Fireplace Smoke Chamber: Functions, Common Issues & Fix

Does a fireplace need a smoke chamber? Can a fireplace still work effectively without affecting the smoke chamber? These and several others are important questions we’ll be providing answers to.

If you had no idea about what the smoke chamber was about, all such details will be supplied in this article.

You only need to read to the end to get a full grasp.

A fireplace has several components which are vital to its operations. One of those is the smoke chamber. This part of the fireplace is located just below the flue and above the firebox.

As smoke ascents from the firebox, it curls out when it reaches the smoke chamber.

So, what purpose does it serve?

About Fireplace Smoke Chamber

This is a funnel-like structure that’s inverted and lies directly above the firebox. It’s deliberately made in the form of a funnel to enable creosote, particulate matter, and soot to mix and easily exit the fireplace.

These are combustion byproducts that need to be expelled to guarantee the smooth functioning of your fireplace.

For smoke chambers to function effectively, their walls must be made to have a smooth heat-resistant finish. This enhances the channeling out of combustion gases into the flue and out the chimney.

So, what prevents the smoke from returning through the smoke chamber exit?

There’s a shelf designed for that purpose that acts as a valve and prevents the return of such gases and smoke.

Here, it’s clear that a smoke chamber is deliberately constructed to enhance the smooth functioning of a fireplace. For a fireplace to be efficient, it must have one of these incorporated into its structure.

Do Fireplace Smoke Chambers Develop Faults at some Point?

Like all other fireplace components, a smoke chamber might develop faults that make it malfunction. To reduce the chances of these faults developing, you’ll need to maintain an inspection schedule.

This doesn’t wait for problems to develop before correcting them.

Your whole chimney and fireplace system is inspected with parts such as the smoke chamber also covered. With this said; what types of issues can one have with a fireplace smoke chamber?

It’s important to have an idea to prepare beforehand for it.

i. Common Issues with Fireplace Smoke Chamber

The issues that result are mostly tied to the design of the fireplace. For smoke chambers with corbelled design or construction, a unique type of problem develops.

With corbelling, the smoke chamber narrows into the flue through a step-like design.

With corbelled smoke chamber designs, these fireplace components have been found to develop issues like sluggish drafting, mortar joint deterioration as well as creosote buildup.

What are these about? Let’s have a look at each.

  • Sluggish Drafting

Because corbelled smoke chambers don’t have a smooth surface, this significantly impedes effective smoke drafting.

A chain of reaction begins where ineffective drafting leads to more difficult starting of fire and leakage of deadly carbon monoxide gases into your living space.

  • Mortar Joint Deterioration

Corbelling involves the use of bricks that are arranged in a step-like manner that narrows the smoke chamber, thus giving it its funnel-like form as it enters the flue.

This has its disadvantages one of which includes mortar joint deterioration.

As toxic gases and heat rise continuously, deteriorated mortar joints can cause leaks of combustion gases and heat. This is likely to find its way into your dangerous living space.

This problem will have to be detected early enough and fixed before it worsens.

  • Creosote Buildup

Creosote buildup is another likely scenario that can happen.

It’s mostly caused by the rough or jagged sides of the corbelled smoke chamber. Because such sides aren’t smooth enough, combustion gases easily condense and turn to creosote.

Before long, creosote buildup develops. This is known to be highly flammable and may ignite when the buildup has reached a certain stage.

One of several ways to prevent chimney fires is by having your smoke chamber checked for accumulated creosote.

Signs of Smoke Chamber Problems

One of the first signs of trouble is a smoky fireplace. While this alone is enough reason to call for inspection and repairs, there are other symptoms to look out for.

They include falling pieces of mortar and/or brick, black stains near the top of your fireplace, as well as difficulty in starting a fire even when the right materials are used.

Addressing the Problem

When a smoke chamber develops faults, it’s necessary to take adequate measures to fix such.

One of these actions includes parging.

Parging has to do with smoothening out the rough corbelled areas of your chimney that are fast deteriorating.

Remember we earlier said the ideal construction of a smoke chamber should be one with a smooth heat-resistant finish. This is what parging seeks to achieve.

Parging targets the rough sections of the chimney for filling and smoothening. Sometimes, parging may be aimed at covering the entire smoke chamber surface.

If a smoke chamber develops holes, jagged areas, or cracks, parging will be the perfect solution for it. Of course, the compound used should be one that’s heat & fire resistant.

This ensures that repairs last for longer.

  • What Benefits are derived?

Of course, you’ll expect any intervention carried out by a technician to resolve your smoke chamber problem(s). Benefits derived are several and include better drafting.

This in turn leads to more efficient operation.

Instead of constantly accumulating creosote within the smoke chamber, parging decreases the chances of that happening. With less creosote comes a lesser possibility of chimney fire outbreaks, thus enhancing safety.

You won’t have to call a chimney sweep more often than necessary.

This saves you expenses you’d have spent on frequent cleanups. Also beneficial is the fact that the lifespan of your smoke chamber and fireplace are extended.

Who to Call for Smoke Chamber Parging

When it comes to smoke chamber faults like those mentioned above, only a licensed and experienced technician must handle the job. CSIA certification is crucial.

So, you should just hire any handyman that tries to convince you of their capabilities.

That simply won’t work. You want to only use a professional that fully understands how fireplace ventilation works and knows the in-depth workings of the system.

The fireplace smoke chamber is a very key component of your fireplace that needs to be maintained.

We’ve discussed common problems as well as how much is fixed.

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