How to fix a fireplace smoking issue.

There is nothing worse than to get a fire roaring in your fireplace … only to fill everywhere with smoke. 🙁

Fireplace smoking problems are a major complaint amongst many home owners. There are many different ways to go about fixing your fireplace smoking, but you must have patience. Sometimes the answer is simple, other times it’s more complex.

The warm air should rise out of your chimney, including the smoke produced. If your flue system is not warm when lighting the fire then you can alter the ability of the fireplace to draw properly, creating potentially harmful smoking problems. A warm air siphon must be created before a fire can burn properly and draw correctly.

Tip #1: Crack a window

The quickest and easiest tip to creating a good draw for your chimney is to crack a window in the same room you are lighting the fire in. This will bring pressure into the room, causing air to be drawn up the chimney and allowing the smoke to move upwards and out, not into your living room.

Tip #2: Pre-heat with some newspapers

Pre-heating your flue system is another quick and easy tip to getting a roaring fire. Rolling up five or six newspapers and lighting them in the fireplace will help to warm up the flue and create a good siphon. This process may take five or ten minutes but can be critical to having a properly drawing fireplace. Also, make sure your damper is propped wide open or the smoke won’t be able to escape.

Tip #3: Install a Smoke-Guard

If these quick fixes are still not helping your situation, you may need to look into some more expensive but effective solutions. One of the easiest of these is the Smoke-Guard. If your firebox is too big for your flue system, more smoke can accumulate in the firebox than can safely draft up the chimney. The excess smoke has nowhere to go but back out into your house. Install a Smoke-Guard, a strip of metal to decrease the size of the opening of your chimney. This can immediately solve smoking problems. This makes the ratio of the fireplace opening to the flue size more compatible.

Here’s how to tell if your fireplace opening is too large for your flue:

  1. Determine the area of your flue. If it is rectangular or square, multiply the flue’s length by its width. If it is a round flue, use the radius (half of the diameter.) Multiply 3.14 x radius x radius.
  2. Determine the area of your fireplace opening. Multiply the height of your fireplace opening by its width.
  3. Compare them. If the area of your fireplace opening is more than 10 times the area of your flue, your fireplace smoking problems may stem from your fireplace opening is too large for your flue. A smoke guard will effectively reduce the size of your fireplace opening.

Tip #4: Extend your chimney

If your chimney does not extend high enough above your roofline, or there are nearby trees or other flue systems, this can cause competition for proper drafting. Negative pressure can build up into a tightly sealed home very quickly, which means that the air pressure outside the home is greater than inside the home. If the chimney is not tall enough, air and smoke can easily enter the home to fill the discrepancy between the two pressures. Extending your chimney by a few feet can be costly but may be the only way solve a chimney smoke problem

Smoking Fireplace Problems


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Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb

Clay Lamb is a Cincinnati Chimney Sweep contractor and the executive producer of the YouTube channel, podcast, and blog Ask the Chimney Sweep. He is also an award-winning educator and public speaker in the chimney and fireplace industry.

AsktheChimneySweep.com….Educational Videos

AmChimney.com….American Chimney Cincinnati, OH

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Clay Lamb

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83 thoughts on “How to Fix a Fireplace Smoking Problem !

  1. Hi we had what we thought was a professional come to our home to clean and check our fire place. He came 2 times on the 2nd time I realized he really didn’t know what he was doing he was calling base to talk through what was going on. At the end he said that there is a piece of metal that is on the inside that is rusted out that that piece was making the whole smaller to get the suction rite. Now that guy was gonna try to charge us $400. For 1 I can not remember the name of that piece I looked it up and the piece was only $100 at most. I decided I did not trust the co and $400 was way too much for just 1 of our fireplace. Could you tell me what the piece is called and could we just do it ourselves.

  2. Jessica, I would not hesitate to contact the owner of the company and explain you observations.
    If you would like, you can send me the picture of what you looked up,”that only cost $100 at most”
    ….. and yes they must make a reasonable profit to stay in business.
    For almost every service company, they need to hit the 40 to 50% margin,to cover the over head, taxes, insurance, workers compensation, marketing, phones, service truck maintenance etc, etc,etc.
    I always say,lets just stop and think of the overhead in the company that you currently work for.

