Why is My Chimney Not Drawing Smoke, and How Can I Fix It?

Did you know that although chimneys had first been introduced to Northern Europe in the 12th century, it was not till the 16th and 17th centuries that they were widely used in homes? In the 21st century, big industrial refineries and factories, facilities for burning fossil fuels, houses, steam locomotives, and ships may have chimneys nearby.

Have you ever wondered what happens when chimneys refuse to draw up smoke? The smoke that is supposed to exit the chimneys ends up filling up your home, which makes the air in the environment toxic and harmful when inhaled. It also increases the risk of a household fire outbreak. According to an article by the Municipal Fire Department in the US, an estimated 48,530 fire incidents in homes were caused by heating systems from 2014-2018.

To avoid the damage caused by a non-functional chimney, it is necessary that the fireplace and chimney undergo regular maintenance. When you notice your chimney is not drawing up smoke, you should immediately call a professional to ascertain the source of the problem and work towards fixing it.

Why Does My Chimney Not Draw Smoke Up?

1. Closed damper while fire is burning

Parts of a masonry chimney conveyed in a diagram

Before lighting your fireplace, you must open the damper on all indoor fireplaces. In order to keep conditioned air inside your home and leave dirt and rain outside, it is often encouraged that you close your damper. It blocks off the chimney. Whenever it is shut when the fireplace has been lit, the smoke cannot escape through the path built for letting the smoke out; it returns to your home instead. If the fireplace is being used, the damper should be completely open.

2. Insufficient air pressure

A specific volume of air is required to achieve a proper chimney draft in the room where a fire is built. Most homes are frequently so airtight that the chimney venting system cannot function properly due to a lack of air pressure. The simplest and quickest cure for low air pressure is to open a window a few inches in the exact same space as the fireplace. The smoke will be moved out of your house because of the proper draft created by this.

3. Build-up of creosote

Creosote after a poor combustion in a fireplace, layered on the inner part of a chimney pipe or smokestack. Dangerous situation for fire, fire hazard.

Creosote is considered a frequent and hazardous chimney blockage for people with wood-burning fireplaces. Slowly burning wood releases soot as well as some other biodynamic fumes, which combine with the moisture being released to produce creosote. While the combustion byproducts are expelled up the chimney, the creosote vapors induce liquefaction when cooling. The flue lining may then develop an accumulation of this liquefied creosote. To check for creosote build-up, we advise having a professional examine your chimney, including your fireplace, annually before summer.

4. Ill-fitting chimney pot or cap

 Smoke can enter your home again through a small chimney pot or chimney cap. Although the chimney pot’s base or cap frequently slips over the top of the flue, they should never be the same size. To avoid smoke problems, the upper half of the chimney pot should not be significantly smaller than the flue itself. To help with your smoke problems, replacing your small chimney pot or cap with a bigger one is recommended.

5. Animals obstruction

Animals like birds, squirrels, owls, and bats have been observed living in chimneys. Over time, the nests they build and debris can accumulate and cause blockages. Do not start a fire if an exterminator has not removed any live animals that are blocking the area. You can also hire a professional sweep to securely and efficiently remove any animal nests and debris from your chimney.

How to Fix the Problem of My Chimney Not Drawing Up Smoke?

1. Opening all windows and vents

To ensure that a fire has access to as much fresh air as needed, open any exterior air vents that are situated within the same space as your open fireplace. To increase the draft in your fireplace, keep a fire going in the fireplace and ensure there is a constant supply of air especially from the one outside. It should be noted that very warm air from some areas of the house is not needed by your fireplace. This is why it is necessary to open any windows and vents close to the fireplace.

2. Open the damper completely

When a fireplace is not in use, a damper, which is like a plate, is installed on top of the chimney to help keep the house warm and is closed. When you need heat from your fireplace, however, it must not be closed before starting the fires because smoke and toxic gases may not exit the fireplace through the chimney otherwise.

3. Keep the chimney exhaust system turned on

It is recommended that you always heat up the chimney before every fire to help improve the draw of your fireplace. Cold air stuck in a chimney can hinder exhaust air from a fire from adequately escaping the fireplace, preventing the fire from acquiring the fresh air it requires to burn.

4. Burn fewer, hotter fires

The goal of anyone lighting a fireplace is to get it going quickly so as to reduce the likelihood of it going off, and to provide adequate heat indoors. You should note that compared to a larger one, a smaller fire can start much more quickly. Once the fire is started and there is enough heat coming from the chimney to maintain a successful and lengthy fire, you can always add more wood.

5. Contact a professional chimney sweeper

 The expert sweeper will conduct the required inspections and suggest the necessary corrective measures. Investing in regular maintenance is necessary as it guarantees a safe and clean environment for house occupants.

 There are numerous factors that can lead to your chimney not drawing up smoke, some of which are simpler to detect and address than others. If this happens and you are unable to identify the cause or the problem is more than you can handle, you should seek the assistance of a competent professional to help identify the problem and provide workable, efficient, and long-lasting solutions.

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