A fireplace is an asset to any home, and is known for adding warmth, light, and a comforting ambiance to living rooms, bedrooms, and more. That is… if it’s being used correctly. Otherwise, that cozy fireplace scene can quickly turn into a smoke-filled living space or a fireplace that won’t light.

This is why we believe education is the key to getting the most from your appliance. Here at Winston’s, we’re all about keeping our customers well-informed and in-the-loop, and today we’re starting from square one – opening your flue.

First Things First… Use Your Senses

When we say “opening your flue,” what we really mean is opening your damper – the piece of chimney anatomy that blocks the flue when not in use. But before you start the process, make sure it isn’t already opened.

  • a chimney sweep looking up inside the fireboxDo a visual inspection of your chimney. Using a flashlight, look up your chimney from the firebox. If you can see the flue going up the chimney, then your damper is open and your flue is ready for use!
  • Feel for a breeze. Good air circulation plays a vital part in getting the most from your fireplace, so a nice breeze should indicate that the channel is clear and smoke is set to safely exit.
  • Check your damper controls. Know what type of damper you have and what the controls should look like when it’s open versus when it’s shut. And if all things indicate that your damper should be open, but no visible flue or breezes can be felt, then chances are your damper is shut or your flue is so clogged that a professional chimney cleaning is in order.

Note: When your flue is not in use, be sure to close your damper. Leaving it open leaves your home and chimney vulnerable to weather damage, leaks, downdrafts, and animal intruders.

Closed Damper? Here’s How to Open It

If all signs point to your damper being closed, opening it before lighting any fires is a must! Otherwise, you’ll be left with a smoky space, which isn’t good for aesthetics or for the health of those inside the home breathing in the polluted air.

Throat Dampers

a lever to open a chimney damperNow, how you open the damper will vary based on the type of damper you have. Many older systems are equipped with a traditional throat damper, which would be located right above the firebox. In these cases, there will be a knob near the fireplace or a rod right inside the firebox. 

Top-End Dampers

If it’s a top-end damper you have, then it should open with a metal chain that’s beside your fireplace. If your damper is closed, the chain will be tightly secured to a bracket. To open your damper up, simply unhook the chain, then let it loose. The chain should spring upwards as the damper opens, indicating your fireplace is now ready for use.

Still Have Smoke in Your Space?

Now, despite having their damper wide open, sometimes homeowners still get smoke in their space when lighting things up. In these cases, we’d refer you to – as noted above – use your senses. If you don’t feel any breeze and all you see is darkness when looking up the flue, it’s likely you need some professional assistance.

Your next best step? Book a chimney inspection with us. If it’s creosote and debris that’s blocking things up, we can clear things out with a thorough chimney sweeping, and if it’s the damper itself that’s the problem, we can address that too by either fixing your current one or replacing it altogether.

Or, if neither of those things is the issue, there could be a problem with your airflow or even the current proportions of your chimney. Whatever the case, we’ll get to the bottom of it, then set you up right with effective solutions.

Our Team Is Here to Help

Whatever your fireplace or chimney issue, we want to help. And knowing whether your flue is wide open and ready for use or shut up tight can make all the difference in how efficiently and safely your fireplace runs.

Whether you know exactly what’s wrong and need to schedule a sweep or repair, or you have no idea where to even start, we’re here for you.

Get started by calling 703-379-5006 with questions or by reaching out to us online today.

Winston's Chimney Service
11301 Industrial Road
Manassas, VA 20109