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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Fireplaces - Smoking

Q: I need some advice. My downstairs fireplace is practically unusable due to smoking back into the room. I need help.
A: For starters. A few questions to you so I may be better prepared to assist.
q: 1. Do you live on a lake or bluff?
a: No, I'm near the bottom of a hill, 2nd house up from the bottom. There are 4 houses up the hill above me, so this hill is about 150 yards long.
conclusion: Answer does not contribute to problem.
q: 2. How "air tight" is your house, I.E.: storm windows and doors, extra insulation, etc.?
a: House has storm windows and doors, and we had attic insulation added about 5 years ago.
conclusion: Answer suggests house need outside air source for fireplace.
q: 3. Do you have automatic attic ventilation, I.E.: manual wind turbines, thermostat electric turbines?
a: Yes, we have two manual turbines mounted on the roof for attic vents.
conclusion: Answer contributes to negative pressure problem.
q: 4. Was the difference in inside and outside temperatures at least 25 degrees F.?
a: On this particular day, no. The temp difference was maybe 15 degrees F., but it was damp, I.E., humid outside.
conclusion: You need a 25 degree F. difference for good draft.
q: 5. Do you have an outside air source for the fireplace?
a: No.
conclusion: An outside air kit will be required for your fireplace to solve your problem.
q: 6. Does opening a window in the same room help the smoking?
a: Yes, it seems to, we have done that in the past. I've been surprised at the draw through the crack in the window.
conclusion: Verifies outside air kit is needed.
q: 7. Is the chimney two feet above any point within ten feet of it?
a: Yes, approximately three feet above the pitch of the roof.
conclusion: Answer does not contribute to problem.
q: 8. Is the square inches of the fireplace opening less than ten times the flue outlet?
a: I haven't measured the flue outlet on the roof yet, but I doubt it. The fireplace opening is 28" H X 30"W X 19" Deep. I believe the tile at the top of the flue is approx. 12"X8".
conclusion: Flue may not be large enough for fireplace. 28 x 30 = 840. The inside size of a 8 x 12 is 7 x 11. 7 x 11 = 77. 77 x 10 = 770 (the largest fireplace should be). If opening lowered to 25.5 it should work. 25.5 x 30 = 765.
q: 9. Is your damper opening all the way?
a: Yes, I always verify that with a flashlight before I start a fire.
conclusion: Answer does not contribute to problem.
q: 10. Does it smoke when the wind blows in one direction only?
a: I'm sorry, this I don't know. I need to become more sophisticated in my observations when it happens. I need to devise a wind sock & watch it.
conclusion: Based on other answers, not needed.
CONCLUSION: Bottom line. Add outside air to the fireplace and lower opening 2-1/2".

Q: I have a smoking fireplace. Can I install glass doors to solve the problem?
A: No, you must correct your fireplace problem, then install glass doors if you so desire.

Q: We have a fireplace on the ground level and one below ground level. My problem is that most of the time some smoke comes in though fireplace below ground when I use the one on the ground floor.
A: You have a house that is well insulated (i.e.: extra insulation, storm windows & doors, etc.). Your fireplace uses room air to carry the smoke out. It uses approximately 300 CFM (cubic feet per minute). This air has to come from somewhere. The point of least resistance at this time is the other fireplace. Open a window in the room, where the fire is, about 1-2 inches. This should solve your problem. If opening a window is not practical, then you must add an outside air kit on the fireplace. The only other explanation is a hole between the two fireplaces, this is not normally the case and it a lot harder to fix.

Q: My fireplace smokes. There is no blockage. The chimney is higher than the ridge line on my roof. I called my builder; he said open a window a smidgen. I did, it worked, but if I build a fire for warmth and have to open a window for suction, what's the point?
A: Your house is starved for air. Your solution is to get outside air to the fireplace.

Q: I have the same question but, I have an older house which is not air tight, and opening a window does not help the smoke situation. Any ideas?
A: I don't feel you have the same problem even though you have the same symptoms. A smoking fireplace. The flue should be 1/10 the fireplace opening (firebox width times firebox height divided by 10 should be a less than the size of the flue liner width times height). If you are out of spec. Lower the opening of the firebox. This is how to test. Cut tin foil 5" wider than the firebox opening. Fold aluminum foil lengthwise in 1" increments. Tape it over the firebox opening. Build a fire. Continue to unroll the aluminum foil an inch at a time until the smoking problem its cured. If less than 8", I have a spring loaded product called a smoke guard that will solve your problem. It is available is 4", 6", and 8" heights and fits fireplaces from 28" to 48" wide.  The fireplace exhaust should not be near any trees. Trim as necessary. The height of the chimney should be 2 feet above any point within 10 feet. This means if you are within 10 feet of the ridge, you must be 2 feet above it. The firebox could be built wrong. Consult a local chimney sweep.

 

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