When does smoke indicate a problem?
One of the best things about the cold weather is the opportunity homeowners have to take advantage of their fireplaces and chimneys. However, when the room quickly begins to fill with smoke, it tends to kill the cozy mood. There are many common chimney problems that can lead to an excessive amount of smoke. Identifying the cause of the problem is the best way to solve it and go back to enjoying evenings by the fire. Having your chimney inspected and cleaned annually is the best way to correctly pinpoint causes of excessive smoke.
When the chimney first starts to smoke, there are a few things that homeowners should check immediately. For example, it is important to make sure that the damper inside of the chimney is open. This is the piece that opens up and allows smoke to exit the home through the chimney and keeps things out when it is closed. Forgetting to open the damper is a common mistake and is often a quick fix to a smoking chimney problem.
Another reason that smoke may enter the home instead of exiting through the chimney is an issue with negative air pressure. This means that air is pushing the smoke out of the fireplace instead of out of the chimney. This is often caused when a major change is made to the home. For example, if someone installs new windows or new siding, they may suddenly have a problem with negative air pressure. One simply solution is to use an exhaust fan, which typically solves the problem.
When treated coal and wood are used to make a fire, they often leave behind a combination of chemicals known as creosote. When creosote builds up in the chimney and fireplace, it can cause a great amount of smoke. The best way to avoid smoke that results from excess creosote is to have the chimney cleaned by a professional chimney sweep each year. This will not only protect against creosote but a number of other issues that can arise from a dirty chimney.
It is very important to keep in mind that only certain types of wood should be used when making a fire in the fireplace. Specifically, only hardwood that has been properly seasoned for eight months to a year is safe for use. If any other type of wood is used, it could create a large quantity of smoke that will quickly enter the home. In many cases, this is because the wood is not dry enough to burn cleanly.
Although it is important to address a smoking fireplace issue quickly, homeowners should also be aware that some smoke is completely normal. There is a problem if the smoke is especially heavy or feels exceptionally hot. If anyone in the family is having trouble breathing as a result of the smoke, the fireplace should be shut down and should not be used again until it has been checked out. However, a small amount of smoke is a normal side effect of a chimney that is used regularly.
Enjoying a safe fire is a great way to spend a winter night but, if the fire becomes too smoky, it is important to address the issue. In many cases, the solution is as simple as opening the damper. In others, it may be necessary to call a professional who can properly assess and take care of the issue. Once the problem is solved, the family can go back to enjoying the fireplace and chimney without fear of smoke issues.