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Drafty Fireplace Causes

If you have a smoking or “drafty” fireplace, you may be surprised to know that the heating appliance itself is rarely to blame for drafting problems. Instead your fire is likely not burning right because the chimney is pulling combustion air improperly. Here’s where we must consider “chimney physics” and look at the big picture of the airflow in your home. The air in your house is constantly in motion; at all times there is air that’s trying to flow out of your house through the top and “makeup air” that’s trying to flow into your house through the bottom. When air flows up and becomes trapped, it creates a pressurized area and then forces its way out—a phenomenon known as “the stack effect.” There’s also what’s known as the “Neutral Pressure Plane” (NPP), a theoretical plane above which the air pressure is slightly positive as compared to the air pressure outdoors. Below the NPP (where the fireplace is usually located), the air pressure is slightly negative and trying to draw air in—thus smoke from your fireplace gets sucked into your home.

The flow of air inside your home can be interrupted and influenced by a number of factors. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), the stack effect, wind loading, interior mechanical systems, and fuel-burning appliances like furnaces, fireplaces, wood stove, and water heaters, can all upset the airflow causing smoke to be drawn into your home when you light a fire. See what we mean about “chimney physics”?

With this in mind, an open window, a kitchen exhaust fan, or a recent home addition are just a few of the things that can impact draft and cause your fireplace to smoke. This is, by the way, the complaint we hear most often from our customers. Because smoky fireplaces manifest themselves in very noticeable and unpleasant ways, homeowners usually want to remedy the situation—and fast. That’s what A to Z Chimney Services is here for. You can call on us to detect the cause of your drafty chimney, and count on us to fix it for good.

For more on why your fireplace may be smoking and to read about common solutions to this problem, read our Smoking Chimney page.

Did You Know?

Homes built in the past 25 years, as well as homes that have been renovated, are more airtight and more likely to have drafty chimneys because it’s more difficult for makeup air to enter these homes.

Have a drafty chimney? Make an appointment with A to Z Chimney Services today. Email us at or fill out our online appointment form! We’re here to help!


With a lot of experience under our belts, we can troubleshoot your chimney problem to diagnose what’s wrong with the performance of your fireplace or heating appliance. And then we can fix it for you.

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I just wanted to thank you for coming to our rescue the other day. I just purchased a new home and a new washer and dryer to go with it. Understandibly, I was a very confused when my dryer suddenly began taking two or three cycles in order to dry my clothes! To my surprise, the appliance repairman who came out told me that my dryer was just fine, but that my dryer vent needed to be cleaned out! I had never heard of such a thing! Mercifully, he referred me to you guys and everything went better from there.

Your technician discovered that a bird had decided to make its nest in my vent! A lot of effort and tons of nesting material later, my vent was finally unclogged!

Thanks again for your valiant efforts! The guy that came to my house was fantastic and took everything in stride, and didn’t charge me any extra despite the fact that my vent took longer than normal to clean! I’ll be sure to tell everyone where they can get great service having the dryer vent cleaned!

~ Denise Gordon, Roseville, CA
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