I Can Smell Smoke Upstairs When My Fire Is On – Help!

Smelling smoke in any part of your living accommodation is a cause for concern. After all, smoke is supposed to go directly into the outside air via the chimney, right?

Well, yes but there are a few reasons why you may be smelling smoke in places such as your upstairs bedroom/study/storage room or even your loft.

It could be something as simple ‘siphonage’ – smoke being pulled from one chimney pot from another. This normally happens when smoke, upon exiting a live chimney terminal, is ‘sucked’ down an adjacent pot, and back down the flue which serves that particular pot. This maybe in your property but on some occasions it can be your neighbour’s.

Because solid fuel fires can pull air from other parts of the property (particularly open fires), then – depending on the layout of the property – it can cause this phenomenon.

However, before you look at any of this, you need to rule out a more serious scenario – that the flue itself is leaking. It’s a common and growing problem.

Over the years, chimneys naturally deteriorate and the mortar which once separated each layer of bricks can become dislodged – exposing gaps. In extreme cases, whole bricks can be missing. If the chimney is lined, then the liner may have failed.

Gaps in between the brickwork in a flue – here you can see the adjacent flue

When a flue’s integrity is compromised, fumes can easily find their way into an adjacent flue. This can be a flue connected to another part of your property or, certainly in many UK homes, your neighbour’s flue.

The best way to check whether your flue is leaking is to have your local, professional chimney sweep conduct a Flue integrity Test. This means putting the chimney under a certain amount of pressure and checking for leaks. 

Please don’t be fooled by some who claim that simply throwing a lit smoke pellet into a fireplace is sufficient to confirm whether a chimney is leaking or not – it really isn’t.

If your flue fails an integrity test, then it will need to be lined (or relined) if you want to continue using it for combustion purposes. Having to line a chimney is not uncommon now and, considering many flues in use are over 100 years old, it’s unsurprising some are showing signs of wear and tear.

If yours passes an integrity check however, you can then start looking at other factors, some of which are mentioned above, which could be causing the issue.

Either way, a Flue Integrity Test will give you peace of mind as to the state of your flue and whether it is working in the way it should be.

And when it comes to the health of you and your family, that surely must be paramount…  

Mr Soot Chimney Sweep is a HETAS Approved Sweep, and member of the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps, offering a professional and friendly chimney sweep and stove service. Book Mr Soot online or call 0800 0541154.

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