Close this search box.

Chimney Not Drawing Smoke Up? 7 Facts Homeowners MUST Know!

✓ Get expert advice ✓ Find the lowest rates near you ✓ Compare quotes
✓ Same day service!

Table of Contents

It’s a cold winter night, and the only thing that sounds better than curling up in front of a warm fire is curled up in front of a warm fire with a cup of hot cocoa.

So, you grab some wood, build a cozy little pile in your fireplace, strike a match, and…nothing happens. No matter how many matches you strike, the wood won’t catch. What’s going on?

When your chimney not drawing smoke up, it probably has a blocked flue. Other issues may include problems with the firebox, obstructed or closed damper, and creosote build-up.   

This post will discuss what homeowners need to know about their chimneys and how to solve these problems efficiently.

How Does Smoke Go Up the Chimney?

smoke coming from chimney

Most people have probably noticed that smoke from a chimney always seems to rise straight into the sky. It’s a common misconception that the wind is pulling up the smoke. In fact, the reason smoke rises is much simpler: it’s because hot air rises.

The fire heated air inside a chimney, causing it to expand and become less dense than the more excellent air outside. This difference in density creates a pressure gradient, with the hot air tending to flow towards areas of lower pressure.

Since the atmosphere is mainly made up of air that surrounds the Earth evenly, the only direction for the smoke to flow is upwards. Ultimately, the same process causes hot air balloons to float.

So, the next time you see smoke rising from a chimney,iy, keep in mind it’s not propelled by an unseen force but rather adhering to fundamental physics laws.

The same principles that cause smoke to rise up a chimney also apply to other fluids, like water. That’s why hot water rises to the top of a pot or kettle while cold water sinks to the bottom.

It’s also why blood circulates in our bodies, with warm blood flowing from the core of our body to our extremities.

Why Is My Chimney Not Drawing Smoke Up?

A chimney not drawing smoke is a common problem for many homeowners. Below are some reasons why this might be the case.

1. Damper is Closed

One of the most common reasons your chimney might not be drawing smoke is because your damper is closed or partially closed. The damper is what regulates the airflow in and out of your fireplace.

Very little air can flow in when it’s closed, making it difficult for the smoke to escape. Always check to see if the damper is closed or open before you start a fire.

How to Fix

You must open the damper before starting a fire if it is closed. The most common way to do this is to use a poker or other tool to push the lever that opens the damper. 

To operate a top mount damper, you need to:

  1. Find the knob or lever that controls the damper. This is usually located near the fireplace.
  1. Open the damper by turning the knob or lever to the “open” position.
  1. Close the damper by turning the knob or lever to the “close” position.

Top mount dampers are simple to operate and can be a great way to control the airflow in your home. Opening or closing the damper can regulate the heat and smoke entering your living space.

But what happens if you have a throat damper, how do you operate it?

Unlike a top-mount damper, a throat damper is located just below the firebox attached to the smoke chamber. The throat damper’s main purpose is to regulate the amount of air that flows up the chimney.

Here’s how to operate a throat damper:

  • Pull the lever on the fireplace’s face to open the throat damper. Some models may have a knob instead of a lever.
  • Push the lever or knob in the opposite direction to close the throat damper. It’s important to note that most throat dampers do not seal tightly when closed.

There may be a small gap between the damper and the chimney opening. This is normal and helps to prevent the damper from rusting shut.

If you’re unsure if your throat damper is open or closed, look at the position of the lever or knob. If it’s in line with

If opening the damper doesn’t help, another problem could be at play. Keep reading for more information.


Do You Need to Hire Chimney & Fireplace Expert?

Get free quotes from qualified experts near you. No commitment required!


2. Insufficient Air Pressure

For a fire to draft appropriately, the room must have ventilation. One common fireplace problem is that many modern homes are sealed so tightly that there’s insufficient pressure differential for the chimney to work right.

This problem can also arise from using the exhaust fan in the kitchen. If the fan is on, it can pull air out of the house so quickly that the pressure inside drops enough to cause back-drafting. If you’re having this problem, try opening a window in the room where the fireplace is located. You may also need to adjust or turn off your exhaust fan.

