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Eliminating Smoke Chamber Draft Problems

smoky fireplaceA mouthful of smoke is the last thing you want when you’re relaxing beside a warm hearth in your home. If your fireplace is venting smoke into your living room, the problem is most likely the smoke chamber. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), smoke chamber parging is one of the most common chimney repairs for homeowners.

What is the smoke chamber?

The smoke chamber is the place between the firebox and the flue that funnels smoke up out of the fireplace into the chimney. A properly designed smoked chamber has smooth walls and a unique shape that helps the smoke move through the chamber up into the flue and out of your home. If the smoke chamber is improperly designed, damaged, corroded or thick with creosote buildup, it can create a dangerous draft problem. Instead of funneling smoke into the flue, it can prevent smoke from leaving and instead push it back into your home.

Draft problems stemming from the smoke chamber are especially common in older homes that have a stepping pattern inside the chamber. Building codes today require smoke chambers to have smooth walls because stepped or corbelled walls inside the smoke chamber can impede smoke from flowing up into the chimney. The best solution to fix this design flaw is parging.

A buildup of soot and creosote along the walls of the smoke chamber can also cause a dangerous draft problem. If it is left too long, the corrosive chemicals in the creosote and soot can deteriorate the walls of the smoke chamber resulting in the need for parging. An annual chimney sweep or chimney cleaning by a professional chimney technician can prevent this.

What is smoke chamber parging?

Parging is the process of rebuilding or smoothing the walls of the smoke chamber. We use refractory mortar to parge smoke chambers. It has the strength to withstand the high temperatures of the fire and creates a smooth surface for smoke to travel up.

What are the risks of using a chimney with draft problems?

A thick coat of soot-laden dust on your furniture and drapes isn’t the only thing you have to worry about when your fireplace has smoke chamber draft problems. When wood burns in your fireplace, it produces carbon monoxide along with soot and smoke. This odorless, tasteless, colorless gas is dangerous.

Using your fireplace when there is a problem with the smoke chamber increases your risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Breathing in large amounts of carbon monoxide can be fatal. Non-fatal exposure can still result in tissue damage and symptoms such as blurred vision, weakness, dizziness and nausea.

soot on fireplaceSmoke billowing into your living space instead of exiting up the chimney is the most obvious sign of a smoke chamber problem. Soot stains around the top of the hearth or above the firebox, can also be an indicator. If you notice either one, contact Chimney Specialists to setup a chimney inspection! The National Fireplace Institute (NFI) certified chimney technicians on our team have completed thousands of chimney inspections, cleanings and repairs for residents in the tri-state area.

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