Stove smoke coming back into house, why?

“I have only burned my stove a few times this year and I am getting a bunch of wood stove smoke in the house? What is wrong with my stove?”

This is a question that I hear all the time around fall about stove smoke in the house. A lot of people do all the maintenance they are supposed to do, have the chimney and stove completely cleaned and inspected in the summer. They have cured wood and have burned stoves for years and yet for some reason are getting the stove smoking back into the house. The answer is simple but sometimes hard to figure out.

Here is the typical scenario.

The nights are starting to get chilly but it is still getting warm during the day. So I say to my wife why don’t we start the wood stove for the first time, we could build just a little fire to take the chill off and let it go out. So we do that and enjoy a loving evening around the first fire of the year. (At this point all the wood stove smoke goes nicely up the chimney)

We may do this another time or two, or maybe even just this once then the next time we try to start the stove it is really hard to start and we get a bunch of stove smoke back into the house every time we open the door. So we think there is something wrong with our stove, and call our stove guy!

So the solution to all the stove smoke coming back into the house is pretty simple. What is happening is that when you are burning a “cold” fire the chimney is not getting “charged”, or hot enough. Also the secondary combustion (reburn tubes) are not getting hot enough to ignite the unburnt smoke. So all of this “cool” smoke goes up the chimney and ends up condensing or hardening on the first cold thing it touches. Both on the inside of the chimney and also the reason for your stove smoke coming back into the house, the “spark arrestor” that is in the chimney cap (pictured below).

Spark arrestor that cause stove smoke backup

Simpson DuraVent Chimney Cap w/ Spark Arrestor

The spark arrestor is their so that if a live ember flew up the chimney the spark arrestor would catch it before it hit the trees or the roof of your house. The solution to the stove smoke coming back into the house is to get up on the roof with a screwdriver and bang on the spark arrestor screen a few times. This will break loose enough of the condensed creosote to let your stove draft properly. I always recommend to my customers to check their local codes and then completely remove the spark arrestor, if code permits of course. Because I think they are a bigger pain than they are worth.

I hope this helps you get off to a succesful burning season with a little less frustration. And as always if you have any specific questions shoot me an email and I will try to answer all questions and maybe we can all learn from them.

Your Truly,

The Stove Guy

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One thought on “Stove smoke coming back into house, why?

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