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Quick Tip: How to Prevent a Smoky Fireplace

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Brian
01.20.14

A roaring fire in the fireplace is a beautiful thing. You can relax and sip on a rich cabernet or roast some marshmallows while the fire crackles warmly. Perfect!

Unless the fire fills your room with smoke. Then you’ll be running around frantically opening windows and waving a broom at your smoke detector. (Not exactly a relaxing experience.)

Don’t live in fear of a smoky fireplace! Here’s a simple way to ensure that the fire’s smoke goes out your chimney, not into your home:

Step 1: Prepare Your Fire

Get everything set up by whatever strategy you prefer, but wait – don’t light it yet! You just want to have everything prepared. This includes opening the damper (very important for a smoke-free experience).

Step 2: Heat the Chimney

If your living room is filling with smoke, there’s a good chance it’s because the air in your chimney is too cold to create a proper draft. This is especially common on extremely cold or windy winter nights. To prevent this, carefully light a piece of newspaper on fire, and then hold it beneath the flue of your chimney for a minute or so. This will get warm air moving from your fireplace up through your chimney.

Step 3: Light Your Fire

Once you’ve created a good draft, make that fire roar! If all goes according to plan, once you light the fire, the smoke from the fire will follow the path you created with the newspaper roll. Enjoy those marshmallows!

Still Having Trouble?

If you try this trick but still encounter smoke-woes, there are a few other potential causes. Here’s a quick list of likely suspects:

  • Your damper isn’t completely open.
  • Your chimney is clogged or dirty.
  • Your fuel is damp.
  • Your central heat is on (this can sometimes suck smoke into your house).
  • Your fire is too close to the edge of the fireplace (ideally, you should build your fire as far back as possible to maximize the upward draft).
  • Your fire is too far away from the flue. Tip: If this seems to be the problem, consider purchasing a fire grate to elevate the flames.
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