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6 Reasons Your Chimney Isn’t Working Right

Professional Chimney InspectionChimneys can be confusing structures when something goes wrong with them. Questions arise such as “Why is this happening?” “Did I cause it?” and “How do I go about getting the problem fixed?”  Before you panic, keep two things in mind:

  • Chimneys aren’t that complicated when you understand them
  • There are certified professionals whose job it is to understand every feature and function of your chimney

Chimney smoke issues

One of the more common problems with chimneys involves the drafting of smoke. Or the lack thereof. Smoke backing up into the house is no fun for anybody – plus it can be very dangerous as it contains carbon monoxide, an invisible, odorless gas that’s potentially fatal to humans and pets.

Let’s look at some of the reasons for smoke issues with a chimney and what can be done about them.


  1. Forgot to open the damper: This is an easy one. A closed damper keeps smoke out of the flue.

Solution: Open the damper (and make sure it’s in good shape and will stay open).

  1. Damp wood: If you want to create so much smoke it can’t all rise into the chimney, burn damp (unseasoned) wood. The moisture in wet wood produces excess smoke and particulate matter, which is bad for your home and bad for your chimney flue as it causes a faster buildup of flammable creosote.

Solution: Burn only dry (seasoned) logs.

  1. Chimney is the wrong height: If your smoke problems have been happening fairly consistently ever since you moved into the home or had a new fireplace installed, it may be that the chimney is too short. An efficient chimney will be 10 feet tall or taller and extend at least two feet beyond the roof. A shorter chimney won’t channel smoke properly.

Interior Chimney InspectionSolution: Have your chimney modified by an experienced contractor, build a new chimney or install a new zero-clearance fireplace or fireplace insert, both of which come with their own vent pipes.

  1. Chimney contains obstructions: Excess creosote buildup as well as tree debris, nests of small animals and the animals themselves when they die inside the chimney all can contribute to drafting problems and smoke backing up into the home.



Solution: Schedule certified chimney sweep services to safely and efficiently clean out your flue.

  1. Flue is too narrow: Inexperienced chimney builders sometimes construct chimneys with flue openings that are too small for the size of the fireplace they’re connected to. It’s obvious why this is a problem – the chimney simply isn’t large enough to manage all the smoke the fireplace produces.

Solution: Arrange for structural modifications by a chimney expert or build a new chimney.

  1. Home is too airtight: Newer homes built with economy in mind often are too airtight to allow sufficient air to be pulled into the fireplace during combustion. This can result in inefficient burns and smoke that doesn’t rise correctly into the flue.

Solution: Crack a window – or two.

When assessing problems with your chimney, the first step should always be a chimney inspection performed by a CSIA-certified technician. This individual can figure out exactly what’s happening and recommend the best course of action to remedy the problem. If you’re having trouble with your chimney, Northeastern Chimney of West Hartford, CT, is ready to get to work. We’re on call all year long to keep your chimney and fireplace running safely and at peak performance. Reach us at (860) 233-5770.

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