How to Open Your Fireplace Damper – (Poker, Rotary, Double Pivot)

How to Open a Damper

3 types

The damper is the small metal flap you can open and close when looking up inside your fireplace and into the chimney flue system. Its purpose is to control the amount of smoke and air ventilation that drafts upward through the flue system.

Chimney Diagram

You must open the damper every time you start a fire. Use the directions below to help with opening your damper, depending on the one that matches the fireplace.

There’s three types of dampers:

Poker Damper (aka Banana Handle)

Also known as Banana Handle
Poker Damper

This kind damper, Poker dampers, we commonly refer to as a banana handles. This is because of the banana shape arch in the handle. These dampers are open by lifting the handle up, pushing the damper upwards, and pinning the damper in the upward position by setting one of the notches on the handle onto the mounted ratchet on the frame of the fireplace. To close it, you simply lift the handle up again, pull the damper shut, and set the handle back into position on the ratchet.

Rotary Damper

Rotary Damper
Rotary Damper

Number two we call a rotary damper. The dampers are operated using a metal rod that screws open and shut. Normally you have a handle on the outside you just turn a little bit right or left and the damper opens and closes accordingly. Sometimes they get a little warped rod in there and that causes a lot of problems of opening and closing. It can be a nightmare.

Double Pivot

Double Pivot
Double Pivot

Then the last one is what we’ll call a double pivot. Its a little more complex but no harder to fix than the others. A double pivot is a lot like a poker damper, except instead of setting the handle on a separate ratchet on the frame, a ratchet with notches is already mounted to the handle AND the frame. You simply pivot the handle back and forth along the notches, allowing the handle to prop the damper open and close as you pull and set the handle into position.

I can’t open my damper!

If you’re still having problems opening your damper, its possible there may be deeper issue that needs addressing. For example, debris may have fallen from inside the chimney chase and is now sitting on top of the damper, weighing it down and preventing it from opening. In any case, leave us a comment below and we’ll try to help you with your damper. Also consider getting an inspection by a professional. You can use the Chimney Sweep Finder on www.ncsg.org/

Clay Lamb
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6 thoughts on “How to Open Your Fireplace Damper – (Poker, Rotary, Double Pivot)

  1. Thanks, Clay!
    Great optics!
    Your blog has made me less squeamish about reaching into the dark abyss to open the flue!

  2. I have a missing damper lid. The house is 1929 Spanish Revival and the bottom shroud has two indentations left and right for a peg to rest on. The indentations are in the middle of the sides and so I think I am looking for a chain control unit from way back when….. Can anyone tell be if I can still buy this? Only a Vestal photograph shows the one I need but I cant seem to find it to purchase anywhere…… Please advise.

  3. Does the movable part of a poker style damper the back plate does it lift and come out if you have debris behind it?

  4. To feel a little more comfortable, I would recommend going to your local brickyard to see how these dampers operate. Take picture of what you have and I’ll bet someone can help you. Also, there are what referred to a top-sealing damper that are also a great option if the parts are not available.

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