How to Repair a Stuck Flue

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A flue is the part of a chimney that vents smoke and other byproducts from a fireplace. These are usually simple door mechanisms with pull handles that raise and lower a metal panel that allows you to adjust how much venting is used. Over time, soot, ash, foreign debris and byproducts from burning build up and affect the smooth operation of the flue. This causes the mechanism to freeze up at the handle or hinges and requires maintenance.

Things You'll Need

  • Plastic sheeting
  • Flashlight
  • Light-duty hammer
  • Safety glasses
  • Face mask
  • Heavy work gloves
  • Remove the fireplace screen and any inserts like log holders. Place the plastic sheeting inside the base of the fireplace to catch any debris and to keep you from sitting in ash or soot during the flue repair.

  • Sit down inside the fireplace, with your back to the rear wall, and carefully raise your head up the shaft. Use the flashlight to look around and find the flue release handle. Check the handle to make sure it isn't damaged or pinched against the fireplace wall by foreign material.

  • Grab the handle and pull down firmly to see if it dislodges. You may need to shake the handle back and forth and up and down a few times. Soot may have gummed up the mechanism.

  • Check the flue door for proper operation. If the door is stuck open, reach your fingers up and pull or push on it slightly to see if it is simply stuck by soot, brick particles or rust in the hinge teeth. Work the door back and forth by hand a few times until it moves easily.

  • Rap on the door hinges a few times using the light-duty hammer. This will dislodge any debris caught in the hinges. Alternate moving the handle and striking the door hinges with the hammer until it works free.

  • Remove any debris that you can while inside the fireplace. Getting potential obstructions out before they become an issue will save time later.

Tips & Warnings

  • If there is a large amount of soot, dust and loose debris, a shop vacuum cleaner with a long, flexible hose will allow you to clean it from hard to reach places.
  • Don't hammer on the handle. You could bend it or break the connection to the flue doors.
  • Wear safety glasses, a face mask and heavy work gloves to protect yourself from injury and falling debris.

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References

  • "Home Maintenance for Dummies"; James Carey, et al.; 2009
  • "Black & Decker: The Complete Photo Guide to Home Repair"; Editors of Creative Publishing; 2008
  • Photo Credit Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images
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