How to Fix

If you have an exhaust fan in your kitchen, try not to use it while the fireplace is in use. You can also try opening a window or door near the fireplace to help encourage airflow.

Another option is to install a power ventilator near the fireplace. This will help to create the necessary draft to move the smoke out of your home.

If you’re still having trouble, another issue could be at play. Keep reading for more information.

3. The Chimney is too Short

The taller the chimney, the better it will draft. That’s because heat rises, and the smoke follows the hot air up the chimney.

If your chimney is too short, the smoke won’t have enough time to rise before it cools down and falls back into your home.

How to Fix

One ideal solution is to try and rebuild the chimney. This will require some demolition work, but it’s worth it in the long run.

Here are the steps you’ll need to take:

1. Tear down the existing chimney bricks until you reach the roofline.

2. Remove the old mortar and clean up any debris.

3. Lay a new mortar bed on top of the old foundation.

4. Begin rebuilding the chimney using new bricks and mortar. Make sure to use fire-resistant materials.

5. Finish by capping off the chimney with a weather-proofing material.

This process may seem daunting, but it’s actually not too difficult if you take your time and follow each step carefully.

4. Improperly-Built Chimney

Homeowners who discover that their chimney is smoky may be dismayed to learn that the problem may be due to poor construction.

Achieving proper drafting in your fireplace and chimney requires hitting a specific mathematical target with the right combination of components.

If a fireplace is smoking, it might need to be rebuilt.

Sometimes, design flaws in the smoke chamber or firebox cause serious problems that can only be fixed by rebuilding part of the chimney.

How to Fix

If you think your chimney might be poorly constructed, having a professional assess the problem is best. They’ll be able to assess the situation and recommend the best course of action.

In some cases, you can repair the chimney. However, in other cases, it may need to be rebuilt entirely.

5. External Weather Conditions

Snow storm preventing smoke from a chimney

Since your home’s fireplace flue Goes through the roof and outside, sometimes adverse weather conditions can result in smoke filling your house.

Two main weather culprits can cause problems. They include extreme cold and cross-drafting.

Extreme Cold

An unused flue can fill up with cold air in frigid temperatures, and this high-density air blocks the flow of smoke. If your home’s chimney is on the exterior, you’re especially susceptible to this problem.

How to Fix

If this happens, try to “warm” your flue by lighting a small newspaper fire at the back of the firebox. Keep feeding the fire more newspapers until the smoke disappears up the flue.


Wind can cause smoke issues in a couple of different ways. The first way is known as Dynamic Wind Loading. When the wind blows against the side of a house, it creates high pressure on that side of the house and low pressure on the other side.

How to Fix

If there is too much pressure on the leeward side of the house, open a window on the windward side to let some air in.

To achieve a more permanent fix, you’ll need to install an outside air kit and tighten up the leeward side of your home.

6. The Height of Your House

tall chimney

A tall chimney is less likely to cause downdrafts, as the taller structure will allow the chimney to extend high enough into the air with a low-enough density.

Not only is your fireplace drafting poorly when your chimney is too short, but the problem gets exponentially worse when strong winds are present. A too-short chimney is an improper ventilation and a fire hazard, risking the ignition of your roof.

How to Fix

If you’re developing a chimney for a new home or building, ensure it’s tall enough. If you’re retrofitting an existing chimney, you may need to extend its height.

Adding a chimney cap can also help to increase your chimney’s draft by directing the airflow up and out rather than allowing it to escape sideways.


Do You Need to Hire Chimney & Fireplace Expert?

Get free quotes from qualified experts near you. No commitment required!


7. Location

The location of your chimney can significantly affect how well it functions.

If the chimney is on the exterior of the home rather than inside of it, then it’s more likely to have draft issues.

A chimney that runs through the home will stay warmer than an exterior one. Hence smoke is more likely to go up and out of the house.

How to Fix

Try insulating the chimney or adding a glass fireplace door to fix this issue. Another option is to install a liner in the chimney.

