Chimney Dampers, a hidden helper

Chimneys appear to be simple structures comprising a hearth on the inside of a building and a stack visible from the outside, but they are made up of several parts one of which is a chimney damper. In this article, we look at chimney dampers, what they are and why their correct use is important.

What is a chimney damper?

Chimney Dampers

A chimney damper is a plate of metal, often made of cast iron, steel or other heat-proof material, that can be pulled up or down to open or close the flue. Opening and closing the chimney damper controls the airflow, regulating the draught. When a fire is lit, the damper must always be open to allow gases to escape. It can be closed when the fire is not in use to prevent heat loss from the room and to prevent cold air from blowing down the flue.

It is a good idea to think of your chimney as an appliance. It is there as part of the heating system of your home. When used as an open fire to burn wood or solid fuel, a good burn is achieved through the power of the draught.  The draught is also most important to ensure the gases created during burning are taken up the flue and expelled out. However, most chimneys, especially domestic chimneys, are not lit all the time. A consequence of this can be a cold draft blowing down the flue and into the room. This is where a chimney damper comes into use.

Where is the chimney damper?

There are two positions in a chimney where you might find the damper. The most common is in the throat, which is a position just above the firebox, or where burning takes place. They are close enough to the hearth, or fireplace to be seen by looking up the chimney. The damper is open if, when looking up the chimney, the flue is visible.

The other type of chimney damper is a top-sealing damper, sometimes known as a chimney cap damper or top-mounted damper. As you would think, these are located at the top of the chimney stack. They have the same function as one located at the throat, regulating the airflow. A top-sealing damper has a rubber seal making it airtight, so it also has the benefit of preventing rain, wildlife, and debris from entering the chimney.

How do they work?

Both types of damper are opened and closed manually with a mechanism in or close to the fireplace. Throat dampers are operated with a handle. These vary from a ‘saw’ style or a poker type which attaches to the damper and are either pushed or pulled. Alternatively, there are rotary-style handles that are turned as you would a key to open or close the damper. With a top-sealing damper, the mechanism to open and close the damper is by a handle, usually at the side of the firebox. The handle is attached to a steel cable that reaches up the flue to the damper.

The position of the chimney damper should always be checked before lighting the fire. It is important that the damper is fully opened before starting the fire otherwise smoke and gases will be expelled into the room. Burning wood and solid fuels creates carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas, so it is imperative that the damper is open and the chimney is in good order when using a fireplace. Any closed, or partially closed damper will restrict the flow of these gases and can be injurious to health. You can read our article for more information about Carbon Monoxide.

What type of chimney damper should I have fitted?

If you have a chimney, you will already have a damper as they are part of a chimney’s construction, and it is likely to be a throat damper. If there are issues with the damper, then you could choose to replace it with a top-sealing damper.

Pros and cons of throat and top-sealing chimney dampers

Throat damper


  • Easy to use
  • Easy to control
  • Helps retain heat in the room


  • Metal on metal, so not a full seal
  • Can warp over time
  • Can rust over time

Top-sealing damper


  • Airtight
  • Energy efficient
  • Keeps rain, debris and wildlife out


  • Can only be fitted on masonry chimneys
  • Can only be fitted on open fireplaces
  • Access is via the roof only


Do I need a damper for my wood-burning stove?

Modern wood-burning stoves do not usually need a damper because they are designed to be efficient in expelling the gases of combustion. Older models may well have a damper to help to control the airflow. These would be in the stove pipe. Where there is no damper, some older models may benefit from having a damper fitted. If your wood-burning stove is not working to capacity and you are having issues, then it is a good idea to have the stove inspected.

Billing Chimneys has years of experience in wood-burning stove installation and can help you achieve optimum efficiency in your stove. Our expert engineers will be able to tell you if a damper would help or if there is something else that is interfering with the system.

Cleaning and maintenance of a chimney damper

As with everything associated with a chimney, keeping the chimney damper clean and well-maintained is essential for it to work safely and efficiently. It goes without saying that the fire must be out and the firebox completely cold before attempting to do any cleaning inside.

It is possible to remove, clean, and replace the damper plate if it’s a throat damper. There are nuts that when undone will allow for the rod to be removed and the plate lifted out. If it’s cast iron, it’s likely to be heavy, so care must be taken. When it’s out, check it for warping and rust. The plate can then be cleaned by brushing to remove soot and any creosote burned onto the damper.

With top-sealing dampers, because they are made of steel, rusting is unlikely. The cable may need replacing or debris removed from on top of the plate. However, maintaining a top-sealing damper will need access to the roof and is best left to professionals like Billing Chimneys.

