Smoking Problem
The front of this fireplace has been stained by smoke.

There is a lot of hype out there revolving around the pros and cons of newer, air tight homes. Homes which have been built in the last fifteen years or so are more air tight than ever. Tax cuts were given on energy saving windows and doors that allowed the smallest possible amount of heated or cooled air out of the home in order to lessen the environmental impact that household had on the amount of energy that needed to be produced each day. Improvements in insulation has also helped less heat be lost in the wintertime, further hindering air flow in the home. What about older homes? Haven’t we improved them as well? Of course.

Older homes may experience smoking problems after any number of various changes or upgrades were made to the original design of the home. Remodeling the bathroom is one frequent renovation that is made which can cause smoking problems. The powerful fans that are often installed with bathroom overhauling suck up air in the home and deposit it outside to prevent condensation in the bathroom from shower steam or to rid the area of odor. These fans are also sucking the air which your fire needs to burn and draft properly up through the fireplace. If you have recently made changes to areas of the such as the bathroom, or installed a new kitchen fan, make sure these are not used before, during, or after you have a fire because it rids the home of necessary air.

The reason that newer homes are more criticized for their contribution to smoking problems is that in older, draftier homes, a fire in the fireplace is often able to have its air source replenished by small gaps between windows and doors. A fire needs air to burn, and if there is not enough of it in the home, it will suck outside air from down the chimney in order to burn properly, which in turn drafts the smoke back into the home, hence, a smoking problem.

A chimney which drafts well is controlled by positive air pressure in the home. Fans and other appliances which need to vent, such

Smoking Problem Solution
Installing a SmokeGuard is easy and can help prevent smoke from rolling out of the firebox into your living room.

as a dryer or furnace, can contribute to taking more air out of the home than is coming back in. When the conditions exist, no matter how old the home is or what the reason is for the negative pressure to occur, your chimney will have smoking problems. Of course, especially with older homes, it is important to check to be sure that the chimney is capped and that there is no blockage in the chimney. The damper must be open in order for smoke to be able to exit the chimney as well.

After years of investigation, professionals have come up with the ideal firebox width to height ratio and what the proper chimney flue diameter and height should be in accordance with these measurements. If you are confused about smoking problems, call your local chimney professional who may be able to help you with modifying the size of your firebox with a SmokeGuard, the installation of which changes the size of the opening of the firebox which may prevent smoking issues from continuing to occur, or suggest another option for you.

No matter how old your home is, there is always hope for a chimney which continually presents smoking problems. Don’t give up on the chimney, because often, with the help of a professional, diagnosing and fixing this problem is not as difficult as it may seem.

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.

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Clay Lamb

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