Why Is Smoke Coming Out Of My Fireplace?

Stacy Randall
by Stacy Randall

You should never find smoke in your home, especially coming from your fireplace. This can happen easily, but luckily you can resolve the problem. Smoke coming out of your fireplace can be scary, but there are a few things you can check on before calling for help.

Smoke can come out of your fireplace because of issues with the damper, a dirty chimney, or an inadequate updraft. Make sure your fireplace damper is open and functioning correctly and that the air pressure is good. Also, clean the chimney, use dry wood, and check your overall fireplace design and weather.

If there’s an issue with your chimney draft, it can very quickly result in more smoke in the home. Having smoke in your home can cause you or your family health issues, like asthma or lung damage. You can prevent these by understanding your fireplace and how to ensure it works properly.

7 Reasons Smoke Is Coming Out the Fireplace

Here are 7 common reasons smoke is coming out of the fireplace and into your home. Damper issues, air pressure problems, and using the wrong wood can cause smoke throughout your home. By knowing what to check or look for, you may be able to prevent or fix it accordingly.

1. Issues with the Damper Can Make Smoke Come Out the Fireplace

It’s important to know if your damper is open or closed before starting a fire in your fireplace. A partial opening may restrict the flow of air in and out. This restriction will fill the room with smoke because it has no other exit.

This fix seems like a simple task, but it can often go overlooked, and people start their fire without opening the damper. Along with your closed damper, you may find that your damper is the wrong size or broken. This can be a manufacturer or builder problem, and you will need a professional to fix it.

2. Not Enough Updraft

The chimney is exposed to colder temperatures, and cold air is heavier than smoke; a cold downdraft pushes down. This causes the smoke to come back down the chimney and into your home. You can remedy this issue by creating an updraft before lighting your fire.

You accomplish creating an updraft when you light something on fire, such as newspapers, and hold it up in the chimney. This technique creates an updraft, which has airflow moving through and up the chimney.

3. Competing Air Pressure Can Make Smoke Come Out of Fireplace

Sometimes houses are sealed too tightly, which can create competing air pressure issues. When you attempt to use your fireplace, cracking a window near your fireplace can fix the air pressure. The window acts as a source of balance in the house pressure, breaking the pressure and enabling airflow.

4. Dirty Chimney

Have you had your chimney cleaned recently? There might be a bird’s nest or creosote buildup inside your chimney. This buildup or blockage reduces the draw of the fireplace and prevents the exhausting of smoke properly.

It also puts your chimney at greater risk of a chimney fire. Clean your chimney at least once a year before you start using your fireplace in the colder months.

5. Wet Firewood

Wet firewood does not burn well or generate enough heat for the chimney. If you hear hissing sounds or the fire seems to smolder, your firewood is too wet. Be sure to keep your firewood covered to protect it from the rain and elements.

To test your firewood before burning, hit two pieces together, and if you hear a dull thud, it’s too wet. But if you hear a crisp or sharp sound, then the wood is dry enough to burn.

6. Bad Fireplace Design

A faulty or poorly built fireplace may just be your issue. Sometimes the flue, the volume, the opening, or the damper size is all wrong. This is the result of poor design and execution in building your fireplace.

You will want to have a professional come out to check your fireplace’s design, build, and overall status. Even the chimney height can affect the flow of smoke from the chimney.

7. It’s Too Warm Outside

The chimney draft depends on the difference between the inside and outside temperatures. The greater the difference in temperature, the stronger the draft. This means that when it’s cold outside and warm inside, hot air rises up the flue to meet the cold.

When it’s warm outside and inside, the hot air and smoke flow back into the room rather than rise.

4 Ways To Stop Smoke Coming Out Of Your Fireplace

There are a few reasons your fireplace may be letting smoke back into your home, but the solutions are simple. Simple solutions can be cleaning out your chimney, understanding your fireplace, choosing the right fuel, and installing a draft fan. By following these four ways, you will surely stop the smoke from coming back into your home.

1. Professional Sweep and Cleanout

After each chimney use, you should do a cleanout, especially if the ashes or debris are thick. This can prevent the ash or debris from smoking and causing the smoke to come back into your home. You should definitely watch for signs of debris or ash that may be in the fireplace because it will cause smoke to bellow.

Calling a professional CSIA-certified chimney sweep to your home once a year will ensure a clean chimney. In sweeping out nests or creosote, your chimney will be clear and prevent the smoke from getting trapped. Trapped or blocked smoke will go back into your home, causing a smokey time.

2. Understanding Your Fireplace

It never hurts to have a professional builder look at your chimney and fireplace to look for damage. Even the smallest mishap or fault can cause smoke to back up into your home. It can even affect your damper and how it may function properly to let the smoke rise up and out.

You may need a new cap or damper or even a new fireplace, and you will want an expert’s opinion. In understanding how your fireplace works, functions, and even flows, you may discover there are things you can do yourself when you light a fire.

Making sure the updraft and airflow is key to making the smoke flow smoothly up and out of your home. Also, knowing the temperature inside and outside of your fireplace will help you know the right time to burn.

3. Choose The Right Fuel

You may think this is a given, but choosing the right fuel inside your fireplace will prevent smoke. Using certain kindling, wood, gas, or approved logs will help to prevent the billowing smoke. Always using dry, approved wood or gas for your fireplace is important.

Certain kindling is meant to help the flame billow and burst, while others need a small flame to get it started. Picking or using the right kindling is always helpful, and not placing anything in your fireplace that shouldn’t be there. Certain papers, trash, or chemicals will make smoke, causing distress to you and your family.

4. Install a Draft Fan

You can resolve some serious and annoying smoke problems with a draft fan. This is a fan simply mounted on top of your chimney. Even though it is expensive to install, draft fans can be the only solution to some smoking problems.

If you struggle to find any other solution, this might be the right option for you. It’s essential to get it installed by a professional that really understands the physics of a fireplace.

A Final Look at Why Smoke Is Coming Out Of Your Fireplace

Finally, fixing your fireplace to prevent smoke from entering your home is actually quite simple and self-diagnosable. With the help of the lists above, you will know what to do if smoke begins to come out of your fireplace. Be sure always to check your fireplace damper to make sure it’s open.

By checking your damper, you will ensure the updraft is enough and the air pressure is good. Be sure also to clean the ash out below and in the chimney. This will ensure you can achieve good airflow and updraft.

Always use dry wood and know the weather; it is all important to enjoy your fireplace on a cold evening. Using the four solutions to keeping the smoke at bay can give you a headstart when winter comes around. Don’t be afraid to call a professional sweep; though sometimes expensive, it can save you in the long run.

Stacy Randall
Stacy Randall

Stacy Randall is a wife, mother, and freelance writer from NOLA that has always had a love for DIY projects, home organization, and making spaces beautiful. Together with her husband, she has been spending the last several years lovingly renovating her grandparent's former home, making it their own and learning a lot about life along the way.

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