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Troubleshooting a Collinsville, IL Smokey Fireplace

One of the most common complaints from people is that some fireplaces let smoke into a room. On occasion, these problems can be solved with an operational change. However, there can be a number of design flaws in the chimney, fireplace, and even house that can be at fault Before you spend money on a “Guaranteed Solution”, do some investigating and testing for results.


Quick checks to try, but do not attempt more than one solution at a time!

  • If you are only experiencing a smokey fireplace on occasion, you may not have enough supply air for the fireplace. Fireplaces consumer on average 100-500 cubic feet of room air per minute. Running appliances such as furnaces, exhaust fans, or clothing dyers, can compete with the fireplace for air. This is common in homes that are “airtight”, which is a home with new windows or insulation. A quick way to check would be to turn off your other appliances or open a door or window near the fireplace and check to see if the problem is resolved. A more permanent solution may be to install a direct air supply from the outside. Many homes that are well-sealed require this additional combustion air for their fireplaces.
  • Warm air (which includes smoke) will rise, and is lighter than cold air, so why is smoke going down instead of out your chimney? The simple answer is because cold air might be coming down the flue. This is an easy check that you can do yourself. If this is the case, the flue may need to be warmed up before starting a fire. A way to do this is by lighting several crumpled newspapers and holding them up inside the firebox area. If the smoke begins to rise after the flue is warmed up, then you may need to try this method as a solution. You can also use a hair dryer to warm the flue up before starting a fire as well.
  • If you don’t feel any cold air coming down through the flue, check to see if the damper is in the proper open position. If it is not, this is an easy way to explain why the smoke is going down instead of up. This is because the smoke has nowhere to go but back into the room. Situations like this also happen if there is an obstruction in the flue. However, this type of issue may be a little bit harder to find. Using a flashlight and looking around the flue may be helpful. This works unless you have an offset in the flue which prevents you from seeing all the way up it.

If none of the above-mentioned quick fixes help, you may need to look into other options.

  • Sometimes your fireplace opening could be too large for your chimney flue. The flue is typically around 1/10 the size in square inches of the fireplace opening for a rectangle or square flue. If the opening is oversized, a smoke guard along the sides or top will reduce the opening and eliminate the smoke from entering the house. An easy way to check for this is to use a non-combustible piece of material and slide it down to cover the top of the fireplace opening. The place where the smoke stops, is how large the smoke guard needs to be.
  • Wind is another problem starter. They can create downdrafts which can change the airflow over and around the top of the chimney. Besides downdrafts, obstacles such as adjacent buildings, valleys, trees, or other structures can also cause issues with airflow. If you believe the surrounding obstacles are what’s causing the issue, increasing your chimney’s height should prevent these downdrafts. Also, there are a number of winds related chimney caps, which help correct downdraft problems.

Here at Clean Sweep Chimney Service, we are happy to help you with any of your chimney issues. With our trusted team, you are promised top-of-the-line service and expert advice.  Smoke is meant to go out of the chimney, not back into your home. If this happens give us a call as we are here to help!