Ways to Fix Old Fireplaces in Historic Homes

Ways to Fix Old Fireplaces in Historic Homes

So you have old fireplaces in a home from the early 1900’s, or 1800’s to 1700’s?

Historic homes with old fireplaces are often wide open or have broken dampers and hardware that rusted and rotted-out a long time ago. It is impossible to get parts for these old fireplaces, because they were custom made by metalsmiths that have long passed.

jagged old fireplaces

Jagged old fireplace

Old historic homes in general are filled with history and character and wonderful features from a by-gone era. But they are also a lot of work and they are full of surprises. Upgrading or fixing the old fireplaces in a home that is over 100 years old can be a challenge, but it will require some measurements and perhaps a custom sized Flueblocker chimney plug. Or you may have to trim the wool pad of the Flueblocker to fit an irregular shape or size.

Look for a location above the firebox that is low enough to touch with your hands, that you could install a Flueblocker into. Measure the length and depth of that area and buy a Flueblocker that is a little larger than that space. If it is an irregular or trapezoidal shape be sure to measure the widest points and narrowest points.

Best way to close off an old fireplace?

Often the wool padded Flueblocker is better than an inflatable Chimney Balloon in these old fireplaces, because the broken bricks and sharp rusted metal can cause punctures to an inflatable chimney plug. Also the Flueblocker can be ordered in custom sizes to accommodate very large openings, and you have the option to scissor-cut them to fit if needed.

Energy Efficient Home Improvements Like Blocking the Chimney

Flueblocker above the firebox

Construction materials are different in old fireplaces

Because old fireplaces are often thoroughly coated with years of creosote, ash, and soot it is best to seal the chimney as low as possible to seal out the smokey and sooty smells of the smoke chamber and flue. Old fireplaces are generally brick and mortar  from top to bottom, and do not have modern featured like a clay or stainless steel flue tile.

The brick and mortar can often be crumbly or broken from centuries of wear and tear. You cannot assume a fireplace is even safe to burn in. It is important to have a level 2 chimney inspection done before an old fireplace is used for burning. In my experience, historic homes rarely have fireplaces that can be used before they have extensive work done. The old fireplaces may have worked well centuries ago, but they need an upgrade to work today.




Flueblocker Has Gaps Around the Edge? Try 3 Easy Steps to Fix it?

Flueblocker Has Gaps Around the Edge? Try 3 Easy Steps to Fix it?

Q: My Flueblocker has gaps around the edges.
I measured my opening of my cast iron damper frame. The opening of the damper frame in the flue is 7″x20″.

So I purchased the 8×24 Flueblocker. I don’t know if I needed a bigger size, or what the issue is, but the seal is poor since my Flueblocker has gaps around the edge. I am including pictures and video of the two biggest gaps, where I can feel the draft come in.


I tried plugging the gaps with other material, but it just made the seal worse and it started to fall down. Any help would be appreciated, even with our top sealing damper and this Flueblocker, the smell inside the house from the draft is terrible. Thank you for your help. – M.U.

A: Dear M.U., Wow! you did a great job with the photos and video showing your Flueblocker has gaps! Thank you!

The right side where your Flueblocker has gaps is pretty easy to fix. The top seal damper cable is causing that. So just take a pair of sturdy scissors and make a small slit in the edge of the wool pad to let the top seal damper cable through.

Flueblocker pulled through the damper

Flueblocker pulled through the damper

The center spot where your Flueblocker has gaps is a little trickier. It looks like the culprit causing the gap is the white mortar that is kind of gooped up on top of the metal frame right there. Sometimes you can use a hammer and a flat head screwdriver to chisel off a chunk of mortar like that. It should release from the cast iron pretty easy.


But, I keep an L-shaped bent wire hanger in my tool kit to help with this kind of situation. I use the hanger as a hook to get behind the wool pad in the spot to bring it forward a bit. Sometimes you even need to actually bring the pad to the front of the frame in that little spot or in the center in general. Like the photo on the left.
Mortar globs are a pain in the butt. In your case it is the reason your Flueblocker has gaps in that center spot. You just have to try a few things to knock them out or work around them.
BTW, since you are trying to stop fireplace smells don’t forget to deodorize the firebox as well. Here is a link on how to deodorize a fireplace:
Show me how to use a chimney plug in my chimney, if my fireplace flue has 4 slanted walls?

Show me how to use a chimney plug in my chimney, if my fireplace flue has 4 slanted walls?

How to use a chimney plug in my chimney, if my fireplace flue has 4 slanted walls? Does a Chimney Balloon really work in this fireplace, or should I make a DIY chimney plug?