    *Step 1-You can find a reputable Chimney Sweep in your area by using this link to the National Chimney Sweep Guild locator: http://www.ncsg.org/search. Also be sure and go online and read their customer reviews from Google, BBB and AngiesList.

    *Step 2-Look on our video here on Ask The Chimney Sweep. Who knows we actually may have a “How To” video that may explain just how you might do your own fireplace repairs.

    *Step 3-if all else fails go back to *Step 1-
    You have to have trust in the service company that your working with ,or it just becomes a “lose -lose” situation
    I’m confident that their is a really good Chimney service contractor who is willing and ready to work for you!
    Special Regards
    Clay, here @ Ask the Chimney Sweep

  3. It’s been a couple of years already. I was able to get one of the fireplaces to work rite but the draft seems to be pushing smoke through the other fireplace in the basement. This is so frustrating cause the 2 fireplaces is one of the reasons why we bought this house. I will look again for someone to come look at them I just don’t want to keep spending time and money and it doesn’t get fixed

  4. I think this Ask The Chimney Sweep video may help you : https://youtu.be/4F9m8dMhJmQ.

    1) Some of the solutions that I have seen over the years were as simple as changing out the furnace filter.
    The dirty filters was preventing the air from the upstairs rooms to move, and was now pulling all of the required air for the furnace, down the steps, across the floor to the mouth of the fireplace; causing the room to fill up with smoke.
    2) Installing small air vent(s) shutters in the windows that had been “glass blocked up” for security. You can often test this by opening up a basement window slightly, to determine room air balancing point.
    3) Putting a slightly taller divider plate between the two fireplace flues…. up on the chimney top
    4) Raising the one “upstairs’’ fireplace flue top by about 12’’ or more.
    5) Relining a chimney flue if is determined that there are cracks or missing mortar joints in the flue system.
    Think of this as a big straw with lots holes in it. And it just an not draft properly
    Smoking fireplace solution are often a process of elimination
    Test then Document, Test then Document, Test then Document

  5. Clay, thanks for the great info here. I have an odd issue and was wondering if you can offer some advice:

    I want to install some sort of panel at a 45-degree angle that will redirect the smoke toward the back of the fireplace and up the chimney.

    Hard to describe, but the issue is…inside the fireplace, the “ceiling” has a pocket/cavity at the very front that goes up about 6″, so the smoke is going into this pocket, getting stuck there, and seeps out into the living room (it’s an old house, so likely some cracks in the mortar).

    Is there any typical product or solution for this? I’m guessing even a steel plate would suffice, and was even thinking a smoke guard would be perfect (it’s spring-loaded so it wouldn’t even require drilling any mounting holes in the brick, although I know it’s not intended for this purpose…not sure it would survive the heat)…wanted to ask your thoughts.

    Thanks so much-
    Robert

  6. Robert, Thank you for the very nice compliment! I think you have it, I love smoke guards. Obviously I can not see your situation but I think I have an idea of what you have. I would consider packing that “cavity” tight with a high temperature ceramic wool material. I would then cover this over with a High Temperature Fire Clay.
    The idea here, is to get as close as you can, to having a smooth walled, upside down sealed doom shape.
    If you’re a DIY guy have at it, if you feel a little uncomfortable laying upside down in a fireplace, may I suggest contacting a member of the National Chimney Sweeps Guild. I’m confident that you can find a reputable Chimney Sweep in your area by using this link to this National Chimney Sweep Guild Locator : http://www.ncsg.org/search. Also be sure and go online and read their customer reviews from Google, BBB and AngiesList.
    “Burn Safe, not Sorry”
    Clay Lamb author of:
    http://www.AsktheChimneySweep.com – Youtube Educational Videos
    http://www.FireplaceandChimneySupply.com – Professional grade Chimney products
    http://www.HomeContractorsHQ.com – Contractor Coaching Podcast
    http://www.AmChimney.com – GM @ American Chimney Sweep Cincinnati, OH

  7. Clay, we have 2 chimney flues that run in the same surround. One servicing the first floor and the other in the basement. We are having drafting issues in the basement when a fire is lit upstairs… is there anything I can do to help remedy this? I have thought about lighting a large multi wic candle in the fire box downstairs or placing a small fan to push air up the chimney but this doesn’t seem like a permanent solution… Any help with this would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you.
    The Johnsons.

