Help! My Fireplace Is Smoking Up The House! What Should I Do?

The fireplace is a source of warmth in your home, so it's important to keep them functioning at full capacity. But when they start smoking up the house, something must be done as soon as possible! In this article we'll cover what causes fireplaces to smoke up the house and how often you should have maintenance done on both your fireplace and your chimney.
Fireplace Mortar Repair Before and After

So...What Causes Your Fireplace To Smoke?

A smoking fireplace is one of the most common problems a fireplace owner will deal with. There are a few potential causes for that.
Creosote Buildup
Excessive use of the fireplace plus poor fireplace/chimney maintenance can lead to creosote buildup. 

Creosote is a category of carbonaceous chemicals formed by the distillation of various tars and pyrolysis of plant-derived material, such as wood or fossil fuel. The creosote builds on the sides of the flue and created blockage for the smoke to come out.

Creosote has 3 different stages:

Stage 1 – Creosote begins as a loose, flaky deposit that can be easily removed with a simple chimney sweep.

Stage 2 – The Creosote turns into a tar-like deposit which can be more difficult to remove, often requiring specialised brushes or scrapers.

Stage 3 – The creosote hardens and is much more difficult to remove. 

Stages 2 & 3 are considered a fire hazards & toxic. They need to be addressed and taken care of immediately.

When the temperature in the flue is high enough, creosote build-up or debris can ignite a chimney fire that can do serious structural damage to your home.

Creosote Buildup Stage 3
Stage 2 Creosote Buildup
Creosote Build Up Stage 3

Weak Draft
When your fireplace is turned on, the smoke is being pushed up the flue (the space inside the chimney) and out of the chimney
while the outside air is pulled into the flue to keep the flames alive. This necessary exchange of air is known as the chimney “draft.”

Weak drafts could be caused for a few reasons:

Indoor Outdoor Temperatures Are Similar
The strength of the chimney draft depends on the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures. The greater the temperature difference, the stronger the draft; the lower the difference, the weaker the draft. 
When it’s cold outside and warm inside, hot air and smoke caused by fire within your fireplace will begin to travel up the flue. When meeting the cold air, there will be an exchange between the hot & cold temperatures. The smoke will rise up the flue naturally, and the oxygen from the cold air will travel down the flue, and keep the flames lit. This is known as a “strong draft” and is the most ideal for a functioning fireplace.

Fireplace Might Be Smoking Up The House

Uncovered Flue – Having an uncovered flue could lead to snow, water, and hail entering it, leading to a decrease in temperature within the firebox. This will prevent the smoke from rising due to the weak draft, and instead will get pushed back into your home. If you notice smoke after it rains or snows, a costume chimney cap installed by a chimney sweep could potentially solve the issue.   

Chimney chase cap and crown before and after repair
Chimney Cap and Crown Before

Flue Blockage
A chimney flue can be blocked by debris, nests, leafs, stage 3 creosote and more. These obstructions can reduce the passage of smoke from the fireplace to the outdoors through the flue and can lead to back-puffing (smokey fireplace). Getting your chimney cleaned and cleared by a professional is crucial to ensure a smooth pathway for the smoke out the chimney and a safer environment for your family.

Bee hive blocking chimney

Now that you know what causes a fireplace to smoke up the house, it’s time for some action. Book your chimney inspection today and learn about any maintenance needs with your fireplace or chimney so they can be addressed before something goes wrong! Give us a call at (832) 789-3506 and we’ll get back to you ASAP.
We want all of our customers fireside experience to be perfect during these cold months ahead!
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