How do I know If my top mount damper is open? Whether it’s warming up on cold days or staying up for long nights, the fireplace is the pride of the house. As the colder season comes more and more upon us, homeowners are once again clearing off their hearths and getting the fireplace back up and running.

Understanding the way the top mount damper works is crucial to ensuring a safe fireplace. The top mount damper is an essential part of the chimney and could lead to dangerous or even deadly conditions if left closed during a fire. 

Today, we’ll dive into what you need to know about your top mount damper and how to operate it. 

The Purpose of a Damper

The damper keeps the cooled or heated air from your home from escaping out of the chimney flue. There are a variety of types of dampers that sit in different locations within the fireplace system, from just above the fire to on the very top of the chimney.

As the name implies, the top mount damper is the latter. Unlike other dampers which may sit at the base of the chimney, this one has the advantage of sealing off the top of the chimney, ensuring that nothing can enter the flue.

If left closed during a fire, the chimney would first fill up with smoke and then begin spilling out into the home. Aside from the obvious inconvenience of potentially getting smoke and soot all over your walls and furniture, breathing in the smoke can be dangerous. 

The damper helps to release harmful contaminants from the fire out of your home. Smoke caries with it Carbon Monoxide, soot, and other harmful or harsh elements. All of which would be circling through your home if the damper is left closed.

For this reason, it’s important to ensure that the top mount damper is open before starting a fire. This is true for all dampers but especially important for the top mount damper where the homeowner may not know until the fire has already grown that the damper is closed.

How to check if my top mount damper is open

  1. Visually check

The simplest way to see is to look! Stick your head in the chimney and look upwards. If your top mount damper is open, you should be able to see some sunlight. If not, the damper is closed. 

Additionally, top-mount dampers can be inspected visually from the roof if needed or preferred.

  1. Check for a draft

Stick your hand into the fireplace and see if you can feel a draft blowing through. If the damper is open, air might be circulating into your home from outside or vice versa. Additionally, you can listen to the sound of air rushing to verify that it is open. 

While it is extremely dangerous to light a fire with a closed damper. Try lighting a piece of paper or a rolled-up newspaper and see if the smoke is pulled upwards. If the smoke is not pulled upwards by a draft, the damper is not open.

  1. Locate the controls

The easiest method for checking the damper is to locate the controls for your specific setup. With top mount dampers, this is usually a chain with a handle on it. Typically with top-mount dampers, “open” is the default mode. To close the damper, the chain must be pulled downward against a spring and lock.

Even if the other two checks point to your damper being open, finding the controls is crucial. While you may be able to see some daylight or feel a draft, there’s always a possibility that the damper is not opened all the way. If this is the case, the flue can fill up with smoke and eventually spill over into your home.

Occasionally, people may forget to open the damper before starting a fire. The controls become much more crucial to understand when there’s a fire already going in the fireplace. Though it’s never recommended to start a fire without the damper open, knowing where the controls are can be the difference between a minor inconvenience and a serious health safety issue. 


A top mount damper can save untold sums of money every year on heating and cooling. In addition to that, it helps to prevent animals and debris from entering into your chimney flue while you aren’t using it. Because it closes off the top of your chimney flue, it must be opened before a fire is started in the fireplace to ensure the smoke can escape.

The easiest way to check your chimney flue is to acquaint yourself with the particular controls of your unit. For most top mount dampers this is a chain that can be pulled but every damper can be different.

Looking for a new top mount damper, maintenance on your chimney, or just advice and a helpful hand? Look no further than Brick + Ember Outfitters! Our dedicated, professional staff of experts are here to guide you through all things related to your chimney and masonry needs. Reach out to us today!