Q:  I am trying to use a chimney plug to seal an 11 inch diameter circle damper situation with the rod handle, as you can see in the picture. My goal is to primarily seal the flue from insects and pests and second reason is energy efficiency.
Would you please let me know how to use a chimney plug in my chimney, and which chimney plug and size is best for my damper handle situation. Thanks! – Ibrahim

A: Hi Ibrahim, I would recommend you use the 12″ round Flueblocker above the flue damper. That will work better than a Chimney Balloon in this fireplace. In order to install it, you will tuck the wool pad past the open damper without the handle attached. Then spear the Flueblocker handle into the wool pad clamp and tighten the handle by turning it to thread it into the hole on the clamp. One it is threaded you can use the leverage of the Flueblocker handle to push the wool pad into place above the chimney damper. It will look like the photo below. It will do a great job stopping bugs and drafts. – Jason R

Flueblocker installed in round chimney

Flueblocker installed above the damper

Contact us if you are wondering how to use a inflatable chimney plug or wool fireplace plug as a chimney draught stopper in my chimney?



My Heatelator fireplace is very drafty and I would like to close it off to stop the draft.

My Heatelator fireplace is very drafty and I would like to close it off to stop the draft.

Q: Jason, Hi, I stumbled across your site today, and I am very interested in one of your Chimney Balloons. My fireplace is very drafty and I have a question. My chimney has a system to take cold air off the floor in front of the hearth, and draw it through some pipes that run through the flue. This warm air is then fan forced out above the fireplace. The question is whether your Chimney Balloon will go between these pipes and the damper, or squeeze through between the pipes, and be inflated above them. – CW

A: Dear CW, Most people refer to those systems as Heatilators (but that is a brand name.) A deflated Chimney Balloon needs a gap of 2″ to 2.5″ to fit through between the pipes. Once you are through these pipes you should be good to go. I would suggest using a folding carpenters ruler to measure the pipes so you can tell what size Chimney Balloon you need. You may need to consider a HEK  extender for your Chimney Balloon if you plan on reaching very far past the Heatilator pipes to inflate the Chimney Balloon. The Handle/valve Extender kit (HEK) will give you an extra 16″ of reach to your 8″ Chimney Balloon handle. – Jason

Will a Chimney Balloon fit a Bellfires retrofit fireplace with a locktop damper cable?

Will a Chimney Balloon fit a Bellfires retrofit fireplace with a locktop damper cable?

Q: Jason, It looks like your product would fit my application, but I already had to mail back another company’s product for a refund because I couldn’t get it to fit well.

Here is a little more information. I have a Bellfires retrofitted, concrete fireplace (http://www.bellfiresusa.com/fireplaces/model_BR.htm), and I also had my old chimney flue replaced with the Solid/Flue product (http://www.solidflue.com/). The horizontal cross-section of the firebox is roughly trapezoidal but has rounded corners. The smoke chamber zone is also concrete (fairly smooth) and has sloping surfaces with no corners to smoothly join the Bellfires fireplace with the 8″ round flue. The round flue begins at about 4 feet above the floor of the fireplace.

I have a lock-top type, cable operated damper at the chimney top and no damper right above the fireplace. Would my best bet be using the 9″ x 9″ Chimney Balloon in the flue itself? Would the square Chimney Balloon conform adequately to the round flue? The damper cable is pressed against the side of the flue at that point, so I don’t think the cable will be an obstacle. Would I need to order auxiliary parts to use the Chimney Balloon up that high?- JW

A: Jay, I understand the fireplace configuration you are describing and we have a solution that will fit that application. A 9X9 Chimney Balloon will fit your 8″ solid flue tube. The square corners of the Chimney Balloon are designed to conform to a circular flue as well as a square flue. When inflated the Chimney Balloon will also press your lock top cable to the side of the flue wall. We have had many customers with Lock-top dampers and Chimney Balloons in their chimney. It is a very effective combination. To accommodate the 4′ reach I would recommend a HEK Extender for your Chimney Balloon. – Jason

Customer followup email: Jason, Thank you for the information. I ordered the Chimney Balloon, it arrived in 3 days. It works great. Thanks – JW

Can the Chimney Balloon work with a fireplace Heatelator?

Can the Chimney Balloon work with a fireplace Heatelator?

Q: Jason, My fireplace was constructed with a 42″ metal heatelator box. The walls above the damper taper to a 16″x12″ opening about 28″ above to face. This seems to be the nearest location that has any ledge to grip. However, just above this metal, the ledge has an 18″x16″  dimension that tapers up to a 12″ square flue liner several feet above. Of the sizes you list, only the 15″x36″ would seem to be big enough at this location, but it’s disproportionately long for the 18″ width of that opening. Would maybe consider using a 15″x15″ and an extender, placing it higher up in the chimney? Suggestions, please. .DW

A: Dear DW, You may have a wood burning fireplace insert instead of a built-in Heatelator, but either way this would be my advice… Order a custom 18X18 Chimney Balloon and also get a HEK extender for the valve. This will allow you the reach to get to this higher height in the flue. That area above the metal ledge is where you want to install it as long as that metal edge does not have any dangerously sharp edges. A 18X18 Chimney Balloon with an extender will cost $64.99 including USPS shipping. Custom Chimney Balloons do take 14 days from your order to ship, due to building time. You can call the customer service line if you have any further questions about this particular application. – Jason