Many things can cause your draft to become compromised—chimney blockages, closed and/or clogged dampers, improper or inefficient construction, lower-temperature fires, and structural damage. When thinking about your chimney, ask yourself the following set of questions:
- Is air coming into your home via your chimney?
- Does your house smell of smoke days after you’ve burned a fire in your fireplace?
- Do you have a hard time starting a fire and/or keeping a fire burning once you’ve gotten it started?
If you can answer yes to any of these questions, the chances are high that there’s a problem with your chimney system’s draft. Keep reading to learn more about your chimney’s draft and ways in which it can be compromised.
The Basics of Chimney Draft
Your chimney is what’s referred to as a negative pressure system. When it’s full of hot air, it actually pulls air through the firebox; this pulling action is what’s called draft. The simplest way to increase the draft in your chimney is to burn your fire hotter – the hotter the air gets, the lighter it becomes. Because the air becomes lighter, it has more pull, thereby drawing more air through the firebox and up your chimney.
Drafty Chimney Symptoms
There are many symptoms of a drafty chimney. Is your fire reluctant to start, and/or does smoke spill into the room at start-up? Does your firebox back-puff powerfully on windy days? Does smoke spill, to some degree, under all conditions? Does smoke spill at larger damper openings? Is the heat output from your fireplace too low? Are smoke odors persistent even when the fireplace isn’t in use? If you answered yes to one or more of the above-listed questions, you might have a drafty chimney. We suggest having your chimney inspected.
Draft Issues and your Health
It is extremely important to deal with drafting problems as soon as you notice them, as ignoring it can have adverse affects on your health. These problems can cause combustion products to back up and enter your home leaving behind an unpleasant and unsafe living environment for you and your family. Fixing your drafting problem will enable the harmful gases and smoke from your fires to properly exit your home via your chimney. Even though you may be able to alleviate most of the excess smoke in your home on your own, the health affects associated with a back draft compel you to consult with one of our chimney professionals to ensure that your home is safe for you and everyone in it.
Drafty Chimney Remedies
Our CSIA- and NFI-certified chimney sweeps can determine which, if any, of the afore-mentioned issues are impacting your home. There are numerous possible remedies depending on which problem (or combination of problems) is the culprit. Oftentimes, sweeping the chimney can take care of the issue, as even the slightest buildup inside your chimney can restrict airflow. Sealing leaks in the chimney is another possible remedy, depending on what is found during your inspection. Another quick fix would be installing or replacing your chimney cap; back-puffing problems during windy conditions point directly to this.
Inside Versus Outside Air Temperature
One factor that affects the amount of draft is the difference between the temperature inside and outside the house: the greater the difference, the stronger the draft. In other words, the draft will be stronger on a winter day when it’s cold outside and warm inside than on a day when the temperatures inside and out are essentially the same, such as in late spring.
Chimneys can become blocked in numerous ways. Excessive creosote deposits inside your chimney are extremely dangerous and are the result of restricted air supply, burning unseasoned firewood, and cooler than normal temperatures inside your chimney. Leaves and other debris can find their way inside your chimney as well and can significantly impact its drafting abilities. Animals have also been known to call chimneys home, and their moving in can cause significant blockages throughout your chimney system.
Chimney Construction Issues
The makeup of your chimney can have a tremendous impact on its overall drafting effectiveness. If your chimney is too short, for example, the draft won’t be as strong as it would be if the chimney height were increased. It’s a relatively simple job to increase the height of your chimney; be sure your chimney at least meets the NFPA’s minimum guidelines (consult with a professional if you are confused by the “2’ x 10’” guideline outlined in NFPA 211).
One of our parent company’s CSIA-certified chimney sweeps is at the ready to inspect your chimney and recommend any corrective action to ensure that it is capable of the proper draft and flow. Once they get to the root cause(s) of your drafting problem, they’ll suggest work to be completed to help prevent the likelihood of similar problems from happening down the road. A little peace of mind can go a very long way. Schedule your appointment today!