So, you go to light a fire on a cold, winter evening, but instead of peaceful flames, you’re met with smoke in your living space – and you need to know what to do about it.

Well, there are actually many things that can cause airflow to be restricted or to flow in the wrong direction. Here are some things to check on if smoke is coming into your home and what you can do to resolve any venting problems you find.

The Problem: Your Damper Is Closed

gray smoke rising against a black backgroundIs your damper open or closed? This is the first thing you can check for a couple of reasons. Even though it seems obvious that the damper should be opened before a fire is in the fireplace, it is often overlooked or not thought about in the rush of getting a fire started. A closed damper means that smoke has nowhere to go but into your house.

What’s the Solution?

Simply open the damper and you will open the airway so your smoke can go up and out the chimney. If you find it difficult to open the damper, it’s likely rusted shut or damaged. Fortunately, the professionals here at Northeastern Masonry & Chimney are equipped to fix your damper and make sure your chimney is working properly.

The Problem: There’s Negative Air Pressure in Your Home

Homes today are often so energy-efficient and well sealed that air cannot flow through them. Which is great for heating purposes, but can cause some issues when it comes to your fireplace.

During cold months when everything is closed up inside, the lack of air movement can create a negative pressure system within the home. This means that when a fire is lit in the fireplace, it will pull air in from the chimney since no makeup air can be found from inside. This causes the direction of the air to flow into the house rather than out the chimney like it’s supposed to.

What’s the Solution?

For a quick fix, simply cracking open a window will allow air to flow correctly and the pressure in the home to balance. This gives the fire a way to remain burning without pulling air down the chimney, and the smoke will flow through the chimney, as intended. And if you need more permanent solutions, be sure to reach out to our techs.

The Problem: Your Flue Is Too Cold

When the air in the flue is cold, sudden warm hot air from a fire can cause a backdraft that pulls the cold air down the chimney and push smoke into your home.

What’s the Solution?

Warm up your flue. Before starting a fire in your fireplace you can try lighting a rolled up newspaper and holding the lit end up above the firebox for a bit. This can warm the air in the chimney and reverse the airflow before your fire is lit.


Another good option is to install a quality top-sealing chimney damper. These seal at the top of the flue and will keep cold air out when the fireplace is not being used.

The Problem: Your Flue Isn’t the Right Size

If your flue is too small for your firebox it will not direct smoke out quickly enough and smoke will overflow into your home. And if your chimney is too big for your firebox, downdrafts can cause air to flow into your home rather than out of it.

What’s the Solution?

Have your chimney relined to the proper size.


Having your chimney relined will correct the size of your flue making the ratios just right for optimum performance. Not only that, a new liner in your flue will help reduce creosote buildup and other unwanted materials in your chimney.

The Problem: Your chimney is the wrong height.

two masonry chimney coming out of a snow rooftopSometimes downdrafts are caused because the chimney was built too short. In these cases, the air can too easily be pushed down the chimney and into the home.

What’s the Solution?

Add height to your chimney. Just be sure to trust a certified and experienced team of sweeps – like us – for this more extensive rebuild job.

The Problem: Your chimney is clogged.

Creosote buildup and unwanted wildlife that make their home in your chimney can cause big problems with airflow. Nests and debris restrict the ability for air to escape. Creosote can also build up to the point it closes off the flue.

What’s the Solution?

Schedule a chimney sweeping and inspection with Northeastern Masonry & Chimney.


The techs at Northeastern Masonry & Chimney are trained and knowledgeable. They are equipped to inspect your chimney and remove anything that might be keeping smoke from traveling in the right direction.

Count On Us

Our professional and well-trained team of chimney techs are happy to service homeowners throughout our community. If your chimney is smoking, we’d love to help. Call us today at 518-500-4048 to schedule an appointment or reach out online and we’ll be in touch.

Northeastern Masonry & Chimney
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