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4 Reasons You’re Having Trouble with Your Fireplace

wood burning fireplaces in madison wiWith proper usage and maintenance, fireplaces run mostly trouble-free, year after year.  But once in a while, a problem arises.  When people complain that they’re “having trouble with their fireplace,” it often boils down to one of four reasons.

  1. Damper closed: Is smoke backing up into the room?  The degree of smoke that’s entering the room during a burn is very likely to match the degree to which your damper is not fully open.  It’s easy to forget to open the damper – and fortunately, smoke in the room will tip you off to the fact yours needs attention.
  2. Obstructions beyond the damper: If you noticed smoke and opened the damper fully and still have some backdraft, your chimney probably is obstructed.  With a wood fireplace, sticky smoke byproducts cling to the chimney liner, and anything that gets into the chimney easily clings to the sticky stuff.  Before long, a serious obstruction comprised of leaves, twigs, general debris, bird nests and other items can develop.  This blockage should be professionally cleaned.
  3. Wrong sized flue: Not all flues work with all fireplaces.  Having a flue that’s too small for the load of exhaust your fireplace produces is another reason smoke can back up into the home.  This mis-match happens most often when a new fireplace or insert is installed to replace an existing unit but the flue is left alone.
  4. Wet wood: Wet, or unseasoned, wood emits a huge amount of smoke during the burning process.  Even with an unobstructed and clear flue, you’ll likely get some smoke filtering into the room if you burn wet wood.  Normally, cut wood takes six months to a year to dry to the point it’s ideal for use in a fireplace or stove.  Unseasoned wood also is harder to ignite and usually burns only partially, leaving a varying portion of the logs unburned.

Drafting issues are among the most common complaints homeowners have about their fireplaces.  In order to work at peak efficiency, there should be a predictable amount of smoke (use dry wood), and the draft path must be clear (no obstructions), appropriate for the fireplace (right flue size), and accessible (damper open).

Forgetting to open the damper and generating vast amounts of smoke with wet wood are problems homeowners can easily solve.  However, if you suspect there’s some kind of blockage in the chimney structure or if it’s possible a new fireplace isn’t the right fit with the old flue, your best bet is to have a professional look at it.

new fireplace inserts near highland wiEven if you don’t have any of these common problems, it’s a smart move to schedule an annual chimney and fireplace inspection and cleaning.  Chimney sweeps have the necessary equipment and training to be able to solve many problems before they start.  Under no circumstances should you go season after season without having your system looked at.

Chimney Specialists of Highland, Wis., provides inspection, cleaning, repair and maintenance services for all types of fireplaces.  If it’s time to solve some of the trickier problems with your fireplace or chimney, we’re here to help.  Schedule an appointment or get your questions answered at (608) 929-4887.

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