smoky fireplace

Have you tried starting your fireplace this season and found more smoke coming out than normal? Now is the best time to fix this problem before the cold weather really sets in. If you want to get the most out of your fireplace this winter, ensuring your home is as smoke-free as possible is a good way to start.

There are many potential causes of fireplace smoke coming into your home. Here are some ways to fix them.

How to Keep Smoke From Coming Out of Your Smoky Fireplace

Use a fireplace grate

One good way to help keep smoke out of your living room is to put a grate in your fireplace. The grate is a metal structure that holds up the logs the fire is built on, creating space between the wood and the ground.

With increased distance between the fire and floor, the smoke is more likely to flow up into the chimney instead of into your house.

Get your chimney swept

smoky fireplace

Fires started in dirty chimneys can be a cause of extra smoke coming into your home. Buildup of ash and dust over time reduces both the air flow within the chimney and the fireplace’s draw, making it difficult for the smoke to escape above.

According to experts, chimneys should be swept at least once a year, and more often if necessary. Annual chimney cleaning and maintenance is imperative to having a safe working fireplace in your home.

Open the damper fully

A lack of airflow can rob fire of the ability to combust wood properly, causing more smoke to be produced. This can be avoided by fully opening the damper before starting the fire.

The damper is a small door on top of the fireplace that opens up to the outside through the chimney. An open damper ensures that the smoke and toxic gasses created from the fire can safely exit the house.

Open vents or windows to prevent a smoky fireplace

Fireplaces require a good air supply to function well. One major cause of fireplace smoke is a lack of oxygen within the room, especially in newer homes with good insulation.

To fix this problem, you can open up the air vents and windows in the same room as the fireplace. It might seem counterintuitive to crack the windows open while you’re heating up your home, but it will help fix your smoke problem.

Preheat the chimney air

Starting a fire in cold air with no draft can be a recipe for smoke. You can avoid this problem by preheating the fireplace. There are a couple ways to do this: you can set alight a roll of newspaper and leave it to burn near the top of the fireplace for a few minutes, or build a top-down fire as described below.

Preheating the chimney is an important step because it starts the draft. It sets up the cycle of air that allows fresh air in the room to fuel the fire and helps toxic gasses and smoke to flow out through the chimney.

Burn low moisture content wood in your smoky fireplace

fireplace

If you’re burning a fire indoors, the wood should be extremely dry. If you ignite wood that is not dry enough, the fire will have a hard time burning away the excess moisture from the wood. Wet wood does not allow for proper combustion and produces more smoke.

The moisture content of your wood must be at 20% or less. If your wood has a greenish color, smooth ends that aren’t coarse or split, or bark that is hard to remove, its moisture content is probably too high. You can also use a moisture meter to measure the wood’s moisture content.

Build your fires farther back in your smoky fireplace

When building a fire, make sure you are building it towards the back of the fireplace and not the front. Having the fire at the back encourages smoke to escape through the chimney and out of your home.

If you build your fire toward the front, the smoke is more likely to go into the room than out the chimney.

Build your fires from the top down

When fires are started at the bottom, as they traditionally are, the fire might not get enough oxygen under the wood. This problem causes more smoke.

When fires are started at the top, the fire has access to more oxygen. The smoke can easily flow up the chimney.

To build a top-down fire, start by arranging logs on the bottom, then place the kindling and fire-starter on top. Using this technique results in less total smoke produced, meaning less smoke will enter your home.

Start with small fires, then add logs

If you build a fire that’s too large at the beginning, the flames begin burning too much at once, causing more smoke. If you start by building a smaller fire, you can grow it by adding more logs over time. Not only does this process create less smoke, but it makes the fire safer and easier to control.

The temperature of the logs determines the cleanliness of the burn. Starting with a smaller fire helps the fireplace warm up, so when the fire gets bigger, the logs can burn without producing as much smoke.

Avoid starting fires in windy weather

fireplace

Starting fires in a fireplace during windy weather can cause a backdraft. A backdraft occurs when the air that usually goes out the top of the chimney is pushed back down the shaft. In other words, wind prevents the smoke from exiting your home and forces it to go the only other direction it can — into your home.

To avoid backdrafts, don’t start a fire when the wind speed is above 40 miles per hour. If you are experiencing severe weather in your area, be sure to check the wind speed to ensure that it is safe to start an indoor fire.

Call a fireplace professional

If you’re getting a lot of smoke in your home and none of the tricks above reduce the smoke production and spread, it’s time to call a fireplace professional. An experienced technician can diagnose the issue and help you reduce indoor smoke for a safer, cleaner winter.

If you are searching for a reliable fireplace professional in the Marysville or Seattle area, look no further. Four Day Fireplace has trained, highly experienced fireplace professionals who can help with any of your fireplace servicing needs.

Contact us today for help with your smoky fireplace.

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