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What’s With All The Smoke? Troubleshooting Your Smoking Chimney

Are unpleasant smoke issues taking away from your enjoyment of your fireplace or appliance? Under normal circumstances, all smoke should go up and out of the chimney – so if you’re noticing smoke in your home, there’s a problem.

One of the most frustrating things about a smoke problem is that the cause of the problem could be any number of things. The first question to ask yourself is, “Is my smoke problem constant or occasional?” If your problem is constant, it will be easier to diagnose, but it will also most likely require a costly and involved fix. Some of the most common causes of constant smoke problems are:

Is the air your chimney is using being replaced? This problem is most common in newer constructions, which, for energy-savings purposes, are built to be air-tight. The problem is that, in order to properly expel smoke, the chimney needs to have an adequate supply of air with which to pull the smoke up and out of the home. Try opening a window or door when using your fireplace or stove, or have an outside air source installed. An outside air source is a lever or handle that can be used to allow outside air into the firebox.

Does the room get smoky over time? If your room gets smoky over time and not when you initially light the fire, there’s a good chance that your flue is improperly sized for your appliance. If the fireplace opening is more than 10 times the cross-sectional area of the chimney flue, it will allow more air to enter than the flue can expel. The result is a backup of smoke. The good news is that this problem can usually be fixed by installing a fireproof shield above the fireplace opening or installing glass doors.

Is there a flaw in your chimney’s design? When nothing else seems to work, we often find that the smoke problem is a result of a design flaw in the chimney system. If this is the case with your chimney, our expert masons can help.

If your smoke problem is occasional, it’s likely a result of one of the following:
Did you check the damper? You’d be surprised how many times homeowners simply forget to fully open the damper before lighting a fire in their fireplace. If you’ve opened the damper but are still having smoke problems, it’s possible that your damper is rusted or stuck into place and not opening fully. If so, we can suggest and install a durable, efficient new damper in your system.

Are you burning seasoned wood? Sometimes smoke problems can be eradicated by simply changing your wood supply. If you aren’t using properly seasoned or dried wood, any excess moisture will burn off in the form of smoke. Dense woods that are hard to light can also lead to poor draft and excessive smoke because they don’t produce a hot enough fire.

Is your chimney cap properly installed and in good condition? If your neighbors’ homes are higher than yours, or if your home is surrounded by tall hills, trees or other structures, wind may be blowing over them and then directly down into your flue. When this gust forces itself down into the chimney, smoke is pushed back down into your home. If this is the cause of your smoke problems, a specialty cap or guard can help reduce the effects of these near vertical blasts of wind.

Is your chimney flue the tallest thing around? If your chimney’s effective height (measure from the top of the fireplace, firebox or stove to the top of the flue) is less than 10 feet, your chimney may not be able to effectively pull smoke up and out. It’s also important that your chimney or flue pipe extend 3 feet out from the roof, and be at least 2 feet higher than anything within 10 feet.

Are there other appliances competing for air? Check for the existence of competing vents. Kitchen and bathroom fans or chimneys for other fireplaces or stoves may be overpowering your chimney’s draft. When this happens, these other appliances draw the air they need (and with it, smoke) through the “smoking” chimney. To fix this problem, you’ll have to ensure that each vent has adequate air flow. Sometimes opening a window can also help, by replenishing the air supply in the home.

What’s The Temperature? If the temperature outside is fairly close to the temperature inside your home (and there is a high pressure cell in the area), you probably don’t have adequate air pressure to maintain a draft. If this is the source of your smoke problems, a chance in weather should take care of the issue.

Does your unused fireplace smoke when you use another fireplace in your home? If so, you may need to raise the height of the flue in use by 6-12 inches. In most cases, this will solve the problem, and it won’t break the bank.

Have you had your chimney inspected for obstructions? Many times, smoke problems are due to a flue obstruction, like a bird’s nest, crumbling or falling brick or mortar, or an excessive buildup of creosote. If there’s an obstruction in your flue, it’s vital that you have it removed before using your system. A blocked chimney is a fire hazard and should never be used until completely cleaned and inspected. If an inspection reveals that the chimney is blocked as a result of a structural failure, the chimney will have to be rebuilt.

Do you have smoke problems when your stove or glass doors are open? This is most often cured by opening the doors slowly, allowing for the air flow to adjust in the firebox. Opening the draft fully several minutes before opening the doors will raise the temperature and eliminate a lot of the smoke.
Do you experience smoke problems only when the household doors are open? When a household door is opened or closed rapidly, it can change the air pressure of the home. This sudden change of air pressure can cause the draft in your chimney to briefly stop or even reverse (bringing smoke back down into the home). Oftentimes, an outside air source can easily solve this type of problem.

Call American Chimney & Masonry Today

However frequent or infrequent your smoke problem, let the experts at American Chimney & Masonry help. We can make sure that your system is working as efficiently and as safely as it should be. Call 503-644-0393 or click here to schedule your troubleshooting appointment today!

 

If you’re having fireplace draft issues, call on us to troubleshoot the problem today.



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