Whatever you choose to do, cleaning and maintaining your chimney damper is a messy job, so why not call in the professionals? Billing Chimneys offers a full range of maintenance and repair services carried out by experienced and friendly engineers.

Your chimney damper is an important part of your chimney’s system and ensuring it is in good working order will provide your home with warmth alongside optimum energy efficiency. If you have any questions or concerns about your chimney damper, give us a call.

Fireplace Renovation

Do you have a disused fireplace at your property and are looking to open it up to be used again? Or are you thinking about updating your existing one or changing from an open fire to an appliance? Then you’ll be considering undertaking a fireplace renovation project. There is no doubt that fireplaces provide a superb focal point in a room and if the fireplace is in the main living area of your home you’ll want it to not only be functional but to look attractive. When it comes to fireplace design your options are limitless, however, there are some things that you must consider whatever type of project. In this article, we take a look at fireplace renovation, the things you must consider and offer some of our tips and ideas.

Where to begin with your fireplace renovation

If you are a regular reader of Billing Chimneys’ articles, you will know that our first thought with any work to be carried out on a fireplace is safety. It is essential for you and your family that any chimneys and associated appliances are safe to use. The fireplace and especially the chimney flue must be well maintained and in good working order. Because of this, before you start any project it is vital to have the chimney inspected. This is particularly important if you are reopening a fireplace that has been disused as its condition needs to be assessed. An inspection will allow you to find out if there are any problems with the chimney because work may be needed, and this would impact your budget. The system must be in good condition. Problems with brickwork can cause dangerous leaks as will cracked or broken chimney linings. Inspections are easy to arrange and are carried out by Billing Chimneys using state-of-the-art CCTV.

From the start, with any fireplace renovation project, you will need to decide on how the fireplace is to be used. Are you thinking about an open fire or an appliance? Again, this will impact your budget. Changes to the structure of the chimney or a change of appliance will need to comply with building regulations. Therefore, you need to be sure that whoever is carrying out the work is competent and able to comply with all relevant regulations.

By engaging chimney specialists like Billing Chimneys, you can be assured that all work carried out is safe and will comply with all regulations and necessary building control.

Once you’ve had your inspection and any work carried out or if your fireplace is already in use, and you have regular sweeps and inspections, then your project can begin in earnest.

Starting your fireplace renovation project

The fun part of fireplace renovation is in designing the perfect look for your home. If you have moved into a property and want to open a disused fireplace, it can be exciting to find out what might be behind the boarding that has been hiding the fireplace, sometimes for many years. Especially in older properties, this could uncover an unexpected find such as a character fireplace surround which in turn might give you new ideas about how you want the room to look. If you are renovating a fireplace in a period or character home, we have more information here.

You may be changing from an open fire to a wood-burning stove, so you will have the option of redesigning the hearth. You might leave the bricks exposed to give a rustic look or you might want to plaster over them, creating a crisp, clean-looking alcove.

There’s a fantastic range of designs for wood burners and another option could be a double-sided stove. This works where two rooms share a chimney, and the stove is shared between the two rooms.

It is worth considering the fact that an open fire is 20% efficient at heating the room/property, whereas an enclosed freestanding stove is 80% efficient.

Fireplace renovation on a budget

There are ways to carry out a fireplace renovation on a budget. However, we would strongly advise to never cut corners when it comes to safety. A budget option is to simply change the mantle. We don’t mind repeating that is imperative for the safety of you and your family that the chimney is swept and in good condition and this must be a consideration when beginning your project. Once you have had the inspection, you will know whether any work needs to be carried out and any costs involved. Billing Chimneys engineers have many years of experience between them and would be happy to offer some ideas for your renovation, including less expensive options, such as keeping bricks bare and installing a new mantle.

Can I carry out fireplace renovation myself?

Yes, you can, though as we said earlier, having the chimney professionally inspected first is most important. Also, if you are planning structural changes or changes to the appliance, then these works come under building regulations. If mistakes are made, they could be costly to remedy, but most of all, unsafe. You will also need to pay for all costs associated with building control.

Of course, decorative work can be done by yourself and for many, this is the fun part.

Checklist for fireplace renovation

Renovating a fireplace can be an exciting project that makes a big impact on your home. To get the most from it and ensure all runs smoothly, planning is key. Here’s a checklist to help you along.

