Venting a Smoking Fireplace

Smoking Fireplace by Isa Stralian

Many years ago I had a very distressed gentleman call me to ask if it was true that building a house in a certain location prevented him from having a properly functioning fireplace i.e. one that didn’t smoke the house out.

I asked as to how he came to call me and he told me that the architect had heard that I was the person to call when nothing made sense. Flattering?…… not really because it usually means he had been well and truly fleeced by the so called experts, and I get presented with a client with a problem and no money to fix it.

The house was meant to be his dream home that had seemingly turned into a nightmare as his 40 year desire in retirement was to have a house, with a fireplace.

The 400 s/m architecturally designed home sat on a hill on about twenty acres with scenic and serene views on all sides with the fireplace sitting majestically in a large living room.

I asked why he was under the impression he had built his dream home in an unsuitable position regarding a properly functioning fireplace and he revealed that his architect had advised him as much after several attempts to rectify the problem.

Fireplaces are a relatively simple construct, the governing factor is that you build them observing nature’s principles, not dictate your own. Drawing a fireplace, and building one, are two different skill sets. One doesn’t guarantee the other.

A good bricklayer or stone mason does not translate into a good fireplace builder and very often you hear, ‘beautiful fireplace, ‘pity it doesn’t work’….or ‘it only smokes a little’.

Aesthetics are introduced to a working design, they do not form the basis of the fireplace design.

The balance between the size of the combustion chamber and the flue needs to be proportional, with the transition (area connecting the chamber and the flue) constructed with minimal resistance

In this particular instance a disproportionate transition above the combustion chamber was preventing the escape of the smoke from the chamber into the flue and forcing it back into the room.

Some brickwork was removed from the transition area, a Condor terminal fitted to the top of the chimney to introduce the correct back pressure……and vioila, a working fireplace.

A considerable amount of money had already been spent by those not having any idea of what they were doing, including the architect………

To be fair, architects tend to rely on the supposed trades people aka experts, perhaps a little too much, and in today’s climate where everyone knows a little……… but never enough….is a recipe for disappointment!

Nature cannot be dictated to!



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