  8. This is the 5th year having our fireplace insert to heat house. We have used wth know problems. Now we are occasionally waking up to the house smelling like burnt smoke. I dont know what is causing this problem.

  9. Teresa,
    Lets start with the basics! First is the chimney flue system lined with a stainless steel flue pipe that is the “same size as the opening on the top of the wood stove”? A LARGE MARJORITY OF woodstove inserts today will require a 6″ round Insulated, Stainless Steel liner connected to the stove unit.
    Confirm that all of the chimneys venting pipe parts are “ALL” swept clean?
    The chimney cap and screening on the top has no accumulation of creosote blocking the gases from exiting,
    Your firewood wood is properly seasoned HARD wood, that has been covered at least on top, to prevent soaking from rain and snow problems for at least 6 months. OK, with those ideas out of the way my guess is that something has changed within the home. Think about what has changed, was there any new insulation, installed on doors, windows or in the attic, that may have been recently installed that may now be preventing or even increasing air exchange and may now be sucking the smoke back down the chimney.
    Was there any new construction around your home or large trees that may be effecting or preventing the proper required draft.
    What about new bathroom fans, whole house attic and kitchen exhaust installations that may now be redirecting the draft and air movement in your home.
    Was there a new roofed installed or even larger attic venting equipment provided to increase attic air exchange.
    Was the furnace filter serviced, which may now be actually stifling air movement when your HVAC kicks on.
    Was the AC equipment serviced and possible the high and low blower speed changed to move the heavier cold air in your home during the hot summer season.

    My experience is that the wood stoves and fireplace don’t change with out you seeing some type of physical problem and that your (air balance) is causing a negative pressure within your home and that this is the real culprit.
    Solving smoking problem are always a “Process of Elimination”.
    I believe something has changed and you get to be the house detective,
    Taking this hunt,journaling step by step, I’ll bet you will figure it out !

    Here are three of my Ask the Chimney Sweep videos that relate to air pressure as wellas firewood.
    I hope this helps on solving this smoking problem!
    Clay Lamb author of:
    http://www.AsktheChimneySweep.com – Youtube Educational Videos
    http://www.FireplaceandChimneySupply.com – Professional grade Chimney products
    http://www.HomeContractorsHQ.com – Contractor Coaching Podcast
    http://www.AmChimney.com – GM @ American Chimney Sweep Cincinnati, OH

    Smoking Fireplaces:
    http://youtu.be/4F9m8dMhJmQ

    Negative Pressure Issues
    https://youtu.be/AN4X9jPJdqI

    Firewood:
    http://youtu.be/d9JiA7nNUlU

  10. Clay, I have smoke occasionally back up into my room from the fireplace. It appears to be drawing correctly but I have seen 4 or 5 puffs of smoke enter our room from the fireplace. I have glass door covers for the front that I would think is reducing the front entry of the fireplace. Instructions were to not close the doors, as they are not heat rated. Any suggestions?

  11. Guy,
    Smoking fireplace solutions are often a process of elimination!
    While you’re on this “discovery journey” be sure to:
    Test then Document, Test then Document, Test then Document
    Think of it this way, smoke really doesn’t care if it goes up the chimney flue, or up the staircase.
    Obviously, cold air dropping (down) the flue makes it a lot harder for the smoke to go up, thus making it a contributor to many a draft and smoky fireplace problems!

    Guy, let’s start bouncing some ideas around regarding as to what might have changed “within or outside” of your home!
    New stove top fan
    New insulation in ceiling
    New attic vents with new roofing installation
    Have you installed glass blocks in the basement Windows? (this is a major culprit)
    Has there been new bathroom or attic fans installed
    Have you installed any new windows or new front door with much tighter gasket seal

    I have seen by just changing the furnace filter, actually solved a back puffing problem.
    What was happening was the dirty filter was preventing room air to be supplied to the furnace, so the blowers suction created a draft by pulling the needed air down the chimney(s)
    So I think you can see the list can go on and on, you’re looking for something that made changed!
    I feel with this is a process of elimination you will resolve your smoking.
    Clay

    Please note that I have included a couple of videos that may help as you’re thinking this process through

    * Smoking Fireplace Problems
    https://youtu.be/4F9m8dMhJmQ.