  • Decide what you want to do with the fireplace, for example, a wood burner or an open fire.
  • Decide what you want the fireplace to look like.
  • Have you removed any boarding up of the fireplace to look behind/up the flue?
  • Engage an experienced chimney specialist, like Billing Chimneys, to carry out a sweep and inspection
  • If planning to have an appliance, research the types and sizes best suited for your room and seek the advice of your chimney specialists
  • Set your budget
  • Book your installation
  • Complete your decoration
  • Light the fire
  • Sit back and enjoy your beautiful fireplace.

A fireplace is the centrepiece of any room and with careful thought, your fireplace can create a beautiful talking point. With a multitude of options, fireplace renovation makes for a great project with safety at its core.

Fireplace Restoration

Are you the owner of a character, heritage or period property or have recently purchased one and are setting out to turn it into your dream home? You will most likely be considering restoration work and, amongst the tasks will likely be a fireplace restoration. Fireplaces are the focal point of any room, so you’ll want to make it look its best, or even become a talking point with friends and family. Whatever the situation, your first considerations will begin with the current state of the fireplace and chimney. In some cases, the hearth could have been boarded up, or perhaps there’s an old appliance that you wish to replace or do away with completely. In this article, we look at fireplace restoration in period and historic properties, offer some helpful tips and provide information on how your project will result not only in a beautiful new fireplace but importantly, that it is safe and efficient.

Where to start with your fireplace restoration

Whether or not you are preserving or recreating the fireplace, the first action must be an inspection by professionals like Billing Chimneys. If a fireplace and its chimney are not properly maintained then it will most probably be inefficient and cost more to run than necessary. More seriously, if the structure has issues, there may be leakages of dangerous gases into rooms which can result in illness and even death. Therefore, we cannot emphasise enough that chimneys should be regularly swept and inspected.

Following sweeping, an inspection of the fireplace and the flue, or flue lining will show up any problems. This will ensure that any costs incurred in bringing the structure up to standard can be accounted for in your project’s budget from the start. At Billing, we use state-of-the-art CCTV, illuminated by LED lighting and using video recording. Any issues can be spotted during the inspection and on further checking of the video. Once your chimney has been swept, the flue and fireplace inspected and any repairs made, you can go ahead with your project.

In addition to the safety factor, there are advantages to calling in professionals at the start of your fireplace restoration project. Heritage and period properties could be listed buildings, be situated within conservation areas, within areas of outstanding natural beauty or combinations of the three. In these cases, building consent and planning permissions may be required. A competent chimney specialist will be able to advise on any restrictions and regulations and can advise you whether they apply to your property and the proposed project.

Starting your fireplace restoration project

Should the original fireplace have been stripped out before bricking or boarding up, then you can try to find out what the original fireplace looked like. Are there similar houses in the neighbourhood? You could ask around if anyone still has original features in their homes and if you could take a look. You could look at specialist books and magazines or there may be old photographs at your local library or archives.

If your fireplace or fireplaces have been boarded up, then it can be exciting to uncover what is behind the brick or plaster. In some cases, original features can be exposed, and this might give you further ideas for the design of the fireplace. It might also inform whether you will have an open fire or have an appliance such as a wood-burning stove installed. Victorian houses often had cast-iron fireplace surrounds and decorative tiles. These could be quite ornate. 1930s homes also used tiles often in the Art Deco style or similar which could still be intact. There are some wonderful wooden fireplace surrounds that could be renovated. If you are hoping to find something in keeping with the age and character of the house, but are disappointed once the boards are removed, then it’s possible to recreate the look. There are reproduction fireplace surrounds widely available that would suit most designs. However, should you want authenticity, then some companies supply salvaged original fireplace surrounds and furniture.

Types of original fireplace surrounds and mantlepieces found in salvage include:

  • Cast Iron
  • Stone
  • Marble
  • Tiled
  • Oak beams

You may be changing from an open fire to a wood-burning stove, so you will have the option of redesigning the hearth. You might leave the bricks exposed to give a rustic look or you might want to plaster over them, creating a crisp, clean-looking alcove.

There’s a fantastic range of designs for wood burners and another option could be a double-sided stove. This works where two rooms share a chimney, and the stove is shared between the two rooms.

It is worth considering the fact that an open fire is 20% efficient at heating the room/property, whereas an enclosed freestanding stove is 80% efficient. This does not however mean that you need to sacrifice a period look as there are as many traditional style stoves available as there are contemporary.

