Fireplace smoke

Why does my fireplace smoke and what can I do about it?

For most folks, an evening in front of the fireplace can be a soothing and relaxing experience. There is however, nothing particularly soothing about unwanted fireplace smoke puffs that spill into the home while the fire is burning. Smoke that escapes through the fireplace opening is the result of poor fireplace drafting which can be caused by a number of factors. Here are some of the most common causes and solutions.

House is well insulated:
Unlike a moderately drafty home, a relatively air-tight house may not be able to supply enough outside air to the fire resulting in negative pressure in the home. Well-insulated homes can benefit from an outside air supply vent installed in the fireplace to satisfy the fire's needs. A good mason can often retrofit an air supply vent in an existing fireplace. Try opening a window in the fireplace room while it is burning. If the fireplace starts to draw better, this is likely the problem.

Exhaust fans in the home:
A running kitchen or bathroom exhaust fan could be the cause of your fireplace smoke. Another culprit may be the blower fan of a forced hot air heating system, especially if the furnace return vent is in the same room as the fireplace. These fans can easily create a powerful negative pressure hindering the fireplace from drafting correctly. If you ensure that these of fans are off while the fireplace is burning, the smoke problem may go away.

Too warm outside:
Even fireplaces that draft great when it's cold outside can be known to puff out fireplace smoke when it's slightly warmer out. The greater the temperature differential between the inside room temperature and the outdoor temp, the better the fire will draft. Take notice of the outside temperature when burning the fireplace. Having a fire when it's colder out may help.

Damper/chimney cap problems:
Make sure that the damper is open all the way. Sometimes, is a rain cap or even another damper on top of the chimney may be obstructed and need attention. Have a professional take a look to see if that's the case.

Chimney needs to be cleaned:
Creosote buildup in the chimney can reduce the flow of exhaust gasses, which can cause fireplace smoke and may also lead to a chimney fire. A shattered chimney flue can also cause drafting problems. Hire a chimney sweep to inspect your fireplace for damage and clean the flue. This is something that should be done at least once a year, even if your fireplace operates perfectly.

Wet firewood:
It is not uncommon for the problem to be soaking wet firewood. A fire that appears to smolder or make hissing sounds while burning may have a high water content. Such a fire simply can't generate sufficient heat to allow the chimney to draw well. If you hit two smaller pieces of dry firewood together, you should hear a crisp, sharp sound. If you hear a dull "thud", the wood is most likely wet. Try building a fire with wood that you are positive is dry, like scrap lumber that has been under cover.

Incorrectly built fireplace:
If you have been able to rule out the possible causes listed above, faulty fireplace design is likely the reason for your fireplace smoke problem. There are critical parts of a fireplace that must be built to specific sizes compared to other components. Flue volume and fireplace opening size ratios are extremely important. Other factors include smoke shelf construction, size and shape of the damper, chimney height in relation to the peak of roof height and so on.

Rebuilding or modifying an existing fireplace is simply not a realistic option for most homeowners. Reconstructing the smoke shelf, firebox, or adding height to the chimney can cost $10,000 or more! such ambitious attempts to modify a smoky fireplace are often unsuccessful, and the problem persists. Expensive chimney-mounted exhaust fans are available to pull the smoke up the chimney. We do not recommend these units however, since their powerful vacuuming ability pulls too much warmth from the home and out the chimney.

Wall of Fire grate eliminates fireplace smokeHere's how to make your incorrectly built fireplace perform like a champ:
Making your temperamental fireplace draft correctly while also enjoying a dramatic increase in heat output is well within your reach! Simply remove your current basket grate and replace it with our exclusive "Wall of Fire" vertical fireplace grate. Our revolutionary design re-positions the entire fire and drafts against the back wall of the fireplace. All fireplace smoke is now tight to the back of the firebox. Other benefits of our unique grate include greater heat output and self-feeding operation, which virtually eliminates fire tending.

Our amazing "Wall of Fire" grate is highly recommended by many well-respected masons and chimney sweeps all around the country. Simply put, they know it will stop fireplace smoke when nothing else will.

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