Easy to open and close with a pull on a chain, poker, or latch, a damper is essential for fireplaces in colder climates. Without one, heat generated by a furnace will go straight • up the chimney. In many older houses, cast-iron dampers are located in or near the throat of the chimney. In chimneys that lack a top screen, a cast-iron damper is subject to rust and can collect leaves, soot, or bird and squirrel nests. It’s usually dirty to handle, and opening the damper after the fire is already going is a recipe for both a smoky • house and burns. If the chimney lacks a damper, by all means install one. But there’s no need to place it in the traditional throat location, which is difficult to reach and seal effectively, whether you are a professional or a homeowner.
Instead, choose a top-sealing unit (see Resources, p. 87). They are much easier to install, even as a DIY project, and eliminate the need for screening at the top of the chimney.
Parging the exposed parts of a chimney with refractory cement is traditional in some areas, and can seal minor cracks. But it’s no substitute for necessary repairs.
LEFT Constructed of cast aluminum and stainless steel and set with silicone gaskets, a Seal Tight damper won’t rust or corrode.