Chimney Smoking Problems And Solutions

Smoking Fireplace Problem
 
        A lot of the calls that we receive have to do with having smoking problems when using the fireplace.   A lot of times the problem can be an easy fix!   If your able to fix the smoking issues, this does NOT mean you don't need to have a professional chimney sweep to check your chimney and fireplace on a regular basis.

 

        If you need information regarding to how to start a fire, please visit our Tips For Starting A Fire Page.

 

        Listed below are some of the more common problems that are encounter along with their possible solutions.

 

CLOSED DAMPER
        The VERY first thing you want to do before starting a fire, always check to make sure that the damper is open.   You may need to use a flashlight to make sure the damper is open.

 

COLD WEATHER
        Colder temperatures can cause dense air in the chimney flue.   Prior to lighting your firewood, open the damper and "Prime"  the flue by rolling up a newspaper, light the end and hold it inside the fireplace towards the damper for a few minutes.   This will heat the air temperature in the chimney flue creating a better draw for the fire.   This is sort of like pre-heating an oven.

 

OBSTRUCTION IN CHIMNEY
        The chimney should be checked by a professional chimney sweep  for any obstructions!   A dirty chimney cap will also prevent smoke from freely exiting a chimney.   Also, a dirty chimney cap can prevent smoke from freely exiting the chimney.

 

DIRTY CHIMNEY
        Creosote buildup in a chimney is very flammable and can shrink the flue size causing smoking problems, creosote does expand when heated by the fire.

 

FUEL
        Wood should be aged a minimum of one year and must be dry and protected from the rain.   The logs should be split-never burn whole logs.   If the log is larger around than 6" in diameter, it should be split so that it burns efficiently.   Some types of "presto"  or store-bought manufactured logs can be prone to smoking.

 

FIRE GRATE PLACEMENT
        The fire grate is where you place your wood in the firebox and should be placed as far back in the firebox as possible, in order to create a good draw.   Sometimes the fire grate needs to be raised with bricks to assist with the draw.   This allows more air under the grate for better circulation.

 

NEW WINDOWS AND DOORS
        New doors and windows in a house are designed to make a house more air tight.   This can create a negative pressure in the house not allow enough makeup air for a fire.   This will NOT allow for a proper draw of air through the flue as well as the fire not receiving adequate make up air.   Sometimes, cracking a door or window as close to the fireplace as possible during the fire, may assist with this issue.

 

IMPROPER CHIMNEY SIZE
        Sometimes the fireplace opening is too large or too tall, in relation to the chimney flue size.   This can give smoke a option of going up the chimney or coming into the living area.   The solution might be adding a metal Smoke Guard  to the top of the fireplace opening.   Also, two-sided fireplaces may have smoking problems due to air drafts in the house.   In this case you may want to think about installing glass doors.   If the chimney does not have enough height, you might consider extending the height of the chimney to improve draw.

 

TALL TREES AND BUILDING STRUCTURES.
        A tall tree or a added-on second story addition close to the chimney may change the direction of the wind and cause down drafts down the chimney and not only cause a smoking problem but possibly an odor problem as well.   Keep trees trimmed!   With the 2nd story addition problems, the cure might be to raise the chimney height, or possibly installing a wind direction cap might also help to assist in correcting this issue instead.

 

CHIMNEY TOO SHORT
        If the chimney does not have proper height, it can affect how well it draws and can make it sensitive to smoking.   Sometimes the only solution is to raise the height of the chimney.

 

CANYONS AND HILLSIDES
        A house that is located near a canyon, hillside or slope can have smoking problems caused by the wind currents and downdrafting.   The air and smoke is pushed down the chimney into the living area.   Specially designed wind cap might help minimize this smoking issue.

 

CENTRAL HEATING SYSTEM
        When using the HVAC system at the same time as having a fire, air might be drawn down through the chimney bringing the smoke and gases into the living area.   This is even more hazardous if your using gas logs since the expended gas will be colorless and odorless-but still VERY toxic!   For this reason, we usually do not  recommend running the HVAC system when the fireplace is in use.

PLEASE NOTEā€¦

        The above list is just some of the possible causes and fixes for smoking chimneys.   The list above is provided to assist you in diagnosing a smoking problem.   There are other reasons that might be causing the smoking issues.   Remember you still need to have your chimney checked  and swept regularly  by a professional chimney sweep, and you should discuss with them any issues or problems that you might be still having.

 

UNSAFE CHIMNEYS ACCOUNT FOR TOO MANY NEEDLESS DEATHS AND INJURIES AS WELL AS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN PROPERTY DAMAGE EVERY YEAR.

 

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(Source:   CSIA, NCSG, CCP, GSCSG, NFI, PERC, NFPA, PFI, AGA, HPBA, FIRES, USFA, Cal/OSHA )   External Links


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