Dealing with Chimney Draft Problems

Category: Chimney

Is there anything more comforting on a winter evening than a crackling fire in the comfort of your own living room? Fireplaces are excellent sources of natural heat, and many homeowners are able to enjoy them with very little maintenance or issues throughout the year. Unfortunately, sometimes chimney draft problems do arise that make your experience less pleasant.

How do you know if a chimney draft is the culprit of your problems? If your room quickly fills with smoke after lighting a fire, this is likely a sign that you have a chimney draft issue.

This means that your fireplace doesn’t currently have the capacity to allow the smoke to be released through your chimney. While it may seem like just a minor inconvenience, this can have serious repercussions and consequences for your family.

Homeowners who have a fireplace with a chimney should be aware of how their system works. This can help you to understand the appropriate steps you’ll need to take in order to deal with any potential chimney draft problems moving forward.

By arming yourself with this necessary knowledge, you can help to protect your home and your family well into the future.

Carbon Monoxide is Very Dangerous

Your chimney is designed to allow the byproducts of the fire to be released into the great outdoors. Smoke can make it difficult for you to breathe, but fire also releases carbon monoxide into the air. This odorless and tasteless gas is difficult to identify without the help of a carbon monoxide detector, but the results of it could be fatal for you and your family.

At first glance, carbon monoxide poisoning may look like a headache or the flu. Many people mistake these early warning signs as minor inconveniences and miss the bigger picture.

If they begin to occur while a fire is burning in the hearth, you should open the windows and get yourself outside to fresher air immediately.

What Does a Drafty Chimney Really Mean?

Some people are a little hazy on the details of how their fireplace really works. For most individuals, all they know is that they light a fire and the chimney takes care of the rest.

Science teaches us that smoke rises, which is the basic premise for why homes with fireplaces have chimneys directly above them. When a fire is lit, the smoke and gases rise up through the chimney flue and are released into the outside air.

The hot air from the fire goes into the outdoors and is replaced with the cooler outdoor air. When the cooler air can’t enter the home, it prevents the hot air filled with smoke from leaving the house as well. This creates what's known as a draft.

A drafty chimney could be relatively simple to fix or may require the attention of a trained professional. You can take a look at a few of these common solutions to a drafty chimney to determine if there’s anything you can do on your own to solve the problem.

Common Causes of a Drafty Chimney

The common denominator for all drafty chimneys is that they're blocked or closed in some form or fashion.

The blockage could be the result of trash build-up or animals that are living in the chimney, such as birds. These simple solutions can be easily resolved with a thorough chimney cleaning to get rid of the debris and habitats that accumulated.

You may not even be aware of the animals that are living in your chimney, but they could still be posing a major problem.

Creosote build-up is a dangerous issue that could be causing a drafty chimney as well. This soot should be cleaned on a regular basis to prevent any number of long-term challenges.

However, it can also lead to a drafty chimney when it builds up to the point where air and smoke can no longer be released. The openings will become much smaller and may be impossible for the smoke to be released into the outdoors.

chimney smoke

Of course, the problem could be relatively simple. During certain seasons, homeowners may block the chimney flue and forget to reopen it before they light the first fire of the year. It simply needs to be reopened in order to solve your pesky drafting problem.

Have you recently made upgrades to seal your home and create better energy efficiency? You may have created a problem for your fireplace because this extra seal might not allow for adequate airflow.

This may be particularly true for newer homes that were built to the latest standards for energy efficiency. High-tech windows, doors, and brand-new seals will keep the air in and create a persistent struggle with a drafty chimney.

While uncomfortable, this actually is an excellent (and easy-to-solve) problem to have. All you need to do is leave a window or two open in order to increase the airflow in your home while the fire is burning. This may make your whole house more comfortable.

If the home is new and you never used the fireplace before, a drafty chimney could be the sign of an improperly designed fireplace. You could be experiencing a drafty chimney because the firebox or flue isn’t large enough, the angle of the flue may not be correct, or the chimney cap isn’t properly fitted. You'll need a professional chimney inspection to find the cause of your problems.

These are less likely to be the case if you have an older chimney that don't experience these issues when you lit fires in the past.

Solutions for a Draft Chimney

Once you understand why a chimney could be drafty, it’s time to explore what steps you can take as a homeowner to remedy the situation. Here are a few common steps you can take to improve the quality of the air in your home while still enjoying a wintertime fire:

  • Keep the damper open whenever a fire is burning. If your damper doesn't work properly, get it replaced
  • Leave a few of the windows cracked to allow fresh air into the home and smoky air out
  • Limit your use of green wood or wet wood straight from the outdoors
  • Turn off air vents that are in the same room, including central air conditioning or heating
  • Clean the chimney out

Remember that you may want to contact a professional to clean your chimney or to offer further suggestions on actions you should take to improve a drafty chimney.

They may recommend simple solutions that the average homeowner wouldn't think of on their own. One simple inspection and cleaning could give you much greater insight into larger issues that could be contributing to the drafts in your fireplace.

For example, a slightly longer chimney could help to reduce the draftiness you experience. Based on what they see during their cleaning, they may also suggest relining your chimney or installing a new chimney cap.

Prevent Chimney Drafts in Your Home

You may be able to get away with managing a drafty chimney using a handful of these simple suggestions for managing airflow in your home.

However, a persistent problem could be an indicator of a larger issue and should be addressed by a professional. Don’t hesitate, contact us today to have an experienced eye help you determine the cause of your drafty chimney.

Protect Your Home and Family