or thermo-couple (the small metal rod that sticks up, usually to the left of the pilot light)

Problem:  Pilot light orifice is clogged or the orifice is the wrong size or type.

Test 9:  Are there children who live in or visit the home?

failFail:  Your gas fireplace does not have a screen to protect children from touching the hot glass.  You can remedy this yourself by placing a fireplace safety screen or securing a regular fireplace screen in front of the fireplace.

Problem:  Children can experience severe burns when touching gas fireplace doors not just when the fire is lit but also for a considerable time afterwards before the glass cools.


Test 10:  Is there a functioning carbon monoxide detector in the house?

failFail:  No carbon monoxide detector.  You can remedy this yourself by installing a carbon monoxide detector.

Problem:  Undetected carbon monoxide in the home can cause illness or death.

By conducting these inspections and DIY Gas Fireplace Safety Tests, homeowners can be active participants in maintaining the safety of their gas fireplaces.

If your gas fireplace fails Test Two, Nine or Ten, you can remedy it yourself.  By calling on a certified gas fireplace  professional if your fireplace fails any of the other tests tests, you can assure the safety of your home, family and guests.

Use a cleaner specifically designed for gas logs to clean your own gas logs.




Posted in Fireplace and Chimney Maintenance, Safety Tagged with: ,