As there are so many factors that need to be considered to help have a clean and successful fire in an open fireplace, smoke being produced by as fire can sometimes be a regular occurrence.
Furthermore, when a fire produces smoke, some of it may be entering your home rather than leaving up the chimney.
To help make sure that smoke isn’t coming out of your fireplace during fires, we’ve put together the complete list of things you can do right now to help have both cleaner burning fires, what you do to help reduce the amount of smoke coming into your home.
To help keep smoke from coming out of a fireplace:
- Use a fireplace grate to help lift the fire off the hearth, or use a grate that keeps the fire against the back wall of the fireplace.
- Build fires more towards the back of the fireplace.
- Build fires using the top-down method to provide a cleaner burn sooner into a fire.
To help reduce the amount of smoke that your fires are producing:
- Burn dry, low moisture content wood.
- Fully open the damper prior to having fires.
- Preheat the air within the chimney before starting a fire.
- Build smaller but hotter fires.
- Have your chimney swept if it hasn’t been done so within the last year.
- Open any external air vents or windows within the room to help supply the fire with sufficient fresh air.
- Don’t start fires in weather that is either too windy or too warm.
We’ve discussed how you can keep smoke from coming out of your fireplace in more detail below.
How To Keep Smoke From Coming Out Of A Fireplace
1. Use A Fireplace Grate
A fireplace grate helps to lift the fire further off the floor of the fireplace. Not only does using a grate help with airflow, it allows the fire to be located higher up in the fireplace towards the chimney.
When a fire is lifted further up into a fireplace, it gives smoke less of a chance of coming out of a fireplace and into the room.
As our open fireplace is quite large, we always use a fireplace grate when having fires. It helps to ensure that any smoke being produced makes its way up our chimney rather coming out into our living room.
If you use a fireplace grate and still have trouble with smoke coming out of your fireplace, then look at buying a specially designed fireplace grate that helps to keep the fire against the back wall of the fireplace.
There are a number of grates available heavy duty and hold a complete fire up against the back of the fireplace. They’re shaped in a way that allows you to easily add more logs onto the fire, but helps to ensure that if any smoke is created that it has a much higher chance of leaving up your chimney rather than coming out of your fireplace.
If you have problems with smoke we highly recommend looking at getting one of the grates designed by Grate Wall Of Fire, and their latest model can be found here.
This heavy duty fireplace grate will help to keep all of your fires located at the back of the fireplace and help to reduce the potential for smoke to come out of your fireplace.
To help keep smoke from coming out of an open fireplace look to use a grate when having fires, or look to buy a grate that helps keep the fire against the back wall of the firebox.
2. Build Fires Towards The Back Of The Fireplace
Another way to help prevent smoke from coming out of a fireplace is to build fires as far back into the fireplace as possible.
Even if you don’t have a grate for your fireplace, building your fires more towards the back of the fireplace helps to minimize the potential for smoke to be coming into the room rather than leaving up the chimney.
3. Build Fires Using The Top-Down Method
The top-down method of building a fire in a fireplace involves building a fire with the logs placed first in a fireplace. Kindling and a fire starter are then added on top of the logs respectively.
The main benefit of using the top-down method to build fires when trying to stop smoke from coming out of fireplaces is that the fire is started at the top.
In a traditionally built fire (with the fire starter at the bottom and the logs on top) the fire is started at the base of the fireplace. The fire being started at the base can cause problems because the fire is being smothered by the wood on top, potentially leading to more smoke being created due to lack of oxygen and incomplete combustion of the wood.
When a fire is built using the top-down method the fire is started at the top. Any smoke initially generated by the fire is located further towards the top of the fireplace, further reducing the potential for smoke to come out of the fireplace.
With no logs on top in a top-down fire, the fire can provide a much cleaner and more efficient burn right from starting the fire.
By building top-down fires in your open fireplace you can help to reduce the amount of smoke that is produced at the start of the fire, as well as helping to minimize the amount of smoke that can come out of your fireplace through lighting the fire more towards the top of the fireplace.
4. Burn Dry & Low Moisture Content Firewood
In order to help keep smoke from coming out of your fireplace it’s important to consider the factors that cause the fire to smoke in the first place.
A fire will typically produce more smoke when the wood isn’t being combusted properly. One of the main reasons why wood isn’t being burnt properly is because the wood is too wet.
A fire will struggle to burn wood that isn’t dry enough because extra energy is required to burn off the excess moisture content before the wood can be properly combusted.
To help reduce the amount of smoke your fireplace produces, look to only burn wood that is less than 20% moisture content. As the moisture content increases over 20% the wood becomes progressively harder to burn effectively.