    * Negative Pressure Issues
    https://youtu.be/AN4X9jPJdqI
    Clay Lamb author of:
    http://www.AsktheChimneySweep.com – Youtube Educational Videos
    http://www.FireplaceandChimneySupply.com – Professional grade Chimney products
    http://www.HomeContractorsHQ.com – Contractor Coaching Podcast
    http://www.AmChimney.com – GM @ American Chimney Sweep Cincinnati, OH

  12. I have smoke being discharged on both sides of the chimney, mortar appears to be loose where the chimney is against the brick house about the height of where the discharge comes from the wood stove. Would replacing the mortar cure the problem?

  13. Greetings Lloyd,
    First, I believe that you have two issues to deal with. Tuck-pointing the mortar between bricks is a problem most likely from bad craftsmanship or was caused by moisture freeze thaws cycles, at some time it will need to be addressed.
    Just tuck pointing these missing or damaged mortar joint, in my opinion, would be like putting a bandage on a hemorrhaging smoking problem.
    Second, I will assume that your house is posted 1920’s construction and most likely constructed with a terra cotta chimney flues liners. If this is a new issue I would think that your may now have cracked chimney liner from a chimney fire. Boken liners, and possibly swallow puffed creosote may now be blocking the exiting of these smoky gasses from your fireplace. Remember if it was due to a chimney fire it “may “ possibly be a claim that you could present to your insurance carrier that is with the proper documentation {see attached video link, Sudden Occurrence)

    “My advice” is to have a professional chimney contractor, service your fireplace and chimney using a video camera. I would be looking for missing mortar joints and cracked flue tiles within the system.
    If the flue is blocked, it is now putting pressure on these gas’ and pushed out of the open mortar joints. Think of your chimney in terms of being a soda straw, if it has holes in it or the straw is bent over and blocked, it just doesn’t work.
    If the your chimney flue tiles were open and properly venting, the smoke would be “taking the path of lest resistance ” an would be properly venting out of the top, as it was designed/ I have attached a few of our Ask the Chimney Sweep Youtube videos, that I feel will be worth your watching, as well as a National a Chimney Sweeps ‘finder”
    Lets us all know what you discover, as well as how you resolve your smoking problem, and I want to thank you for visiting with us here at Ask he Chimney Sweep.
    Regards .

    Clay

    You can find a professional Chimney Sweep in your area by using this link to the National Chimney Sweep Guild locator: http://www.ncsg.org/search. Also be sure and go online and read their customer reviews from Google, BBB and AngiesList.
    Never be impressed with those cheaper “Swab and Rob companies

    * Chimney Flue Systems
    https://youtu.be/lZUTMU3-WVk

    * Sudden Occurrence Insurance Claims
    http://youtu.be/ImkfRabTTPI

    * Signs of a Chimney Fire
    https://youtu.be/5e2_6HUVtjI

    * Levels of inspections
    https://youtu.be/jJEJq6fATfE

    * Tuck Pointing
    https://youtu.be/kkzpzqx4axA
    Clay Lamb author of:
    http://www.AsktheChimneySweep.com – Youtube Educational Videos
    http://www.FireplaceandChimneySupply.com – Professional grade Chimney products
    http://www.HomeContractorsHQ.com – Contractor Coaching Podcast
    http://www.AmChimney.com – GM @ American Chimney Sweep Cincinnati, OH

  14. With a fireplace insert, would it be practical to start by just dropping in a new metal flue liner, to TRY to stop the smoke from coming back into the room? (It’s an old home, so am guessing maybe mortar MUST be getting weak by now, and will be time for a fix.) It’s the only fireplace there is. Furnace in basement is turned off. Won’t be turning on at all…might this cause any problem? Previous owners had installed a heat pump, high on wall, in same room as fireplace insert. (There’s an attic space above the room that has the insert.) Cracking a window doesn’t seem to help. I have to assume that insert worked properly, at least at some point, as previous owners were there for many years, and had a big supply of wood. Any ideas what it should cost to have chimney person put in a metal liner (in WA State)?

