How To Open A Chimney Flue

Imagine that you have your fireplace wood in place and you are ready to start it up. The air outside is very cold and you are thinking that a nice cozy fire will keep everyone in the home happy and warm. The first thing you will want to do is check your fireplace dampers. The only way to ensure that the smoke and carbon monoxide exit the home is by opening the damper to the flue. How to open a chimney flue? Open the metal damper doors that allow air into the fireplace and smoke to exit.

Let’s take a look below at the various types of dampers that will open up into the flue.

What Type Of Damper Do I Have?

Believe it or not, there are four types of dampers. When you purchase a home with a fireplace, make sure that you check to see which type of damper you have. This allows you to know how to open the flue before starting your fire. Let’s take a look below at what the possibilities are.

  • Poker Damper – This type of damper has a handle that looks like a banana. To open it, you lift the handle up and push the damper forward. There are notches on the handle that will drop into the mounted ratchet to lock the damper in the open position. When closing the damper, simply push up on the handle and pull back so that the notch separates and the door releases closed.
  • Rotary Damper – This type of damper consists of a metal screw that when twisted will open the metal doors to the flue. Simply determine if twisting left or right will open and close the damper. If the metal rod becomes warped you will need to call on a professional.
  • Double Pivot Damper – This type of damper is easy to open as the notches are already built into the frame of the handle. Simply move the handle back and forth to lock the damper into the open and close positions.
  • Top Mounted Damper – This type of chimney damper is controlled outside the home with a metal chain.

Why Do I Need To Open The Flue?

Opening the damper is essential for many reasons. In order to keep your family safe from harm, you must know how to open your damper so the flue is opened. Let’s take a look below at why opening the dampers to the flue is important.

  • Opening the flue creates an efficient fire.
  • It reduces smoke and carbon dioxide in the room.
  • You need to open the damper before lighting a fire so that smoke can exit the flue.
Opening the flue allows for smoke and carbon monoxide to leave the fireplace.

How Do I Know If It Is Open?

Always test out your dampers to make sure they are open before lighting a fire. There are a few ways to determine if the throat dampers are open. Let’s take a look below at how we can tell when our damper is open.

  • Look at the dampers – Depending on the type of damper that you have, will determine how to open and close it. Once you have used the handle to open the damper doors you can look inside your fireplace to see light or use a flashlight to see that the metal doors are opened.
  • Check the controls – As we stated above there are four types of damper controls. Depending on which one you have will determine how you open the damper doors and access the flue. If your damper is outside and on top of the chimney cap it will be controlled by a metal chain. Use a pair of binoculars to check the outside dampers to see if they are open.
  • Check for a draft – Check to see if the damper is open by putting your hand into the fireplace and feeling for a draft. If you feel a draft of wind coming down from the chimney then you know that the damper is open. Also, if you cannot feel any cold air, the damper is likely closed. Be sure to do this checking before lighting a fire in your fireplace.

Other Recommended Maintenance

Now that you have an understanding of how to open a chimney flue, keep in mind that sometimes they can get stuck. If there is too much debris in the chimney, when you open the flue or damper, the debris can fall into the fire pit. It is recommended that you clear your clogged chimney before you need to use it the first time.

Next, before you get a big idea about starting a fire in your fireplace, make sure that you figure out which kind of wood will burn the cleanest. For example, can you burn pine in a fireplace? That answer is yes. Just keep in mind that it burns quickly, so you will want a variety of wood to maintain the fire.

Lastly, when it comes to fireplace and chimney maintenance it is a good idea to have them both cleaned. If you have a stone fireplace instead of a brick fireplace you should consider reading up on how to clean your stone fireplace. This will keep you and your family safe from lighting a fire.

Hire a chimney sweep and fireplace professional to ensure that your fireplace is in good condition.

When Do I Call A Professional?

To ensure that your dampers are working properly, you will want to call on a fireplace contractor or your local fireplace service technician. They can come out and check that all of your fireplace equipment is working properly.

Also, call on your local home inspection team. They can come out and inspect the chimney and the flue to ensure that they are not damaged. Plan to have this done before the colder months approach.


Understanding how to operate your fireplace is vital to keeping your family safe. Additionally, it is important for protecting your investment in a home. Before ever starting a fire, you will need to make sure that your dampers that open up to the flue are in the open position.

If you use your fireplace a lot, you will want to ensure that the dampers are in good working condition. Before the winter months come, call on your local home inspection team to inspect the chimney and fireplace. Reach out to Heartland Inspections services in the great Minneapolis St. Paul and surrounding areas for all of your chimney inspection needs.