Help! My Fireplace is Too Smoky!


There’s nothing that’s quite as relaxing in the dead of winter as a nice roaring fire in your fireplace; a nice sense of calm floods your body.  You start to forget about the unkind words you received from your co-worker.  Finding out that little Timmy is failing three classes suddenly becomes a little less stressful.  Now, imagine how quickly that sense of calm would vacate the premises if you suddenly realized that the time you just spent to get that roaring fire going in your fireplace was a waste because your room was beginning to fill with smoke.

Blockages in your chimney can contribute to improper draft which results in a smoky fireplace.

Blockages in your chimney can contribute to improper draft which results in a smoky fireplace.

Fireplaces that smoke are simply, for whatever reason, not pulling the smoke up the chimney as they should.  There are a lot of possibilities when this happens.  Sometimes there is a blockage; perhaps a bird has decided to build a nest and make your chimney home.  Sometimes a large tree in your yard can grow over your chimney and impede the airflow.  Perhaps the opening of your fireplace is simply too large for the size of your flue, which results in smoke taking the path of least resistance and overflowing back into your home.

The issue could also be that there is a downdraft caused by air movement off of your roof.  If you’re making home improvements and add storm windows on your house to make it more air tight, this could result in your fireplace being unable to get enough combustion air; this would result in the smoke spilling back into your house.  Needless to say, the causes of the smoke are more numerous than you may have originally thought.

Cold air is far denser than warm air; hence the reason warm air typically rises.  Based on this little science factoid, one would assume that the warm air should always rise out of your chimney, taking the smoke produced right along with it.  Creating a warm air siphon will allow the fire to burn properly and draw correctly.  The quick and easy fix for this would be to crack a window in the same room as your fireplace to increase the pressure in the room, thereby causing the warm air to be drawn up the chimney and taking the smoke out of the house.  If this isn’t successful, you might also want to consider preheating your flue system by rolling up a few newspapers and lighting them in the fireplace.  Making sure your damper is propped open is another easy way to make sure the smoke has a way of escaping.

Unless you’re hanging out backstage at a Willie Nelson concert, being in a room full of smoke probably isn’t your idea of a good time.  The good news is that there are steps you can take to remedy these situations.  You can get a tutor for little Timmy, and you can take the steps listed above to hopefully get the smoke to vacate your home.  If all else fails, call the professionals!