  15. Greetings Mr. Frustrated,
    I’m Sorry for my delay but please also check out the blog that I wrote specifically about your question.

    I’m going to try and save you a lot of grief. First of all, I would call a Member of the National Chimney Sweeps Guild to find a chimney sweep in your area to clean your chimney. It is most important that they do a “video inspection” with a closed circuit camera Today prices may cost you apx $200 -$350
    Now let’s talk about the Stainless Steel (SS) chimney flue lining systems. I know of no wood-stove insert manufacture today, that doesn’t require installing a stainless chimney liner with a ceramic wool insulation.

    Ceramic will insulation being wrapped around a 6″ round stainless steel chimney liner. Blanket insulation barrier around the stainless steel pipe. This thermal barrier has two purposes, first is to provide clearance to combustible that may be in the chimney system and a second is to keep the hot Smokey gasses from the stove insert warm and drafting up the chimney flue pipe properly.
    All of the (SS) liner in all of the manufactures , that I’m aware of require it to be the same size in square inches as the on the opening or outlet on your stove.

    We only will take on a relining job if it is going to be installed all of the way to the top of the chimney flue system
    Estimated price for a SS liner will depend on the installation approach, degree of difficulty, size (6” or 8”) and the actual length of the SS a linerthatrt will be required . For us most installations required a 6” liner system and may cost between $2,500 to $4,500.
    We have switched to this newer HomeSavers Pre-Insulated HomeSaver Ultra stainless steel pipe

    You can find a reputable Chimney Sweep in your area by using this link to the;
    National Chimney Sweep Guild locator:
    http://www.ncsg.org/search.

    Also be sure and go online and read their customer reviews from Google, BB, and AngiesList.
    I hope that this information helps!

    Burn Safe and Warm
    Clay

    * Sudden Occurrence Insurance Claims
    http://youtu.be/ImkfRabTTPI

    * SIGNS OF a chimney fire
    http://youtu.be/5e2_6HUVtjI

    *Installing a Wood Stove Insert
    http://youtu.be/6lT3N8h1qbQ
    Clay Lamb author of:
    http://www.AsktheChimneySweep.com – Youtube Educational Videos
    http://www.FireplaceandChimneySupply.com – Professional grade Chimney products
    http://www.HomeContractorsHQ.com – Contractor Coaching Podcast
    http://www.AmChimney.com – GM @ American Chimney Sweep Cincinnati, OH

  16. Hey Clay, I saw that you have posted in Dec… so this is still active. I have a rather perplexing problem…. We built this nice fireplace ourself, with the intention of gas logs. But last winter used it for wood. It is a straight up type (Rumford style)…. with no smoke shelf. When lighting .. using one piece of newspaper to warm the chimney.. it starts roaring right away.. the initial draft is great. After about 45 mins of burning as the fire quiets and the fireplace begins to warm,,, smoke starts to pour out into the room. By revving up the fire and suffering for 30 – 40 mins the draft kicks back in and all is fine.

    Must be some issue with temperature differences… BTW the chimney area to front opening is about nine to one.

    Thanks for any comments or suggestions! Kind regards John

  17. Humm, that 45 minutes of having good draft, followed by 30 to 45 minutes having a sluggish and back-puffing is really baffling me.
    “Document each step of your investigation”. I will always start by eliminating the wood resource first, 15-25% moisture content is considered season wood.
    My initial thinking is something is changing “intermittently” in your house. I wouldn’t think that it is (negative house pressure) as back puffing most often happens when starting the fireplace but could possibly happen as doors open within the house including the garage doors. I see this is as being a major issue in very air tight enveloped homes.
    Check thermostat locations and the cold air returns and “if” the furnace is possibly kicking on. Also think of any other fans in the house including attic stove/range as well as bathroom fans can be major contributors.
    I don’t feel that your not ready for “this yet”, but eventually you could temporally raise the chimney stack, by putting a metal pipe on the chimney top and removed the cap, remember this is only for brief testing conditions.
    Regarding the nine to one ratio, possibly think of trying to put a 4″ to 6″ high strip of metal, covering the width at the top of the firebox. This ofter helps in the draw of a fireplace.
    Again this for temporary and controlled testing.
    To see the idea that I’m talking about, look this product uo it is called a SmokeGuard. I like the black colored model as you really don’t see it that much.