Fireplace restoration on a budget

A simple, but effective way to restore a fireplace is with a new mantle. As mentioned above, there are some good reproduction fireplace surrounds on the market. You could find bargains at reclamation yards too. If you’re having a wood-burning stove, plastering the brickwork and painting along with a plain aperture with no mantle can be a stylish option. Whatever you decide to do decoratively, never compromise on safety, always keep the chimney swept and have regular inspections. If you’ve uncovered an old fireplace and can’t decide what to do, then Billing Chimneys engineers would be happy to offer some ideas for your restoration, including less expensive options.

Can I carry out fireplace restoration myself?

Yes, once the chimney has been swept and professionally inspected, you’ll be in a good position to decide what next for your fireplace restoration. Do remember that structural changes or adding or changing an appliance will come under building regulations and a listed building is subject to additional regulations. You will be responsible for paying all charges associated with these.

Checklist for fireplace restoration

Restoring a fireplace can create a wonderful focal point in a room and can be a fun project to undertake.  Planning each stage of your project will ensure it is successful.  

  • Work out whether you are recreating a particular look, or restoring existing features
  • Remove any boarding to discover what’s underneath
  • Have the fireplace and flue inspected by an experienced chimney company like Billing Chimneys
  • Does the work need any permissions from the local authority, if so start an application early
  • If having an appliance, research makes and models to find the best for your room size and overall design scheme
  • Set your budget
  • Book your installation
  • Carry out the decoration if doing it yourself.
  • Light the fire
  • Enjoy your beautifully restored fireplace

If you keep safety at the core of your project and take time over the choices you make, your beautifully restored fireplace will give you years of pleasure and provide a cosy focal point in your home.

Billing Chimneys is proud to have accreditation from HETAS, but why is that, and what is HETAS? In this article, we talk about HETAS and why it is important to us as a company not only as an indicator of the quality of our work but also for providing confidence and reassurance for our customers.

Who are HETAS

Who are HETAS?

The acronym HETAS stands for Heating Equipment Testing and Approval Scheme, but its work goes beyond this single statement. HETAS is a non-profit organisation that is not only about the testing and approval of heating equipment but also provides a range of services for companies like Billing Chimneys. HETAS offers expert advice and training to installation companies and offers information to the general public. In its essence, it is about improving safety and air quality by ensuring those who are installing heating equipment are competent and their services meet a high standard.

HETAS maintains registers of appliance installers, service engineers and chimney sweeps who are fully trained and competent. Additionally, they maintain registers of competent retailers. This aims to give confidence to consumers when having heating equipment installed in their homes and businesses. HETAS also provides information on fuels and fuel efficiency as part of their drive for air quality.

Central to this is HETAS’s impartiality. They state: ‘Providing trustworthy information is at the heart of our service, especially through our website and HETAS Guide.’ To do this HETAS undertakes research that provides evidence-based information to influence decision-makers, including the government, on which to base legislation.

Why HETAS matters to Billing Chimneys

Safety is at the heart of everything Billing Chimneys does, from the smallest domestic installation or inspection to a large commercial contract. It was due to one of our larger customers that Billing Chimneys joined the accreditation scheme. Tony Billing, Director said: ‘Initially we signed up as one of our larger customers requested it to be able to go ahead with the job, and after proceeding we realised it would be beneficial to all of our customers.

As members, Billing Chimneys can take advantage of training schemes run by HETAS. Also, the fact that registration needs to be renewed regularly has the advantage of continuous professional development for staff. Tony says: ‘HETAS registration for each installer expires after 4 years so periodically undertaking refresher courses ensures that our engineers always remain up to date on current installation regulations.

It isn’t only Billing’s expert installation engineers who benefit from HETAS training. ‘HETAS also provide courses for our non-installers which is great as this provides further knowledge on regulations, standards, legislation and appliance sizing without having to become an installer.’ Added Tony.

Adhering to the relevant regulations is essential to ensure high standards and safety with heating installations, crucially, non-compliance could lead to work needing to be redone. Many installations must be notified to the local council which attracts a fee and this can take time, however, having HETAS accreditation takes care of this. Tony explains: ‘Completing the Certificate of Compliance on an installation and sending to HETAS automatically notifies the Local Authority Building Control (LABC) which is a legal requirement. If we were not registered installers, we would have to notify the LABC, pay the fee and arrange for them to visit which slows down the process for the customer as we would not be able to sign off immediately. Some smaller straightforward installations can therefore be completed in as little as 1 or 2 days.

How HETAS benefits consumers

HETAS benefits consumers in a variety of ways but the key element is its independence, operating openly and with objectivity and impartiality. Consumers researching companies to undertake a heating installation in their home or business can rest assured that hiring a HETAS registered engineer will ensure high standards and compliance with regulations.

