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Baby, it's cold outside (and in)...

7 replies [Last post]
Joined: Apr 2 2003

I didn't really want to expose my forgetfulness, but thought I should in case it benefits anyone else.

My home has been much colder the month of December than in previous months. I know it has also been colder outside but the degree of coldness made me feel I felt I should be thinking about additional measures. (I already have a foam roof, double-pane insulated windows, and a programmable thermostat. Maybe I needed to replace the boiler...)

Turns out that one not-insignificant factor may have been a fireplace damper being left open. Heat was being sucked out almost fast enough to constitute a breeze around the fireplace. We realized it by accident when my spouse mentioned how cold it had been on the floor watching the new LCD TV the other night. (We bought a LCD TV a couple of days ago and, since we haven't gotten rid of the previous TV and cabinet, we set it up on the floor. )

Last night, in talking further about how cold the house was we both realized simultaneously that it could be the damper open in the fireplace. Sure enough, it was open causing a noticeable cold draft. I closed the damper and this morning the situation was much improved.

I still may need to do something about replacing the original boiler for improved efficiency, but wanted to mention the open damper in case others have also failed to make sure it is closed. On my fireplace, the mechanism to open and close the damper is a pull chain inside the fireplace cavity (back right on mine).


eichfan at rawbw dot com

Joined: Nov 4 2003

Good post!

However, my damper has been frozen stuck since I bought the house 15 years ago! I tried to fix it then, but to no avail. Any advice?

Joined: Apr 20 2006

My Eichler's damper was very difficult to free. I used WD-40 on all of the joints and hit it with a hammer many times to break it loose. Eventually it worked freely. I am embarrassed to tell you how hard and how long I had to hammer on the damper to free it. They are made of heavy metal with sturdy joints. It came free and worked easily after that. A Chimney Sweep may be the ideal person to fix your damper. ASK HIM if it's OK to hammer on it !! It can be a 'sooty' job. Mine had been frozen for years. If you use the damper regularly, you can avoid the build-up that makes it stick.

Joined: Nov 4 2003

Randy, thanks for the advise! When I bought the house, one of the first things I did was hire a Chimney sweep and he tried his best to free it. But after a while, he gave up and left!

I can try the WD-40 and free it myself, I' prefer to avoid the hammering, but we'll see!

Joined: Apr 20 2006

It's a good idea to fix the damper. If you ever sell the house, the frozen damper will turn up on the inspection report. It's better to fix it now, and have a damper all these years. Again, I am not sure if hammering is the best idea, but it did not damage my damper. I was careful not to damage the masonry where the pivot shaft ends of the damper plate terminate. I think the lever(handle) joints must be the real problem. There must be somebody that works in this field that knows how to free your damper. Maybe heating up the joints with a torch would work.

Joined: Aug 4 2007

Hi Nelson --

Our original damper was totally frozen in the open position -- and it was pretty much hosed. So we had a damper installed on top of the chimney. It's built into the spark arrestor (which looks like a mesh box with a stainless cover). The damper itself is attached to a long pull chain that hangs inside your fireplace.

I'm presuming most chimney repair/sweep companies could do this for you.

-- Adrian

Joined: Nov 4 2003

Thanks Adrian-

This Old House once showed a damper install that appeared like what you described.

I'm going to keep working on my damper before I go that route. I hope to prove I'm more stubborn then the damper!

Joined: Aug 25 2005

I'd suggest you use penetrating oil rather then WD-40. Spray it on and a half hour later spray it again and try loosening it. If you have another person helping you, have one pull on the damper and the other tapping on the hinges. I freed mine this way.
You can find it at any hardware store in the same place as the WD-40.

Castro Valley

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