    I really love the Rumford firebox design and I feel not having a throat damper would have stop your down draft back puffing issue.
    The “good news” is you have a gas starter that you can play around within or to fall back on.
    Please keep us informed of your progress in whipping this problem!
    I hope bouncing these ideas around help!
    Regards
    Clay Lamb author of:
    http://www.AsktheChimneySweep.com – Youtube Educational Videos
    http://www.FireplaceandChimneySupply.com – Professional grade Chimney products
    http://www.HomeContractorsHQ.com – Contractor Coaching Podcast
    http://www.AmChimney.com – American Chimney Sweep Cincinnati,OH

  18. Hi Clay
    Bought a house over year ago, previous owner boarded fire places up I opened down stairs and upstairs back bedroom. Flies started coming in so dad swapped fire. No flies since, but tried lighting the fire draws great but then get really smokey room to point window needs to be open

    Do you think need to get it sweaped properly any other suggestions??

    No smoke comes out into back bedroom

    Thanks Emily

  19. Hi Clay. Thank you for all the useful information. I have a wood burner with an exterior masonry chimney, & a tight house, which requires cracking open a window to get a good updraft going (& I leave the window cracked during operation). The problem I have is when the fire is burning out, most heat is gone & it’s just smoldering, the chimney loses it’s updraft & the house will stink of smoke. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

  20. Ms. Emily, I always recommend getting a chimney swept” along with having a your chimney (video inspected), preferably prior to purchasing any home, or atleast prior to having your first fire. The smoking problem is most likely an air balancing issue as all of our homes are just to air tight. Even older homes have new insulated windows,cold air gasketing on the front door, and often insulated garage door panels, an just tons if insulation in the attic. Yes I think we need most of this, but we need to think how to air balance our homes to enjoy using our fireplaces or using wood as a supplement heat source.
    If this smoking problem continues, I would try playing around by cracking a window little bits at a time (1/2:-1″ etc) and monitoring time required to stop the smoking or to stabilize the fire. Journaling the flame activity as well as signs of smoke might be beneficial. Watch that the furnace is not kicking on, or other fans aren’t causing issue in your home; such as bathroom, attics well as stove fans)
    It is intersting how many homes that we get into, where newly installed glass block windows in the basement seamed to initiate a smoking issue.
    Possibly consider installing an outside fresh air source into the fireplace.
    Keep at it, as I will bet you will out smart the smoke! 🙂
    You can find a reputable Chimney and venting contractor in your area by using this link to the;
    National Chimney Sweep Guild locator
    http://www.ncsg.org/search
    Also be sure and go online and read their customer reviews from Google, BBB, and AngiesList.
    I hope that this information helps!
    Burn safe and warm!
    Clay:
    http://www.AsktheChimneySweep.com – Youtube Educational Videos
    http://www.FireplaceandChimneySupply.com – Professional grade Chimney products
    http://www.HomeContractorsHQ.com – Contractor Coaching Podcast
    http://www.AmChimney.com – GM @ American Chimney Sweep Cincinnati, OH

  21. Nick. May I ask 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 a stair case or just hangs out on the ceiling an stinks up a room. This smoking is telling me it is draft starved and more likely a house pressure issue and not a chimney draft problem.
    But with at being said (If) this 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 say to get a chimney contractor (see link at below) to figure out the best way to raise the chimney flue height.
    Another consideration is to possibly invest in a really cool product called a SmokeGuard. This thing is such a simple idea, and has solved a lot of smokey fireplace issues. Personally I like the black colored model as may I say i for me it kind of hides itself in the fireplace appearance.
    Hope this helps and please keep all of us informed in solving this issue!
    Thx-you for visiting us here at Ask the Chimney Sweep!

