How to Fix Smoking Fireplace Problems?
A recent question came into Ask the Chimney Sweep blog.
Q: Our house is 20 years old and I have noticed the last 2 years or so and definitely this year that smoke fills our house. I thought it might be because of the chimney needing cleaning so we had a chimney sweeper come out and it didn’t help, it seems to have made it worse! Help!!!
A: Your fireplace operating until 2 ago implies things have changed on the exterior or the interior of your home.
Starting on the exterior of your home and then moving inside, here is my list that I would check!
Solutions to Smoking Fireplace Problems
1 – Check your wood supply because it must be dry of what is referred to a 15-25% moisture content. This can be confirmed with a moisture meter that can be purchased online. Just because you think the wood look seasoned doesn’t mean that it really is.
2 – Outside your home and looking up at the top of the chimney top, have things slowly changed? A 20-year-old home probably has trees that have grown ad matured. I personally like to see trees cut back appx 15 feet away from the chimney
3 – Consider any construction changes, either on your part or the neighbors. Room additions over the years could possibly be affecting the draft of the fireplace.
4 – I believe every chimney should have a chimney cover as well as a spark arrestor. If the cap sits less than 6” off of the top of the flue it to may be a culprit. There are many good updrafts inducing caps on the market. I personally like the WindBeater with the Birdguard by HomeSavers.
5 – New roof, new exterior paint, vent and wind turbine can produce new air issues in your home.
6 – Now moving to the interior let’s talk about air balance within the interior of your home. This is where I find most solutions for my customers smoking problem. Newly blown or sprayed in an attic, insulation, new insulated windows, attic fans, bathroom fans, Jen Air ranges. I would go so far as to check the furnace filter if it is allowing enough air to pass throw it.
It is interesting how many homes that we get into, where newly installed glass block windows in the basement seemed to initiate a smoking issue. Any of one or a combination of these items can alter the air balance just enough, to bring air down your fireplace chimney when it is in use.
Christina, your mission to solving smoking fireplace problems is to find what has changed so that you can re-adjust it somehow to make your fireplace operational once again.
I would also suggest journaling each step that you make or adjust as well a documenting the outside weather conditions.
Noting the flame activity as well as signs of smoke might be beneficial.
1 – Just raising the log grate up by the height of just one brick under each leg “could possible” effect the fire, as it raise the center of the flame just a tad bit closer to the damper and smoke chamber
2 – Consideration possibly investing in a really cool product called a SmokeGuard. This thing is such a simple idea and has solved a lot of smoky fireplace issues. Personally, I like the black colored model as it hides in the fireplace appearance.
3 – I would try playing around by cracking a window little bits at a time (1/2″-1?) and monitoring time required to stop the smoking or to stabilize the fire. If opening a window helps, possibly consider installing an outside fresh air source into the fireplace.
4 – (If) this smoking continues, you could temporally raise the chimney stack, by putting a metal pipe on the chimney flue top (this is only for brief testing conditions). If it solves your smoked odor problem then, I would get a couple of chimney contractor in to figure out the best alternatives to raising the chimney flue height.
Is there a cathedral or really tall ceiling in that room or even a large staircase. The reason I throw that thought out is, smoke will always travel the path of least resistance. Smoke doesn’t care if it goes up a chimney flue, up to a staircase or just hangs out on the ceiling a stinks up a room.
In conclusion, I hope this bouncing off of ideas helps, please keep all of us all informed, as solving your fireplace smoking problems may just help one other reader.
Keep at it, as I will bet you will outsmart your smoking fireplace problems!
Thank you for visiting us here at Ask the Chimney
Cincinnati Chimney Sweep contractor
(Owner of American Chimney)
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