How to Prevent Puff Backs When Using Your Fireplace

Doctor Flue Fireplace Back Puffing

A chilly Colorado winter evening spent in front of a roaring fireplace can be very pleasurable. But that experience can turn into a disaster if the fireplace starts spewing smoke back into your home’s interior. When that happens, it may be the result of a puff back. This may occur only once per season, or it may happen every time you start a fire.

The results of puff backs are terrible. The smoke can damage all surfaces it touches. A foul odor permeates the environment while the air becomes dangerously contaminated with carcinogens and carbon monoxide. Additionally, smoke particles lodge in curtains, clothing, and carpeting.

The good news is that fireplace back puffs are preventable. But what causes them?

Back Puff Causes and Cures

  • Cause: Creosote buildup

    Creosote is a byproduct of fireplace smoke. It builds up inside a fireplace flue every time the fireplace is lit, growing thicker and thicker. The creosote causes your chimney to generate more smoke than can be exhausted, allowing the smoke to travel the path of least resistance - back into your home.

    • Cure: Hire a chimney sweep

      A CSIA-certified chimney sweep can inspect and identify creosote accumulation. If it’s a problem, you’ll need to have your chimney swept, which will remove creosote buildup and restore your chimney to its peak working condition.

  • Cause: Lack of air supply

    While a well-insulated home is more energy-efficient, a tightly-sealed home could actually “suffocate” your stove or fireplace, resulting in negative air pressure inside. This could cause the fireplace to release smoke into your home. Fire needs oxygen to burn and a tightly sealed home will limit the flow of air into the fireplace.

    • Cure: Introduce airflow

      Before lighting your next fire, simply open a window. Back puffing should discontinue if the issue was caused by an inadequate air supply.

  • Problem: Obstructions

    If your chimney is blocked, it’ll restrict airflow and smoke will build up in the flue until it’s exhausted through your fireplace or stove. Bird and wasp nests built inside a chimney can restrict its airflow, along with balls and tree branches.

    • Cure: Clean the chimney

      The National Fire Protection Association recommends that you have your chimney, fireplace, and vents inspected and cleaned annually, regardless of whether back puffs occur or not.

  • Problem: Unsuitable firewood

    You may be trying to burn wet wood which can produce more smoke than usual. To burn efficiently, the fire needs to first burn off any excess moisture within the wood. The higher the moisture content of the wood, the harder it’ll be to burn.

    • Cure: Use seasoned wood

      Wood needs to be dry to burn efficiently. Wood that’s freshly cut is high in moisture content, which is why wood needs to be dried out (known as seasoning) for 12 to 18 months before it’s ready to be used on fire without causing smoke issues.

Sometimes, a badly built fireplace can cause smoke problems. All aspects of a fireplace, such as its opening size, smoke chamber, smoke shelf, damper size, and chimney height, must be built without design and construction flaws in order to prevent smoke buildup.

When your fireplace pours smoke into your home, the resulting damage can be significant. If you live in Pueblo, Leadville, or in nearby cities, rather than replacing fouled-up belongings that have been contaminated with smoke particles, consult your Colorado - smoke damage cleanup company, Cyclone Kleen Up. or call at 719-299-3887. Our fire and smoke damage restoration technicians will remove all traces of smoke from your property.