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Why you should install a top-sealing damper

Almost all fireplace dampers are the same, a cast-iron contraption located at the top of the firebox. Many homeowners assume that these dampers are the only type. However, there’s another option and you may want to consider it. Here’s what you need to know about chimney dampers and why you should install a top-sealing damper in your home.

The Problem With Traditional Chimney Dampers

Most chimney dampers use a basic technology. A metal ring or exterior surrounds the opening of the chimney flue at the top of the firebox. A flap either folds or twists to fit into that damper when it is closed and your fireplace is not in use. The problem with these types of dampers is that they are highly inefficient, and they become burdensome over time.

Due to the extreme heat of the fireplace, metal fireplace dampers warp over time and fail to form a tight seal. The warping can also impact the mechanics of the damper, causes it to get stuck or make it difficult to open or close. Once your chimney damper fails, your chimney lose a significant amount of air when not in use. This also makes it easier for cold drafts to make their way down your chimney.

The Solution to Inefficient Dampers: Top-Sealing Dampers

If your traditional throat chimney damper has failed or is allowing cold drafts into your home, the best solution is to get a top-sealing chimney damper. A top-sealing damper is fitted to the top of your chimney, rather than placed inside. These dampers feature rubber gaskets to allow the damper to seal off the chimney entirely when your fireplace is not in use.

When you install a top-sealing chimney damper, a cable runs down the interior of the chimney. The damper is opened or closed with the pull of a chain or a lever. You’ll also notice that warm air is sealed inside your home, while water and cold drafts will never find their way in again. It will also help your chimney flue to block off wild animals and debris!

Call A to Z Chimney Services to learn more about Top-sealing Chimney Dampers!

If cold drafts is coming down your chimney or your throat damper has failed, call our experts at A to Z Chimney Services to schedule an appointment right now. We can answer all your questions about top-sealing chimney dampers, and we can also assess your chimney to find the best one for you!

Tips for building the perfect fire

Constructing the Perfect Fire Image - Sacramento CA - A to Z Chimney ServicesThe perfect fire provides ample heat, a pleasant crackle and little smoke. Many factors can interfere with such a fire, leaving you with a fire that hisses and pops, fills your home with smoke and leaves you frustrated. A few tips can help you to build the perfect fire every time and avoid frustration.

Begin with the right tools

There are a few items you’ll need to build the perfect fire. Always start with dry, seasoned firewood. The firewood should be cut to the proper size, which is approximately three inches shorter than your firebox. You’ll need logs — split to 6 inches in diameter or less — as well as some kindling to get the fire started.

Additionally, you will need newspaper or a commercial fire starter, which is usually made of wax and sawdust. If you are using newspaper, stick to plain black and white, non-glossy pages. The newspaper can be wadded into balls or twisted into batons or knots. Finally, you will need long fireplace matches or a long lighter to safely ignite the fire.

Make sure your fireplace is ready

Never light a fire in your fireplace or wood stove unless your fireplace and chimney have been swept and inspected recently. Your fireplace also should be outfitted with a metal grate or andirons to allow air to flow around and fuel your fire. Before you build your fire, make sure your damper is open so you don’t flood your house with smoke!

Build a stable fire

Perhaps one of the most common fire-building mistakes is building a fire on a base of kindling and newspaper. As the fire burns, those bottom layers fall away, allowing the rest of the fire to collapse on top. This can create a hazard, as it can send sparks and bits of log flying, and it can compromise the quality of your burn. There are two primary methods for building a stable fire that will burn efficiently: the log cabin method and the upside down fire.

To use the log cabin method, place parallel logs approximately six inches apart across your andirons or fireplace grate. Place your newspaper or fire starter and some kindling between them. Place two more parallel logs perpendicularly across the top of the first logs, and repeat once or twice more until the fire is the desired height. Your wood stack should have a square log cabin look. Light the fire and enjoy!

As the name implies, the upside down fire takes the traditional fire building technique and flips it. You begin by placing a layer of your thickest logs along your fireplace grate. Then, you add a layer of smaller logs in the opposite direction across the top. You continue layer progressively smaller logs atop the stack until you reach the desired height. Kindling is placed on the top of the wood stack, and the newspaper or fire starter is placed on top of the kindling! Ignite the newspaper or fire starter, and the fire will burn from the top down, creating a steady fire that doesn’t need a lot of tending.

Call the experts!

If you need anything to prepare your fireplace for the perfect fire — whether it’s a chimney sweeping and inspection or repairs — be sure to call the chimney experts at A to Z Chimney Services!

Why does my chimney need a chimney cap?

We all love our chimneys! They add a certain aesthetic beauty to our homes and help keep our families safe from the smoke and harmful gases that would otherwise leak into our homes without them. Since we value them for the protection that they provide to our families, why shouldn’t we protect them a little, too? This is where chimney caps come into play. They’re not required by laws or codes to be on our chimneys; however, it is strongly recommend that you consider having one installed.



It’s quite simple actually. The basic job of a chimney cap is to cover the chimney’s opening in an effort to keep water, birds and other wildlife, leaves, twigs and other debris from getting into your chimney and/or house. Water is directed away from the center and off the sides of your chimney. Birds, other wildlife, leaves, twigs and other debris are blocked from getting to your chimney via the mesh screening on the side, thereby preventing it from becoming a giant trash can. If any of these things were to get into your chimney, they could damage the chimney and cause more problems for you down the road. On the other hand, keeping them all out can increase the lifetime of your chimney liner.


Chimney caps are made from a variety of materials—galvanized steel, copper, stainless steel, and aluminum—and can be simple or ornate. Stainless steel caps generally give homeowners the most bang for their buck, as they are not impacted by the elements as much as are the other materials. Galvanized steel and aluminum caps can and will eventually rust and need to be replaced, while shiny, more expensive copper caps will slowly weather and eventually end up the same color as the Statue of Liberty (some homeowners may actually prefer copper’s natural patina and will be willing to fork over the extra money for it; it’s purely a personal preference).


For those who are worried about the cost associated with a chimney cap, basic caps are available at a pretty fair price. Deciding to purchase a chimney cap and have it installed by a professional chimney technician is a choice you won’t soon regret, as it’s much cheaper to add a chimney cap now than to be faced with repairing or replacing your chimney liner much sooner than would otherwise be necessary.

It’s also a lot cheaper to have a cap installed than to hire a pest removal specialist to remove a family of raccoons from your chimney. Unless you just really want to get a visit from Ernie “The Turtle man” Brown or the Verminators, do yourself a favor and have a chimney cap installed. With A to Z Chimney Services, you can be confident that you’re receiving the best in chimney care from experienced and educated technicians. All of our sweeps are certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and work to continuously improve their skills and add to their knowledge. We guarantee honest, high quality, clean work every single time we’re in the field.