Smoking Problems and Smoke Guards

There is nothing more pleasurable and relaxing than enjoying a nice fire in your fireplace.

But that’s not the case if smoke is billowing into room while you’re having that fire! Here are some solutions for smoking problems, and a note about smoke guards.

Closed Damper

Before starting a fire, always check to make sure that the damper is open. If you are not sure if the damper is open or closed, shine a flashlight up inside the fireplace to make sure the metal damper is open.

Dirty Chimney

Creosote buildup in a chimney is not only flammable but can shrink the flue size and cause smoking problems, especially since creosote does expand when heated by the fire. The solution is to have it inspected and swept by a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep.

Obstruction in Chimney

The chimney should be checked for any obstructions such as bird nests, tree branches, leaves, or even the missing volley ball! Also, a dirty chimney cap will prevent smoke and gases from freely exhausting from the chimney.

Cold Weather

Colder temperatures can create a plug of dense air in the chimney flue. Open the damper and “Prime the flue” by rolling up a newspaper, light the end and hold it inside the fireplace by the open damper for a minute or two. This will warm up the air temperature in the chimney flue and create a better draw for your fire.

Fire Grate Placement

The fire grate must be placed as far back in the fireplace as possible in order to encourage the smoke to go up the chimney flue and not into the living area. Sometimes it also helps to raise the grate with bricks to help the chimney draw.


Wood must be aged a minimum of one year and must be dry and protected from the rain. It should be split–never burn whole logs. Some types of prefabricated store-bought logs may also be prone to smoking if not used properly.

New Windows and Doors

New doors and windows in a house will make a house more air tight. This can create a negative pressure in the house and not allow enough makeup air for a fire. To overcome this, open a door or crack open a window at the same level and as close to the fireplace as possible during the fire.

Improper Chimney Size

A masonry chimney that was not built with the proper dimensions for the fireplace opening and flue size will be more inclined to have smoking problems. Many times installing a Smoke Guard will resolve the problem. Also, most two-sided fireplaces will have an inherent smoking problem.

Chimney Too Short

If a chimney does not have adequate height, it can affect how it draws and will make it sensitive to smoking. In some cases the only solution is to raise the chimney height.

Central Heating System

When using the central heater at the same time as having a fire, the smoke can actually be drawn down through the chimney bringing the smoke and gases into the living area. This is particularly hazardous when using gas logs since the gas will be colorless and odorless–but toxic! Do not run the heater when the fireplace is in use, especially when the air intake register for the furnace is located close to or in the same room as the fireplace.

Canyons and Hillsides

A house that is located near a canyon, hillside or slope can have smoking problems due to the wind currents. A specially designed wind cap can sometimes help minimize the smoking problem.

Fireplace Smoke Guards

A fireplace with smoking problemsA tall fireplace opening allows smoke and gases to have a “choice” of going up the chimney or back into the living area during a fire. 

Adding a smoke guard to the top of the fireplace opening by lowering the firebox opening.

The smoke guards come in 4″, 6″, and 8″ widths. They are black in color and almost invisible when looking at the fireplace.

We recommend trying out a smoke guard prior to buying one. Simply make your own smoke guard by taping foil to the top of the fireplace opening at the widths mentioned above. If this works, give us a call to install a permanent smoke guard for you.

A smoke guard on a fireplace to prevent smoking problems

  • Economical solution to fireplace smoking problems
  • Resizes fireplace to proper dimensions
  • Adjustable to most masonry fireplace openings
  • Almost invisible when in place


Please Note

These are just a few of the possible causes and solutions for smoking chimneys. This information is provided as a courtesy to assist you in diagnosing smoking problems and as a result, having a more enjoyable fireplace experience.

Have your chimney checked and swept regularly by a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep, and discuss with him any problems that you are having. Unsafe chimneys account for too many needless deaths and injuries as well as millions of dollars in property damage every year. For further information, please feel free to contact us.