How to Avoid a Smoky Fireplace.
Smoky Fireplace - One of the best things about having a fireplace is curling up in the winter to enjoy the warmth and comforting crackling sounds. However, that ambiance can be quickly destroyed if you find your home filled with smoke. Not only does this pose health risks, but it may indicate problems with your fireplace or chimney. Read on to learn what the inspection experts at Albany Chimney recommend.
What Causes a Smoky Fireplace?
The visible part of a fireplace is only a small part of the overall design of a properly functioning setup. The chimney is actually what makes burning a fire in a fireplace or woodstove safe and operational.
Within a chimney is the flue, which directs smoke up and out of the chimney. If any part of the chimney is blocked or damaged, there’s the unpleasant result of smoke pouring into the house. The smoke from burning wood produces contaminants like ash nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide which have been linked to cancer, respiratory complications, and other health issues. There are a few primary reasons that typically cause a smoky fireplace.
#1 Damper Malfunction
The damper is essentially a door that’s installed near the opening of the fireplace. This door must be opened prior to lighting a fire, otherwise, the smoke won’t flow up and out of the chimney. Sometimes a damper malfunction is simply a user error – basically you forgot to open it. In addition to opening the damper, it’s important that there’s not an abundance of negative air pressure in your home. Negative air pressure is most common in multi-story houses or those that are tightly insulated, thus preventing ideal air flow.
#2 Chimney Blockage
In order for a chimney to do its job, the air flow must be uninterrupted. Oftentimes, the chimney or cap screen becomes blocked from creosote (oily, sooty buildup) or because small animals build their homes in the space during the warmer months. While the chimney cap screen will help prevent birds, mice, squirrels, bats, or raccoons from hunkering down inside the chimney, the screen itself can also become clogged. These pests may decide the screen makes a nice perch or maybe debris from storms and outdoor elements clog it up. An annual chimney inspection can prevent these issues and alert you to any other underlying problems.
#3 Take Precautions Before Lighting a Fire
The fireplace and chimney design rely heavily on plenty of airflow and combustion in order for the smoke to rise up through the chimney. Quite simply, hot air rises. However, if you build a fire during warmer months, have too much negative pressure in your home, or have other appliances that require air, such as exhaust fans or even clothes dryers, the smoky air will be pulled into your home rather than going up the chimney. If you think any of these culprits exist in your home, open a window before lighting that fire.
#4 Only Burn Seasoned Wood
Seasoned or dried wood offers a much better heat source than green or wet wood. These damp woods hinder heat production and increase smoke and creosote buildup in chimneys. Think of it as adding water to the fire.
If your fireplace is producing more smoke than fire, contact Albany Chimney to schedule an inspection with a licensed and certified expert. Having smoke flow into your home can result in smoke damage to your belongings and health problems for you and your family.
Adam C Clark
Owner & Operator,
Shield Guard Home Inspections LLC
45 Parkwood St Albany NY, 12208
NYS LICENSE #16000091657
NYS MOLD # 0321