This will create a separate space for the smoke to travel through, which will help to keep the rest of the house warmer.

How to Stop Smoke Coming Down a Chimney?

You can use several ways to prevent smoke from coming down your chimney. Check them out below.

Use a Chimney Cap

chimney cap helps with smoky fireplace troubleshooting

A chimney cap is a covering that goes over the top of your chimney. It has several functions. One is to keep out animals and debris.

The other is to create an updraft, which helps pull the smoke up and out of the chimney. You can buy a chimney cap at a hardware store or home center.

Install Draft Guards

Draft Guards are devices that fit outside your chimney. They help to seal off any gaps or cracks where smoke might be able to get through.

Draft Guards are especially helpful in preventing downdrafts, which can happen when the wind blows from the wrong direction.

Get Your Chimney Cleaned and Inspected Regularly

Cleaning a chimney is a sure way to prevent smoke from coming down it. You should have your chimney cleaned at least once a year and more often if you use it frequently. An inspection can also help to identify any problems that need to be fixed.

Having a professional sweep clean and inspect your chimney is the best way to keep it in good working order.


Do You Need to Hire Chimney & Fireplace Expert?

Get free quotes from qualified experts near you. No commitment required!


Keep Your Home Well-Insulated

Another way to prevent smoke from entering your chimney is to ensure your home is well-insulated. This will help keep the air inside your home warm, which will help keep the air inside your chimney warm.

Good insulation will also help to reduce your energy bills, so it’s a win-win.

Use the Right Firewood

Using the right firewood, such as dry and seasoned wood, is another way to prevent smoke from coming down your chimney. Softwoods like pine and cedar produce more creosote, which can build up in your chimney and cause a fire.

Hardwoods like oak and maple burn cleaner and produce less creosote. That means if you want to prevent a smoky chimney, use hardwoods.

These are just a few ways to prevent smoke from entering your chimney. By following these tips, you can enjoy your fireplace worry-free.

What to do If You Can’t Fix Your Chimney That’s Not Drawing Smoke?

If you have a wood-burning fireplace, it’s essential to have a chimney that’s in good working order. Otherwise, you risk carbon monoxide poisoning or even house fires. But what if your chimney isn’t drawing smoke up?

There are a few things that could be causing this problem. It could be that the flue is blocked or a build-up of soot and creosote. There might also be an issue with the damper or the fire itself.

Here are some things you can do if your chimney isn’t drawing smoke up:

1. Check the Flue

You should first check the flue to see if it’s blocked. A blockage can result from birds’ nests, leaves, or even a build-up of soot and creosote. If the flue is blocked, you’ll need to have it cleaned by a professional.

2. Check the Damper

The next thing you should check is the damper. The damper is a metal flap that covers the opening of the chimney.

Ensuring the damper is open before you start a fire is essential. Otherwise, all the smoke will go into your home instead of up the chimney.

3. Check the Fire

You can also check the fire itself. Ensure that the wood is dry and that there’s enough of it. If the wood is too green or wet, it won’t burn as well and will produce a lot of smoke.

4. Hire a Professional Chimney Sweeper

If you’ve tried all these things but still experience smoke not going up the chimney, you should consider hiring a licensed professional.

A professional chimney sweeper can help you figure out the problem and how to fix it.

Final Thoughts

If you’re experiencing issues such as smoke not drawing up the chimney, we are here to assist you. Our team of experts can help troubleshoot any problem, big or small.

Moreover, if you seek advice on enhancing the maintenance of your chimney, we invite you to explore our extensive collection of informative articles. These resources provide valuable tips and insights to ensure your chimney receives optimal care.

Connect with a Chimney & Fireplace Expert

Connect with local experts, Compare quotes, And get the best price.
Thomas Green

Thomas Green

Thomas has worked in the Chimney & Fireplace field for over 12 years. He is an expert in his trade and loves to help People with their needs. Thomas Write helpful articles so that homeowners can make the most informed decisions about their fireplace and chimney.