HETAS works with a wide variety of partners to ensure a broad scope of knowledge and input, including government, industry experts and innovators. As a not-for-profit company, it is overseen by an industry body of members who provide guidance and direction. HETAS itself is subject to an annual audit by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS).

Overall, HETAS provides consumer confidence by:

  • Providing impartial information and advice
  • Keeping a register of competent installers that consumers can search
  • Keeping a register of approved servicing
  • Keeping a register of approved chimney sweeps
  • Approving products and ensuring standards are met
  • Approving retailers
  • Promoting safe and responsible use of biomass and other fuels
  • Providing information on fuel and quality assured fuel

Most of this information is available through the HETAS website and if you need to speak with one of their experts there are dedicated email addresses for different service areas, including homeowner support. Consumers can search the registers of installers, providers of servicing and chimney sweeps.  Leaflets are available for download and examples include advice on wood-burning stoves, solid fuel heating and chimney and flue systems.

Following an installation, a certificate of compliance is issued. This is an important document.

What does the Certificate of Compliance Cover?

When your installation has been completed you will receive pink copies of the completed and signed HETAS Certificate of Compliance and HETAS Commissioning Sheet. A white copy of the Certificate of Compliance is also sent directly to HETAS to confirm compliance with building regulations and for them to notify the local authority’s Building Control.

The certificate details:

  • Customer’s address and contact information
  • Work completion date
  • Installer’s name and company details and HETAS registration information
  • Type of appliances installed (if applicable)
  • Type of liner installed (if applicable)
  • Type of microgeneration installed (if applicable)
  • Type of heating and how water is installed (if applicable)
  • Type of plumbing installed (if applicable)
  • Confirmation that a notice plate and carbon monoxide alarm has been fitted
  • What the installation has replaced (if applicable)
  • Location of the installation
  • Product make/model/output (if applicable)
  • Confirmation that the appliance has been tested and commissioned
  • Signature of the installer to declare that the work has been carried out in accordance with building regulations

The white copy of the certificate will then be sent back to the customer by HETAS and should be retained for future reference (it may be requested upon sale of the property etc.). Replacement copies can only be provided by HETAS directly at a cost.

Proud to be HETAS registered

Having HETAS accreditation is beneficial to us as a company and to our customers. Through HETAS accreditation, Billing Chimneys’ customers can be satisfied that all our engineers work to a high standard, receive continuous professional development and keep at the top of their profession. Our non-engineering staff maintain the same high standards, ensuring they are knowledgeable and can speak with confidence to customers.

Whilst Billing Chimneys first joined HETAS because it was requested by a client we quickly saw that there were advantages for both ourselves and our customers. We are and remain proud HETAS members keeping us up to date with the latest training and information and providing our customers with peace of mind when engaging our services.

If you want to read more about HETAS see:

Water leaks relating to the chimney are quite common as a property ages or following other works that have disturbed something within the chimney. Leaks can travel away from their source confusing customers as to the reason behind the leak.

A leaking chimney usually presents itself to the homeowner in the following ways: peeling wallpaper, a damp patch on or near the chimney breast (at any level of the property), water in the fireplace, dripping noise in the chimney, rust on your fireplace grate or flue pipe.

It is not unusual to hear from customers who have had remedial works carried out to their chimney stack by a third party, to then find that the leak persists. In these cases, we are able to use our many years of experience to offer a suitable resolution. We also have specialists to undertake areas such as leadwork which can cause further issues when poorly installed by an unqualified individual.


  • No cap
  • Damaged cowl
  • Frost
  • Faulty flashing
  • Deteriorated brickwork/mortar
  • Deteriorated/defective flaunching
  • Condensation within the flue
  • No lead tray(s)
  • Damage caused by poor installation of the flue liner
  • Deterioration of the flue liner


  • CCTV inspection of the flue shaft/flue liner to highlight any defects
  • Drone inspection of the exterior of the chimney to determine the cause
  • Cap or cowl installation/replacement with new weather flaunching
  • Chimney repointing
  • Replacement leadwork
  • New or replacement flue liner
  • Chimney rebuild with new lead trays
  • *Please note: Applying waterproofing/water repellent to the exterior of the stack does not allow the chimney to breathe which may cause further issues.

Dangers of untreated chimney leaks

Untreated damp and mould can cause or aggravate respiratory issues and affect the immune system. Babies, children, the elderly and those with asthma or pre-existing respiratory conditions are more susceptible. Adverse signs to look out for include those similar to an allergic reaction; sneezing, runny nose, rash, red eyes, loss of breath or asthma attacks.

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