Fireplace #20: Vestal Damper with Center Handle and High Flue Tile
These Vestal Dampers are very common in masonry fireplaces of solid brick or stone. These are their characteristics:
They have a long rectangular cast iron damper door.
The door has a 16″ long curved cast iron handle sticking down from the center of the damper door.
The handle has saw teeth on the back, and a loop on the end.
The shaft of the handle sticks through a metal bracket that is attached to the damper frame.
The nice thing about these Vestal dampers is they are very easy to disassemble. This is so chimney sweeps can get easy access to the smoke chamber for cleaning.
In this particular application you can see through the damper opening. The flue tile terminates a vertical distant of over 4 feet above the damper. This makes for a very tall smoke chamber, and tricky access to the flue tile, since it is out of hands reach. That also makes this application a toss-up on which chimney plug to use, so lets pick a solution according to your needs.
If you use the fireplace regularly, use the Chimella
20-7: Chimella install options
If you are looking for the easiest product to take in and out of the flue, the Chimella is the best option. But the Chimella’s spring loaded extending handle is only 24″ long. So select an area within 24″ of your reach in the flue tile or smoke chamber to make your measurement.
Here are the Steps:
You will need a folding carpenters ruler folded into an L shape, or a builders T square (image 20-3) to measure the flue tile or the upper smoke chamber.
The Chimella sizes to fit when opened in the flue, so you don’t have to be exact with your measurements.
It is better to have a Chimella that is too large, than one that it too small in this application.
If the hole you are putting the Chimella in is less than 16″x16″ in width and length then use the Standard Size Chimella.
If it is bigger than 16″x16″, but less than 19″x25″, then use the Large Chimella.
It is important to open a Chimella properly when installing, so it gets a tight fit. Here is a Video to see how the Chimella works. Pay close attention the the part of the video about tightening the collar with the purple dot on it.
If you want to plug it and forget it, use the Flueblocker
20-8: Cotter Pin on Handle
If you don’t use your fireplace very much, and you just want a way to plug the flue tightly for a long duration, then go with a Flueblocker. It seals and insulates very well, but you will have to remove the damper door to fit it properly. The Flueblocker will replace your metal damper door, and it will do a better job.
First, straighten and pull the cotter pin that holds the damper handle to the damper door (image 20-8). Then remove the damper handle.
With the handle removed, you can push up on the damper door. It is now unhinged and free, since it is just setting in there by gravity. Turn the door sideways and lower it down through the damper frame.
Measure the damper frame opening. and install a Flueblocker that is at least the size of the opening. The Flueblocker is a wool pad with extra hems, so you can trim them to size with sharp scissors. The Flueblocker Install (image 20-5) example was a 13×35 Flueblocker trimmed to 10″x34″ to fit the hole. Leave the pad a little big for the hole, so it fits in well.
I like to fit the Flueblocker right into the hole of the damper frame. With one lip of the pad edge above the frame, and the other below the frame (image 20-6). This is a very tight seal.
What about the Chimney Balloon?
20-9: Chimney Balloon Installed
The Chimney Balloon can work well in this application. It generally installs just above the damper frame at the bottom of the smoke shelf. It gives you a very tight seal, however it is an inflatable. So it is not as durable as the other options. And it requires a top-off on air every 6 to 12 months because of the swings in outside air temperature.
Here are the steps to use a Chimney Balloon:
Remove the damper handle and damper door (see instructions above.)
With a folding carpenters ruler or tape measure, get the length and width of the smoke chamber area just above the damper frame.
Buy a Chimney Balloon that is a little large for the application. For example, If you measure 33″L x 13″ W, buy a 36×15 Chimney Balloon.
Lay the Chimney Balloon flat, then fold it in half length-wise (Like a big soft shell taco) away from the handle valve. This will allow you to easily tuck the deflated Chimney Balloon through the damper opening.
When the deflated Chimney Balloon is setting on top of the damper frame, start blowing air into it. The damper frame will hold up the balloon as you inflate, and the belly of the balloon will be pressed against the damper frame. The handle valve will be sitcking out of the damper frame opening. (image 20-9)
Once the Chimney Balloon starts grabbing the sides of the chimney wall, do not reposition the balloon. The material has a grabbing property on its outer layer. Moving it while it is grabbing will risk a puncture.
Once it is installed you close the valve on the handle. You can then remove the inflation tube if you want to, or you can leave it hang down as a reminder.