Is There a Problem in My Fireplace Smoke Chamber?
The smoke chamber is the most overlooked chimney component. Some chimney sweeps even miss it during their inspection since it’s tough to see into. It sits right about the firebox and connects to the flue. This nearly hidden chamber is a severe safety hazard in many homes.
Why are some smoke chambers risky?
When you use your fireplace, the combustion byproducts it produces—hot air, smoke, and gases—are funneled into the smoke chamber. From there, they flow up the flue. If you live in an older home, these combustion byproducts may leave behind creosote deposits. Creosote is an extremely flammable chemical compound. It’s created when condensation in a chimney combines with combustion byproducts. The poor ventilation in old smoke chambers often results in a creosote buildup. New chimneys with smoke chambers that meet updated building codes no longer have this problem.
Old homes often have corbeled smoke chambers. Corbeling is a step-like technique for laying bricks. While it’s structurally sound, it creates cracks where creosote can buildup, increasing the risk of a chimney fire in the smoke chamber. This isn’t the only risk created by corbeled smoke chambers.
Mortar joints tend to deteriorate over time. If your home has a corbeled smoke chamber, there may be cracks in the mortar joints where hot embers or flames could escape increasing the risk of a house fire.
The corbeled design can also create a venting issue that may increase your carbon monoxide exposure risk and reduce your fireplace’s efficiency.
How can you solve the problem?
Parging is the solution to improve your home’s safety. Parging is a masonry technique to create a smooth surface. There are two types of parging methods that you could choose for your chimney. The first technique is to create a smooth smoke chamber surface by filling in cracks, holes, and gaps in the corbeled smoke chamber. The second technique is to make an entirely new, seamless cast-in-place surface over the corbeled surface.
Cast-in-place parging is typically recommended for chimneys that need to be reinforced because of structural damage or deterioration. The former technique is the preferred option for many people because it takes less time.
Making this simple change to your smoke chamber could save your life! Chimney fires that start in the smoke chamber can quickly escape the chamber and engulf your home.
Improving your fireplace’s safety isn’t the only benefit of parging. According to the National Fire Protection Association, there are six additional benefits:
Extended fireplace life Improved venting and fireplace efficiency Stronger masonry joints Reinforced chimney Less creosote buildup
If your chimney has ventilation problems, it may have a corbelled smoke chamber. Contact a trusted, certified chimney technician to inspect your chimney! You may be putting your home and family at risk every time you ignite your fireplace. Protect your home and rest at ease by following the National Fire Protection Association’s advice: have your smoke chamber parged. Get the process started by setting up an appointment with a skilled chimney technician at Burlington!