Q: Jason, We have been renovating an older home from the 70's for quite some time and have just recently moved in. The problem is the drafty original brick fireplace. No unpleasant odors, just drafty cold air. We've done quite a bit to update the look, but now the beautifully tiled hearth is always cold as well as the entire room. (Even though we live in the South, our winters can get cold.)
We have resorted to putting a huge piece of cardboard in front of the firebox because we do not have any glass doors. It does seem to help but is not an acceptable permanent fix.
The damper does open and close but does not provide a good seal. There is an ash fire grate in the center of the firebox floor, from which I feel a small draft. The fireplace also had a gas "starter" which uses a key to turn the gas off and on (No pilot light). There is a good amount of draft coming from the opening around the key. This area does not seem, to be connected to the chimney or flu area so I don't know if the chimney balloon would even help with this.
There appears to be some cracks in the fire bricks in the back of the fire box, which may also be contributing to the problem. Will the Chimney ballon help? Do you think ther are other things I could do to improve situation - glass doors, repair bricks... - DE
A: Dear DE, Since you just have a gas starter there you will be fine to use a Chimney Balloon as long as you make sure the gas is turned off completely wiht the key. Turning off the gas essentially is disabling the gas starter. Be certain though that the gas is completely shut off to the starter and you mark the key or gas tap with a note that the flue is plugged.
You have a few options of where to put the Chimney Balloon. If you have at least 8” of vertical lintel area below the damper handle you could put a balloon in below the damper. If the damper is too low for that or the handle is in the way, you could also put a Chimney Balloon in just above the damper. Essentially you would open up the damper and use a folding carpenters ruler folded into an L shape to get a measurement up there. You would measure wall to wall from left to right and from front to back and that would tell you what size Chimney Balloon to get. The Chimney Balloon would rest right on top of the open damper.
Next take a close look at the ash cleanout. You can remove the cover and measure the rough opening and install a Chimney Balloon into that ash chute. I am certain the majority of your draft is coming from air being exchanged between the ash chute and the chimney. This is a very common issue since and ash cleanout essentially is and air path that connects the basement or crawlspace to the chimney and results in a strong air pull through the fireplace that makes it cold.
After this, if your still have a draft coming from the keyhole, you can look into filling that with fireplace caulk if needed. - Jason