Tips for Troubleshooting a Smoking Fireplace

One of the most common complaints of homeowners using a wood burning fireplace is that smoke enters their home when they try to light a fire. In some cases, these issues can be solved with a few operational changes; however, there are some chimney, fireplace and house design characteristics that may also be at fault. Before you spend any money on a “guaranteed solution” you should investigate and test to see what happens.

Feel for Cold Air

Warm air, i.e. smoke, is going to rise because it is lighter than cold air. So, why isn’t the smoke going out of your chimney? One of the easiest checks is to feel if there is cold air coming through the flue. If it is, then the flue may need to be warmed up before you start a fire. Try to light several crumpled-up newspapers and hold them up inside of the firebox area. If the smoke starts to move up after the flue is warmed, then this procedure may be necessary each time you light a fire.

Check the Damper

If there is no cold air coming through the flue, then you need to check and see if the damper is in the open position. If not, then the smoke is going to have no where to go but back into your home. If there is an obstruction in the flue, then the same result is going to occur; however, it can be more difficult to find. Use a flashlight to look up into the flue, which will let you know if there is a problem further up the chimney.

Consider the Air Flow

If you only have problems from time to time with your fireplace, then the issue may be with the air flow. A fireplace will consume between 100 to 500 cubic feet per minute of air in a roof. If you are running a clothes dryer, exhaust fans, the furnace or another appliance that is consuming air, then they may be competing with one another for air, especially in “air tight” homes. Turn off your other appliances or open a window or door close to the fireplace. If that resolves the problem, then you may need to find a way to get better air flow to the fireplace when building a fire.

Only Use Well-Seasoned Wood

The only type of wood you should ever burn in your fireplace is well-seasoned wood – it doesn’t matter what species it is. Make sure to keep this wood off the ground and that the moisture content doesn’t exceed 15 to 25 percent. You can use a digital wood moisture meter to make sure the wood will burn rather than smoke.

A smoking fireplace is not only frustrating, it can also create safety hazards. By using the information here, you can troubleshoot your smoking fireplace to figure out what you should do to improve the fires you have in your home. If all else fails, please contact us for more help.