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Is Smoke Backing Up Into Your Home?

The cold weather is officially here! There is no doubt that freezing temperatures make everyday activities a bit more of a challenge. Fortunately, all the fireplace owners out there have an easy way to warm up in a jiffy after a long day out and about. Just light up a fire, then spend your evening relaxing by the warm hearth.Is Smoke Backing Up Into Your Home - Tullahoma TN - A-1 Chimney

Sounds simple enough, right? Not if you deal with smoke back-up on a regular basis!

If you find yourself struggling time and time again with a smoke-filled living room, now is the time to find a permanent solution to your problem. Here are some options you can consider to say good-bye to that nasty smoke for good!

Check Your Damper

Your damper plays a big role in helping you maintain proper air flow in your chimney. It is meant to stay closed while your chimney is not in use, so you need to be sure to open it again when you go to light a fire. Start out by opening it all the way. Once your fire gets going, you can close it a bit, then simply adjust it as needed while the fire burns.

If you are taking the appropriate steps with your damper, yet still face smoking issues, it may be time to schedule an inspection. A certified chimney technician can take a look to see if your damper is blocked or corroded. Both of these things keep it from functioning as efficiently as possible. If things are really bad, you may need a new damper all together.

Burn Appropriately

What are you using as fuel in your fire? Another time you may see excess smoke is when you burn unseasoned wood. Unseasoned wood contains more water, so a lot of energy is spent burning out the extra moisture. As it burns out, toxins are sent into the air, thus causing you to experience more smoke than necessary.

When looking for wood, look for pieces that are split at the ends, lighter weight, and darker in color. You could also give it a whiff to see how fresh it smells. The fresher it is, the worse it will burn, so go for logs that give off a bit of a musty odor. Lastly, hit the logs together and listen for a hollow, clunking noise, as opposed to a dull, thud. All of these are clear signs that your fuel is ready for use!

Heat The Flue

Another solution to drafting problems is to take control of your air flow before lighting your fire. When you open your damper, you likely notice a draft of cold air entering your home. This draft will continue until the flue has heated enough to reverse the air flow. Yet, if the cold air keeps pushing smoke out into your living room, this can be a difficult task to accomplish!

Next time you decide to light a fire, start things off by taking a rolled up newspaper, lighting it up, then holding it to the opening of your damper. After a few minutes, you should feel the draft reverse!

Still Facing Issues?

If you have tried everything and you are still having problems, call the experts at A-1 Chimney today! We look forward to helping you out!

Cleaning Out Creosote

Fireplaces are designed to safely contain a wood-fueled fire, while, at the same time, heating your home.  Chimneys are designed to expel the substances—smoke, water vapor, gases, etc.—produced from your wood fire.  As these substances are ushered up and out of your house, another substance is formed in the process; that substance is known as creosote.

You’re probably asking yourself, “what exactly is creosote, and why is it dangerous to allow it to accumulate inside your chimney?”  It’s fairly easy to explain.  Creosote is a sticky chemical residue—somewhat similar to watery tar—that is formed when wood is burned at lower-than-optimal temperatures and is capable of building up within your chimney, thereby decreasing the amount of open space through which exhaust gases and smoke can pass.  Increased amounts of creosote are formed from burning unseasoned softwoods in your fireplace than properly seasoned hardwoods as well.  The residue begins as unburned oil in the form of gas.  As the gas moves up the chimney, the oils begin to form a coating inside the chimney as they cool.  This buildup is a definite fire hazard.

Creosote must be cleaned out regularly and even more often if you aren't using the right kind of wood.

Creosote must be cleaned out regularly and even more often if you aren’t using the right kind of wood.

The residue continues to build up over the course of the heating season.  Depending on the internal dimensions of your chimney, this buildup can restrict the flow of air tremendously, which can lead to smoke buildup in the fireplace as well as in your house.  This reduced airflow can also cause your fires to burn cooler, as they’re not able to get the necessary amount of oxygen for increased combustion; all of this results in additional creosote buildup inside your chimney.  Creosote becomes dangerous when it is allowed to accumulate in your chimney because it turns into a fuel source for a possible deadly chimney fire.  The build up of creosote can never be avoided completely; however, burning small, hot fires and using dry, seasoned wood can minimize the buildup.

Sooner or later, every chimney needs to be cleaned, as this is the only way to truly remove dangerous creosote buildup.  It is highly recommended that you leave this task to a CSIA Certified chimney sweep to ensure that the job is done properly.  The frequency for your cleanings will depend on the amount of use your fireplace receives, but it should never be any longer than a year between cleanings.  Remember: a clean chimney is far less likely to catch fire than a dirty one.  So what are you waiting for?  Call to schedule an appointment to have your chimney cleaned so you can enjoy the rapidly approaching cold-weather months with the rest of the fireplace folks.

Keep the Fire Going

Tips on Properly Maintaining Your Fireplace

A fireplace is a feature that many people look for when shopping for a home because it can add such ambiance to a winter night. However, many homeowners do not know how to properly maintain that fireplace once they move in. No matter how often or how little they use their fireplace, every homeowner should know how to take proper care of it so that they can rest assured that their family is not in any danger.

Regular ash removal is critical to maintaining optimal safety and efficiency.

Regular ash removal is critical to maintaining optimal safety and efficiency.

The most important part of fireplace maintenance is making sure that it is kept clean – both by a certified sweep, as well as ongoing maintenance. Those who use the fireplace on a regular basis should be sure to sweep the ash out at least once a week. However, it is recommended to leave about an inch of ash in the fireplace as insulation during the season during which it is used. When the fireplace is ready to be shut down for the season, make sure that it is completely clear of all dirt and ash.

A proper fireplace maintenance kit will include a brush or broom that can be used to sweep out the firebox. It is important to note that, although it may seem easier, a vacuum should never be used for this particular cleaning job. They may not look like it, but pieces of wood and coal left behind in the fireplace can remain extremely hot for a number of days. If they are sucked up by the vacuum, they can quickly ignite and start a dangerous blaze.

Another important part of caring for a fireplace is using it properly. This means only burning appropriate material to make a fire. Seasoned firewood and treated coal are perfectly acceptable, but it is important to avoid too much paper as well as any amount of plastic. These materials will burn too hot and too fast, which can pose a danger to the home and everyone in it. The fireplace should never be used as a means of disposing of unwanted material.

Small, hot fires are perfectly safe in a fireplace but larger, smoldering fires can start trouble. For one thing, they are much more likely to create creosote. Creosote is a chemical compound left behind after treated material is burned in the fireplace. It is highly flammable and has been linked to many dangerous chimney and house fires. In addition, it poses serious health and safety risks to anyone who comes into contact with it. A small, hot fire will provide the desired warmth without becoming dangerously unmanageable.

It is also necessary for the fireplace to be inspected by a professional inspector every year. They will be able to identify any hazards that exist within the fireplace and chimney as well as any that are likely to occur in the near future. The Chimney Safety Institute of America is a great resource for chimney inspection and can provide a list of licensed inspectors in any area. This should be done on an annual basis, even for families that do not often use their fireplace. There are many other factors that can contribute to a damaged chimney other than use.

Having a fireplace and chimney is a great feature in any home but it must be properly maintained and safely used. Be sure to clean the fireplace regularly and to only burn material that is intended for the fireplace. An annual inspection is the best way to make sure that all current and future issues are being handled as efficiently as possible.