Outdoor Fireplaces; Do They Require A Damper?

Like with most things, fireplaces have to meet some legal requirements. Several parts of a fireplace must be present. There is a difference between indoor and outdoor fireplace requirements, but a common question is whether outdoor fireplaces need a damper?

Outdoor fireplaces are not required to have a damper. Dampers seal the chimney to keep cold air outside, but there’s no need to keep out the outside air since outdoor fireplaces are already outdoors.

In this article, we’ll talk more about dampers, whether or not they’re required in your state (this can actually vary) and what to do if you don’t have one but would like one!

Do You Need A Damper For Your Outdoor Fireplace?

Outdoor fireplaces don’t require a damper. Most don’t have one either. However, a damper has its benefits; it can project the heat towards you and make sure that the rain won’t wash your ashes on your patio.

Dampers make a lot of sense for indoor fireplaces. Most indoor fireplaces have one, and there are pretty much no models or new fireplaces that don’t come with a damper. But when it comes to outdoor fireplaces, they really aren’t necessary.

A damper is like a little door or hatch that opens and closes the airway between your fireplace and chimney. The primary function is to close off the chimney, so with indoor fireplaces, it basically means your home is sealed from the outside.

This is especially nice when it’s cold outside, as a closed damper will ensure that none of the cold outside air will come into your house. But it doesn’t really matter when it comes to outdoor fireplaces, as both the fireplace and the top of the chimney are already exposed to the outside.

But there is definitely a benefit to having a damper in your outdoor fireplace. As mentioned before, dampers close off the airway between your chimney and fireplace, but this goes both ways. Just like a damper ensures the warm indoor air stays inside, it also makes certain outside elements remain outside. A damper will ensure that the rain won’t wash all the ashes into your yard or patio.

A damper can also redirect the heat towards you. It’s basically a latch, and if you just barely keep it open, there’s little room for all the warm air to go to, so more of that warmth will stay down around the fireplace. This will ensure more heat output, making your fireplace just a tad warmer and cozier!


What If My Fireplace Has No Damper?

Indoor fireplaces should have a damper installed; otherwise, it leaves a hole in your house. If you don’t have one installed, you need to get one as soon as possible. Outdoor fireplaces don’t need to have a damper, so if you own an outdoor fireplace without a damper, there’s nothing to worry about.

Dampers aren’t required or mandatory for outdoor fireplaces, so there’s no need to worry if you don’t have one. We did mention a few positive aspects a little earlier in the article, but those are just that, a few benefits.

Of course, if you have an indoor fireplace without a damper, you need to get that installed as soon as possible. A chimney without a damper is basically a hole in your house, so rain, snow, or wind will all be able to get inside.

The same goes for outdoor fireplaces without a damper, but some rain and snow on your patio is a lot less disastrous than rain and snow in your living room. Still, if you’ve just lit a fire, and your firebox still has ashes in it, it would be a shame if the rain would wash all those ashes into your yard or patio.

Is It Illegal To Not Have A Damper?

Although state regulations vary, fireplaces are not required to have a damper. Still, they are recommended, especially for indoor fireplaces, as they function as a door between the inside and outside air.

Dampers aren’t mandatory, nor is it illegal to not have one. When it comes to outdoor fireplaces, it’s really up to you whether or not you want one. If you’re lucky, your fireplace already has one (most fireplaces installed nowadays come with dampers), but you can always decide to install one.

We briefly went over the benefits of having a damper in place, and there really aren’t any downsides to them (other than the installation costs).

However, it is important to mention that you need to make sure your damper is open when you light a fire. The smoke and fumes have nowhere to go if the damper is closed, so they disperse all over your seating area. Now, outside, this is an inconvenience, but inside, it’s a disaster.

How Much Does It Cost To Install A Damper?

The average damper costs between $150 and $300, depending on the type and material. Added to that is about $300 for labor costs, which brings you to a total of about $450 and $600.

Compared to installing a complete fireplace, the costs of adding a damper aren’t that high. The labor costs will be pretty consistent, averaging out at about $300, give or take, and the damper itself also won’t cost you too much.

It kind of depends on the type of damper you choose and what material it is.

There are two types of dampers:

  • Chimney Caps
  • Throat Dampers

As the names already give away, the chimney cap sits on top, and the throat damper sits at the bottom. You only need one of these, and both have varying costs; a chimney cap usually costs about $250, and a throat damper about $200.

Of course, you can also choose to install a damper on your own, cutting out the labor costs, but keep in mind that you’ll need to get on the roof of your house. Not everyone is comfortable with that.

Also, you’ll need to be really careful with installing a damper. If your damper does not properly work, and for some reason, it shuts itself while you have a fire lit, you’re in for a disaster. The smoke and fumes will have nowhere to go except for your seating area.

Dan Westfield

Hi everyone! My name is Dan and I currently have two fireplaces, a wood-burning and a gas one. I cannot live without them and love to share my passion with you all!

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