fireplace smoke

Fire restoration is a vast industry that has many different angles. From  fire restoration services to educating homeowners about potential disasters that could happen. In this post we we will educate homeowners on the dangers of fireplace smoke in the home as well as some prevention tips.

Dangers of Fireplace Smoke

Fireplace smoke when inhaled can have hazardous effects on your health. This is especially a problem for those who use indoor fireplaces. Smoke from these fires contains small particles that can get into your eyes and respiratory system. The result can be burning eyes, a runny nose and illnesses such as bronchitis.

Small particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter pose the greatest health problems, because they can get deep into the lungs, and some may even get into the bloodstream.

Among these particles are “fine particles,” which are smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter. These fine particles can affect your lungs, says allergist and immunologist Sheila Cain, MD.

Wood smoke also can contain several toxic substances such as benzene, formaldehyde, acrolein and methane, Dr. Cain says.1

Why Does my Fireplace Smoke up the House?

A fireplace and chimney seem like simple, straightforward equipment, but the engineering behind them is key to keeping your home and family safe from smoke. If any part of the fireplace doesn’t work, it’s possible for problems to arise.

Common Cause of Smoky Fireplaces

Ventilation – In order for air to flow out of your chimney, air must be able to flow through your house. Sometimes cracking a window open a tiny bit will allow a draft that will create a draft through your home, leading the smoke up and out of the chimney instead of polluting the air inside of your home. Conversely, if you open your windows too much, it will lead the smoke to escape through these windows instead of the chimney vent.

Problems with the Construction – When the flue is too large, air will not flow properly and you can get downdrafts sometimes. If there are too many angels in the chimney, this could also cause a problem. The flue needs to be proportionate to the size of the firebox in order for venting to work properly. You will need to contact an experienced contractor/mason to ensure that your chimney was constructed properly. If you don’t want to pay to rebuild your entire fireplace you can check out some of the alternative solutions we’ve provided below.

Downdrafts – Downdrafts are caused by a flow of air than enter the chimney from the top and causes air (smoke) to flow into your house. This can be a bit more of a challenge to address because downdrafts can be caused by anything from the height of your chimney being too short or a nearby hill that is creating a strong draft around your home. In these cases, you may have to consider hiring a contractor to extend your chimney.

Problems with Air Pressure – If the temperature inside your home is too high, the smoke may fall instead. As a general rule, excessive smoke will occur when the outside air temperature is lower or equal to the air inside of your home.

Wood type – Not all wood is meant to be burned indoors. Chemically treated wood burns slower and creates more smoke than natural wood logs. Maybe it’s been sitting outside and has collected moisture from the morning dew. Bottom line, you should only burn wood that has chemical-free and properly dried.2

Prevention Tips

If you do decide to use your wood-burning fireplace, the EPA has these suggestions for safer blazes:

  • Have your fireplace and chimney inspected and cleaned every year every year by a certified professional.
  • Instead of a fireplace screen, outfit your fireplace with a tight-fitting door.
  • If you’re thinking about switching to a gas fireplace to avoid the health hazards of a wood-burning fireplace, gas fireplaces also may affect indoor air quality. They emit nitrogen dioxide, a respiratory irritant.3

In conclusion the fire restoration industry is just as much responsible for education as it is our physical services. We hope that you found this post educational as a means of prevention and treatment for dealing with a smoky fireplace.