Come on baby, light my fire (and don't let me die from fumes)
December 21, 2011 11:29 AM   Subscribe

How do I open/close my fireplace flue?

We just bought a new house (my wife asked a question about it earlier today). It has a double-sided gas fireplace with artificial logs.

I grew up with a wood-burning fireplace and know the importance of having the flue open, so I got down and tried to open the flue, moved the lever every which way, and have no clue if I made any difference. So we called the old owner, who said they didn't know how it worked but just always left it open. Now I wonder if I may have closed it?

I can post pictures if it will help, but there is a black lever that comes down and there appears to be a metal "holder" on each side of the fireplace, but as it's double sided I can't tell if they're there for symmetry or if they open and close the fireplace.

Google-fu has only confused me more with information about "ventless" fire places, etc. So I was hoping someone could help?
posted by arniec to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Some gas logs do not require an open flue. You should be able to stick your head under and see if it is open or closed ( If it is a bottom flue). If they had the chimney relined with stainless because f the gas it may be a top flue. If that's the case you may be able to see a stainless wire rope running up the chimney.
posted by Gungho at 11:42 AM on December 21, 2011

We also bought a house last year with no instructions how to open the flue. What I did was turn the flue-controller-handle-thingy then use a mirror to see when it was open: I had to kind of angle it carefully in the fireplace to see up the chimney. Then I wrote on the base to the handle's base with a sharpie "open --->" to show which way to turn it. It'll help if you can do this on a windy/cold day because the breeze coming into your fireplace will be another clue that you found the direction that means open.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 11:44 AM on December 21, 2011

Just realized you have a gas fireplace... ours is wood. Sorry, please disregard my comment if you've already tried the mirror thing.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 11:46 AM on December 21, 2011

Typically the lever down=closed, up=open.
posted by rich at 11:47 AM on December 21, 2011

You're gonna have to get dirty. Get a bright flashlight, and a (washable) hat and long sleeved shirt and maybe some goggles. Get in there, shine the flashlight up, and operate the handle (close your eyes for a moment while doing so because there will be a rain of horrible flakes). You'll be able to tell which position is open and which is closed, as the flap itself will be visible. Accept no substitutes for this procedure, as it is dangerous and a pain in the butt if you make a mistake.
posted by zomg at 11:51 AM on December 21, 2011

Rich, the lever didn't seem to move up or down, just side to side and it swung freely like a pendulum.
Here's a picture of what I see... I don't see anything that opens or closes so I fear it may be a top flue... it's also not straight up (right above the fireplace is a closet) so the chimney pipe must bend somewhere...
posted by arniec at 11:54 AM on December 21, 2011

I'm gonna go with zomg here and say you're just going to have to get dirty and stick something in there to see. You'll only have to do it once in your whole life.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:00 PM on December 21, 2011

Uh, push it up and set the loop on that little shelf thing in the back?
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 12:15 PM on December 21, 2011

gonna agree with Marie, looks like it should push up to open the flue. Based on wear on the handle and the extension, I also agree the handle looks like it should rest/fit in the notch somehow.
posted by k5.user at 12:21 PM on December 21, 2011

It'll help if you can do this on a windy/cold day because the breeze coming into your fireplace will be another clue that you found the direction that means open.

And even if not, if you can open another door or window somewhere and tape a piece of paper near the hole you may be able to detect air movement indicating an open flue.
posted by resurrexit at 12:34 PM on December 21, 2011

Flues are always counter-intuitive, it seems, but every one I've ever encountered opened by pushing the level up and closed by pulling down. They do wiggle around in other directions but those have been the operating movements.
posted by empyrean at 12:38 PM on December 21, 2011

If you're inaugurating a chimney you've never used, you should call a chimney sweep anyway - they will both clean it and give you an orientation session on your own chimney. Failing that, one of you burns some newspaper while the other stands outside and watches the chimney. Smoke = open. No or very little smoke = closed. That's basically how the sweep orients your flue anyway.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:14 PM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Get some incense, light it, put it inside the fireplace. If the chimney flue is open, the smoke will rise, if not, it will do something else. (and, you can tell if there's a new Pope.) Or, visit a stove shop, or the forums. They love questions like this.
posted by theora55 at 4:05 PM on December 21, 2011

I just had mine swept and learned mine is down for open and up for closed, like miniblinds. I think my sweep was $67? Not too bad to be sure all is safe, they can tell you what is up.
posted by dottiechang at 2:30 AM on December 22, 2011

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