Identifying Smoking Problems In Your Chimney

Nothing ruins a cozy winter night quite like large amounts of smoke pouring out of the chimney. Not only is it unpleasant and inconvenient, but also it can actually be quite dangerous to have smoke filling up the home.There are several reasons your fireplace may be smoking. The key is to figure out exactly what is causing the smoke and correct the issue as quickly as possible.

It may seem like common sense but if the chimney is smoking, first check to make sure that the damper is open. It is easy to forget to open it up before starting a fire and this would, make it impossible for smoke to leave the chimney. In addition, soot or creosote build up on the damper may prevent the damper from fully opening, making it time to call for a professional cleaning and inspection.


Photo of: smoky fireplace

Smoky fireplaces can be dangerous.

Your firewood could also be to blame. Wet or not properly seasoned wood can produce more smoke than heat. Keep your firewood dry from rain and snow and only use wood seasoned for at least a year. Also make sure your logs are not too big. Five to six inches in diameter is the maximum recommended for efficient burning.

Another common reason for a smoky chimney is when the air in the chimney is significantly cooler than the room air — this especially occurs when you are starting a fire.Warm the air by holding a lit rolled-up newspaper in the firebox for a few minutes. This will heat up the flue allowing the air to rise rather than fall, thus causing the smoke.

A clogged chimney cap with soot or creosote or an accumulation of soot or creosote on the flue, or an obstruction such as a bird or squirrel nesting, will restrict air flow. This can also produce smoke, necessitating an inspection and cleaning.

Next air pressure could be the culprit. If the home is too “air tight” and no make up air is available to feed the fire, the fireplace may smoke. Also, unpredictable wind currents and down drafts can occasionally cause smoking.

A more complicated problem may be chimney construction. Is the chimney the correct size? The amount of smoke a chimney can draft is a mathematical correlation between the size of the firebox and the flue. Another problem is the chimney should be ten to twelve high or higher and project at least three feet above the roof and two feet higher than anything that is within ten feet.

If you are experiencing smoking problems with your chimney, hire a professional certified chimney sweep to inspect your fireplace and chimney. They can diagnose whether these or other issues are preventing your fireplace from working properly.