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 by my name 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 everyone else has gotten paid, while I get presented with the 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, as it was, with a fireplace.

I agreed to go out and look at the 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 him why he was under the impression he had built his dream home in an unsuitable position regarding a properly functioning fireplace.

He said his architect had advised him as much after several attempts to rectify the problem.

Now, fireplaces are a relatively simple construct, the only thing being is that you build them observing nature’s principles, not dictate your own. Drawing a fireplace and building one are two different skill sets.

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 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

Suffice as to say that the transition was preventing the escape of the smoke from the chamber into the flue and coming into the room.

A course of brickwork was removed, a Condor terminal fitted to the top of the chimney to introduce the correct back pressure……and I’ve had my feet kissed ever since.

I should mention that a considerable amount of money had already been spent by those not having any idea of what they were doing, including the architect, prior to my involvement.

To be fair, architects tend to rely on the supposed trades people aka experts, perhaps a little too much, but in today’s day and age where everyone knows a little, but too often, never enough.


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