Do Wood-Burning Fireplaces Smoke Up the Home?

Written by kevin walker
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Do Wood-Burning Fireplaces Smoke Up the Home?
Wood-burning fireplaces are romantic, but require special maintenance. (Ryan McVay/Lifesize/Getty Images)

A properly installed and correctly used wood-burning fireplace should not cause a home to fill with smoke; however, a number of problems in installation or use could cause a wood-burning fireplace to smoke up a home.

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Open the Damper

The most likely cause of a smoke-filled home is also the simplest: You forgot to open the damper. The damper is a metal grate that can be opened and closed as needed. When it's opened, smoke is allowed to escape. When it's closed, air is prevented from leaving the home (and wasting heating and cooling money). Be careful opening the damper after the fire has been going for a while: it may be very hot.

Closing the Damper Too Quickly

Somewhat less obvious is the problem of closing the damper too early. Once the visible fire has gone out, the ashes will smoulder and emit smoke for hours. The damper should be left open until the ashes cool down.

Chimney Obstructed

If the damper is open and the home is still filling with smoke, you will need to look deeper. It is very possible the chimney could be obstructed. Possibilities include bird nests and overhanging tree branches. Another possibility is that the chimney is obstructed with soot and requires cleaning.

High Winds Causing Downdraft

A final possibility is that high winds are entering the chimney and causing a down draft. This problem can be prevented by a chimney cap designed to deflect the wind from the chimney.

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