Q&A Smoky fireplace

QandA Posted By QandA, Oct 5, 2001 at 2:20 PM

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  1. QandA

    New Member 2.
    Staff Member

    Nov 27, 2012

    Hi Craig - I saw your article on the best way to start a wood fire. Here's my question, which I hope you can answer for me: I have a fireplace in the center of my house (1917 bungalow). When I had the chimney cleaned last year (when I moved in), I was told that the chimney has a 90 degree bend in it. When I first light a fire, after warming up the flue, everything is hunky dory. I have the flue all the way open, a window slightly open, and the smoke goes up the chimney. About 15 or 20 minutes after the fire has been burning the smoke starts to trickle out of the fireplace and into my house! A prior owner did put up a smoke guard but it really doesn't help. What I've done for a quick fix is to put a fan in the upstairs bedroom which draws out the smoke but I'd like to avoid the smoke in the house in the first place. Do you have any idea why this is happening? Is the smoke pooling in the 90 degree bend of the fireplace and then reversing itself? Is it possible that there is debris in the bend that the chimney sweep missed? Can this problem be corrected or is this the way it is always going to be? I have heard of putting a fan at the top of the chimney but I also heard that this doesn't' really work either. If you could offer some advice or send me to someone who knows about this stuff I'd be appreciative!


    I've never heard of a masonry fireplace with a 90 degree bend to it. That's unusual, and pretty much against codes everywhere according my past experience.

    It sounds like there's something amiss with the flue, but the interesting thing is that it happens well after the flue has been warmed and drawing well. Some fireplaces do require that you place the grate & logs as far to the rear of the fireplace's firebox as possible to avoid smoke entering the room. You may try that, but something is just not right. Since the previous owner put in a smoke bar, the problem didn't just start.

    Have a certified chimney sweep (certified by the National Chimney Sweep Guild) reinspect the chimney's flue liner for any structural issues, and/or debris. It may just be a very poor design, but have these things ruled before proceeding. And, you may want to check with a local hearth shop that installs products to get their feedback as well.
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