Common Causes of Smoke from the Fireplace Backing up into Your Home
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Common Causes of a Smokey Fireplace

Nobody likes smoke filling their house. Worse than smoke is the carbon monoxide carried by smoke. Carbon monoxide can’t be seen or smelled, but it’s known to be potentially fatal when inhaled by people and pets. Felgemacher Fireplace Store of Buffalo, NY, deals with a lot of smoke backup issues for our
customers. Here’s what we know.

malfunctioning chimney damper, Buffalo, NY

Why your fireplace isn’t drafting properly 

There are several possible reasons for this, many of which you can solve on your own. Other causes require a professional chimney inspection.

House is not allowing a draft

A home that’s too air-tight won’t provide sufficient circulating air to move into the fireplace and push smoke upwards. Try cracking a window near the fireplace to allow air to move.

Fireplace damper is closed or only partially open

You’ll know pretty quickly if your damper is completely shut. If the damper is rusted out, caked with debris or somehow damaged, the result may be just a little smoke backing up because the component can’t fully open. Have this checked out by a chimney and fireplace inspector.

Something is blowing air out of the house

A bathroom or kitchen exhaust fan, as well as a running clothes dryer, can all create negative air pressure in your home, hindering proper fireplace drafting. Turn off all blowing devices and see if this helps.

You’re simply creating too much smoke

Your chimney flue/flue liner is sized to efficiently draft your fireplace. But it’s not sized to accommodate huge amounts of smoke that can come from burning damp (unseasoned) wood or non-firewood materials such as cardboard, painted wood, household garbage, packing materials, plastics and the like. Burn only fully dry firewood and nothing else.

Flue air is too cold and heavy

Cold air is heavier than warm air. If the air in your flue is too cold, it can act as a block to the warm smoke trying to get up through it. This problem often can be solved by holding a rolled-up lit newspaper up into the flue for a few moments. A blow dryer also can work.

Outside wind is blowing down into your chimney

Downdrafts will send not only smoke but also fiery sparks and embers into your room. You can’t stop the outside wind, but you can make sure you have a full-width chimney cap on the top of your chimney. Ask your chimney service technician about the best type of caps to help with downdrafts.

Flue is obstructed

Chimney flues can become obstructed and cause smoke backups. The most likely causes are:

  • Creosote
  • Tree debris
  • Animal nests and bodies of dead animals

An obstructed flue is a serious concern, because it’s something you can’t see and therefore don’t know the extent of. If you’ve tried other measures to stop smoke backups, you should schedule a chimney inspection to determine the condition of your flue.

Trained chimney sweeps use specialized tools to safely remove built-up creosote and debris. This will not only clear your flue for smooth drafting, it also will reduce the chances of a chimney fire caused by flammable creosote igniting.

Chimney Repair Rochester, NY
Keep your chimney working right

Felgemacher Fireplace Store offers complete chimney cleaning, inspection and repair services throughout the Buffalo, NY, and Rochester, NH, regions.

Put nearly 60 years of hands-on experience to work for you by calling (716) 482-1820, or reach out through our convenient contact form.

Contact Felgemacher Fireplace Shop