Fireplace smells if I close the damper

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New Member
Jan 24, 2024
New fireplace owner. I’ve been burning lots of open wood fires and found I have to leave the damper open even when there is no fire, or the house starts smelling like a bbq smokehouse. Then, if I get a warm winter day outside, I get the smoky smell even with it open.

So I’ve found I need a constant updraft for the house to not smell. That’s probably bad for the energy bill. What’s the solution to this? Get a better damper? Will any bottom damper be really air tight?
This may sound dumb, but did you do a few small break in fires? Thatcan stink up a house.
Has your chimney been cleaned and inspected? Do you have more than one flue in this chimney? Even a small amount of missing morter around the damper area can cause air seepage when shut
Giving you a bump, since I'm sorry that you didn't seem to get an answer to your question.

I don't know if there is a truly airtight bottom damper, or even if there is a truly airtight top damper that you might use, but airtight is what you're going to need.

I had a similar problem in a house I rented for a while. It had the exterior chimney fireplace in the original 1 story section of the house, but it had a 2 story addition. The place was leaky as heck, and to make it worse, the chimney was on the upwind side of the 2 story section. Anytime the chimney was colder than the house, and especially if the air was moving outside, it would downdraft and smell, and that was pretty much all the time.

My solution was to not use the fireplace, since it only pulled more heat out of the house than it put in anyway. If I used it for a holiday or something, the smell would abate in a week or two. The best answer I saw to that problem would have been an insert and an airtight blockoff plate since that would stop the smells and actually heat the house.
I know there are blow-up flue blocking balloons that supposedly are more tight than the damper.