Dealing with a Smoky Fireplace
Nobody likes smoke backing up from their fireplace into their home. Worse than smoke is the carbon monoxide that’s carried in varying levels in smoke. So, what do you do if you have a smoky fireplace?
Northeastern Chimney of West Hartford, CT, would like to share some of the ways to address a smoky fireplace. You can implement some of these strategies on your own. Others require the assistance of our chimney and fireplace technicians.
Here are six of the most likely causes of smoke backups and smoky fireplaces.
1. The Chimney Flue Is Obstructed
Creosote and soot, which form in the chimney flue during fireplace use, can build up to the point that the flue becomes narrowed. This will impede the flow of smoke and cause some of it to backtrack into your room.
Flues also become obstructed by debris, including leaves, twigs and the nests of squirrels, birds and certain other small animals. Occasionally, animals die inside the flue. Built-up debris blocks the draft.
Solution: Have your chimney professionally cleaned. (This will also reduce the chance of a chimney fire.)
2. The Damper Is Closed
It’s pretty easy to forget to fully open the fireplace damper when getting a fire started. An immediate backup of smoke tells you this is the most likely cause.
Solution: Open the damper.
3. Excess Smoke from Wet Firewood
Damp, unseasoned firewood contains a lot of moisture and creates a lot of smoke when it burns. It’s easy for a burning stack of unseasoned logs to create more smoke than your drafting system can handle.
Solution: Use dry firewood.
4. Chimney System Construction Issues
Several chimney construction issues can cause a smoky fireplace:
- Smoke chamber improperly designed with corbeling bricks
- Chimney is too short
- Flue pipe/liner is too narrow
- Smoke chamber is too tall
- Gaps in the parts of the chimney or smoke chamber
If you’re just now starting to notice smoke backing up, it’s unlikely that construction issues are to blame. If construction problems existed, you’d have been experiencing backups since the first time you used the fireplace. However, if you’re new to the fireplace and having backups, construction issues should be investigated as a possible cause.
Solution: Have your chimney system inspected by a licensed inspector.
5. Negative Air Pressure in the Home
Any kind of exhaust fan in your home that pulls air out of it can also pull air down from the chimney and draw smoke into the house. Bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans can do this, as can some HVAC systems.
Solution: Turn off exhaust mechanisms when you’re using your fireplace. To keep negative air pressure from pulling air out of the chimney when you’re not using the fireplace, make sure your fireplace damper works right and seals tight.
6. Cold Chimney Flue
Very cold air sitting in the flue is heavy. It can keep warmer, lighter air containing smoke and gases from rising. The result may be smoke moving into your room.
Solution: Warm up the flue by holding a running blow dryer or a rolled-up, lit newspaper just beyond the damper opening for a few minutes.
Solutions for a Smoky Fireplace
Northeastern Chimney provides licensed chimney inspections, CSIA-certified chimney sweeping and a full range of chimney and fireplace repairs. When your chimney has a problem, we have the solution.
Speak with a chimney expert today by calling (860) 233-5770. You can also get in touch with our simple contact form.