    Clay
    You can find a reputable Chimney and venting contractor in your area by using this link to the;
    National Chimney Sweep Guild locator
    http://www.ncsg.org/search
    Also be sure and go online and read their customer reviews from Google, BBB, and AngiesList. Clay

    http://www.AsktheChimneySweep.com – Youtube Educational Videos
    http://www.FireplaceandChimneySupply.com – Professional grade Chimney products
    http://www.HomeContractorsHQ.com – Contractor Coaching Podcast
    http://www.AmChimney.com – GM @ American Chimney Sweep Cincinnati, OH

  22. 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!!!

  23. Christina
    You’re saying that the fireplace did operate or function properly up until two years ago tells me that things have changed either on the exterior or the interior of your home.
    Starting on the exterior of your home and then moving inside, here is my laundry list of things that I would be a check on!
    1- Check your wood supply 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, you’re on a mission 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.
    Here are 4 possible changes or items to consider.
    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.
    Hope this bouncing off ideas helps, please keep all of us all informed. as solving your fireplace smoking problem may just help one other reader.

    Keep at it, as I will bet you will outsmart the problem!

    Thank you for visiting us here at Ask the Chimney

    Clay Lamb
    Cincinnati Chimney Sweep contractor
    (Owner of American Chimney)

  24. In point 3 you say, “Install a Smoke-Guard, a strip of metal to increase the size of the opening of your chimney….” I think you mean decrease the size of the opening.

  25. Thank you for pointing that error out!
    Good catch, as just two letters can change the whole storyline.
    Thanks to you Gary! I made the change to our blog.
    Regards
    Clay

  26. We’ve lived in our house for 23 years, it was built in 1957. We have several fires in the brick fireplace during each winter season and have had the chimney cleaned and inspected over the years. This year upon recommendation of the company, they installed a metal flue liner. The company is professional and all went well with the installation. We allowed it to cure for 10 days and built a fire as we normally would, kickstarting it as instructed by the company. We now have smoke with every fire, regardless of how cold it is, how clear and calm it is, or how hot the fire is. We seem to be getting a good draft, but the smoke is building up and rolling out the top of the firebox. Nothing has changed except the installation of the liner and it was not inexpensive. Any ideas? We are extremely frustrated and disappointed. The company is coming to reinspect but we are doing our own research. Thank you.

  27. I will assume you have a reputable contractor. Two things come to mind: 1. Possibly air balance or negative pressure in the house due to a cold air return in the proximity or across from the mouth of the fireplace. 2. I personally believe most important issue would be the size of the liner. If its a round liner it can be 1 1/12 of the square inches of the opening and the height and width of the fireplace. In most cases in my area this would require an 11″ round stainless steel liner. We would also be insulating it with a ceramic blanket as required by almost all stainless steel linear manufacturers that I’m aware of today. I’ve seen little things such as exhaust fans and bathrooms above that cause air movement to be pulled up the stairwell. Cathedral ceilings or trade ceilings could also be a possible culprit but in most cases the proper-sized liner solves the issue. Hope this gives you some insight! Burn safe and warm, Clay.

  28. Thank you very much for your response Clay. The bid was to install a 10″ round liner which would meet the “10 to 1″ ratio of the opening (28.5″W x 23.5″H). It looks like they installed a 9″ liner. Silly question, but with a 10″ liner, is the actual opening 10″ or is it measured from the outer edges of the liner so that the actually opening would be a little less than 10”? Thanks again.

  29. Its the net free area of the interior of the stainless steel pipe that the smoke would be moving up through. Sorry to say its only the interior of the pipe, not the metal walls of the pipe. Remember when using a round, its 12 to 1 because smoke will spiral up a round flue, which is not true of a square or rectangular one. The 9″ is just marginal. For me the question is why couldn’t they put the 10 in. Three other solutions that will most likely work with the existing installed 9″ linear:
    1. Install a fireplace smoke guard (a metal strip that goes across the top of the fireplace)
    2. close in the sides by adding firebricks to both interior right and left sides of the wall
    3. Build up the inner hearth by putting another firebrick floor on top of the existing floor.

    Do you know if they put insulation around the linear, as specified by most stainless steel liner manufacturers?

    All of these will reduce the opening of the fireplace. I’m pretty confident all of these should work. Hope this helps.

    Regards,
    Clay

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