You can tell whether wood maybe dry enough to burn by some of its features, including being more lightweight then ‘green’ wood, having a brown color without a greenish tint, and having split or course ends. The bark on dry wood can also be coming off more easily than on wet wood.
To be sure that you’re burning wood that is the less than the recommended moisture content of 20% you’ll need to use a moisture meter.
A moisture meter will accurately read the moisture content of any piece of wood, and will help to ensure that you’re not burning wood that is too wet that it will cause a fire to produce more smoke.
A moisture meter is an essential tool for any fireplace. You can check out our favorite moisture meter here if you don’t already have one.
If you’re in the UK you can find the exact moisture meter we use right here.
For more information we’ve discussed moisture content in firewood in more detail here, including how to use a moisture meter to read the moisture content of wood.
5. Open The Damper Fully Before Each Fire
A fire may not be able to properly combust wood and can produce more smoke if there is also a lack of sufficient airflow to the fire.
To help ensure that the draft is working as efficiently as possible so that air can be continuously fed to the fire, fully open the damper in your fireplace before each and every fire.
It your fireplace has a damper it will typically be located within the top area of your fireplace. Dampers can be closed between fires to help prevent heat loss from a home, but must be opened prior to each fire to ensure that all waste gases and smoke can be safely vented from a home.
Simply use the handle on the damper to open it as far as possible.
For more information we’ve explained dampers in much more detail in another one of our articles here.
6. Preheat The Chimney To Start The Draft
To further help reduce the potential for smoke to be produced by as much as possible, warming up the air within the chimney before starting a fire can help to start the draft on your fireplace.
A strong draft is essential for maintaining the continuous cycle of waste gases and smoke being removed from your home, while also sucking fresh air into a fire from the room.
We’ve explained exactly how fireplaces work here, but cold air trapped within a chimney can mean no movement of air and therefore no draft. To help start the draft we always warm up our chimney before each fire.
We take a single sheet of newspaper, roll it up and light it at one end. We then place the newspaper under the chimney inside the top of our fireplace and leave it to burn for a short while.
To ensure that a fire doesn’t start to smoke due to a lack of oxygen, warming the chimney can be done in conjunction with building top-down fires to help start the draft as soon as possible.
You can find out more ways to help warm a chimney in another one of our articles here.
7. Build Smaller, Hotter Fires
A smaller but hotter burning fire can provide a much cleaner burn with less smoke compared to a larger struggling fire.
Building a large fire in your open fireplace can overwhelm the fire as it tries to burn through all of the initial bits of wood. Building a smaller fire can help the fire to spread to the logs more quickly.
A hotter burning fire can provide a cleaner burn, and so getting temperatures up within the fireplace as quickly as possible can help to reduce the amount of smoke being produced throughout the fire.
Although our open fireplace is fairly big, we build relatively small fires compared to its size.
A smaller fire can get going more quickly, and even though the fire is small at the beginning, we can always add more logs to make the fire bigger once higher temperatures have been reached. As the fire progresses the higher temperatures make it easier for logs to catch alight without producing smoke.
8. Have Your Chimney Swept
Chimneys should be cleaned at least once per year in line with recommendations.
If you haven’t had your chimney swept within the last year then it’s a good idea to get it done. A dirty or blocked chimney can cause a fire to produce more smoke than usual due to a reduction in draw on the fireplace.
9. Open Any External Air Vents
Poor oxygen supply to your fireplace can be one of the main reasons why a fire can be smoking.
Air supply to a fireplace can be more problematic in newer homes that are built to higher standards and more airtight.
By opening any external air vents or windows within the same room as a fireplace you’re helping to supply a fire as much air as possible, and in turn reduce the potential for the fire to start struggling and producing smoke due to a lack of oxygen.
We have an external air vent in our living that we open before each fire to help maximize air supply to the fires. If you don’t have an external air vent then opening a window slightly in the same room as the fireplace will work just as well.
10. Don’t Start Fires In Too Warm Or Windy Weather
A poor draft can affect how well a fire performs in an open fireplace, and a lack of movement of air up the chimney can lead to a struggling or smoldering fire that’s producing more smoke as a result.
To help prevent your fires from smoking, try not to start fires during very windy weather or when temperatures outside your home are higher than inside.
Windy weather can cause a backdraft, which is where air is forced back down your chimney and can affect how well the usual draft works.
For the draft to be started and for there to be movement of air up the chimney the temperature of the air within the chimney needs to be higher than that of the outside air temperature. The temperature difference between the inside and outside of your home helps warmer to air to rise up your chimney and in turn suck more air into the fireplace to replace it. Typically, the greater the temperature difference the greater the draft.
When temperatures outside your home are too high it can be hard to start the draft, meaning that a fire can struggle and smoke due to lack of continuous and sufficient airflow through the fireplace.