You should never find your home filled with smoke after you start a fire safely in the fireplace. As long as your fireplace damper is open, the smoke and vapor should be moving upward out of the chimney, not entering the room.

If there’s an issue with your chimney draft, it can very quickly result in more smoke in the home as opposed to smoke being pulled through the flue. There are a few reasons why this issue happens for people and there are ways to fix it!

Issue #1: Your Damper Is Closed

It’s crucial to open your damper completely before you ever start a fire in your fireplace. A partial opening may restrict flow too much, and it’ll fill the room with smoke because it has no other exit. Although this seems like a simple task, it can often go overlooked and people start their fire without a thought of the damper. When you’re not using your fireplace, it’s fine to leave the damper closed. However, as soon as you decide to light a fire, it’s time to open the damper and let the smoke out! 

When you’re not using a wood-burning fireplace, it’s good practice to close the damper, especially in the winter. Leaving the damper open lets cold air in and conflicts with your heating and air, so make sure to know when to open or close it! Try your best to get into a good habit of opening and closing the damper when it’s needed. This doesn’t apply for gas logs, which should always have the damper open unless they are listed as “unvented”.

Issue #2: Your Downdraft Is Too Cold And You Need An Updraft

Often, chimneys are placed on an external wall of the house. The chimney is then exposed to cold temperatures. Because cold air is dense and heavier than smoke from your newly lit fire, a cold downdraft pushes it into the room. Quick Tip: Don’t turn on your ceiling fan or any other fans in your house when a fireplace is smoking – it just makes the issue worse!

This issue can be remedied by creating an “updraft” before you light your fire. Essentially, this is accomplished when you light something on fire (newspapers work great!) and hold it up in the chimney using some chimney tools. This creates an updraft, which has airflow moving through and up the chimney. This encourages the smoke to be pulled up the chimney, rather than out into the room.

Make sure that if you try this method, you use the proper fireplace tools or a fireproof mitt or glove. Take the bunched-up newspaper and stick it at the end of one of the tools and then light it on fire and proceed to hold it up the chimney. If you aren’t sure how to do this safely, it might be time to consult a professional!

Issue #3: Your Damper Is Open And It Isn’t Working

Most of the time, having your damper open should fix the issue of having smoke fill your home. However, if you have your damper open and you still experience large amounts of smoke filling your home, there might be something else wrong with the chimney. There’s a few reasons why this can happen, one of the most common being a restriction to the chimney. For example, if there’s outside debris or a bird’s or squirrel’s nest on top of the chimney, the airflow won’t work the way it’s supposed to.

If this seems to be the issue you’re having, have a professional inspect it for you. There are normally a few ways to approach the issue, one of them being a professional certified chimney sweep or someone who can clean the chimney effectively. Have a professional get on the roof and examine the chimney from that location to see if it’s anything blocking it on the outside.

Issue #4: You Have The Wrong Size Damper

Dampers come in many shapes and sizes, so the one you have on your chimney may not be the correct design for the size fireplace you have. If this is the case, it’s time to get a new damper. If it isn’t the right fit, it can accumulate smoke that will eventually have nowhere to go except back into your home.

Have a professional come out to inspect your flue if you think this is the issue. They will be able to outfit you with the proper size damper so that your smoke will flow out of the chimney with no issues.

Issue #5: You Home Has Competing Air Pressure

Sometimes houses, newer ones especially, are sealed too tightly. This can create competing air pressure issues when you attempt to use your fireplace. Issues like these can sometimes be easily solved by cracking a window near your fireplace. The window breaks the seal, and acts as a source of balance in the house pressure, enabling smoke to go where it needs to – up the chimney.

Conversely, some air pressure problems in older homes are caused by too much escaping air. Many older structures have poorly sealed attic doors, which allows air to escape via the attic space. Checking the seal on your attic doors and adding some extra insulation may do the trick and help balance the air pressure in your home.

Issue #6: You Need a Draft Fan

Some serious and annoying smoking problems can be resolved with a draft fan mounted on top of your chimney. Although expensive to install, draft fans can be the only solution to some smoking problems, and make a huge difference. If you’re struggling to find a solution for your fireplace, this might be the right option for you. There is nothing like a lovely fire in a fireplace that works beautifully too, which is why it’s so important to get yours installed by a professional that really understands the physics of draft and flow.

Remember, your fireplace being lit should never cause an abundance of smoke to accumulate in your home. If that starts happening, it’s time to do some investigation. Be sure to reach out to a professional so they can come and properly inspect your fireplace. Don’t stop using your fireplace just because there’s a hiccup, look into it and get it fixed!

Reach out to us with any questions about your fireplace so you can make sure it’s able to work properly without the house filling with smoke. You deserve to have a fireplace that works and doesn’t cause any potential issues!