Smokey fireplace

Discussion in 'Bricks, Masonry and Concrete' started by Onslaughs, Dec 8, 2019.

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  1. Dec 8, 2019 #1

    Onslaughs

    Onslaughs

    Onslaughs

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    Dear Home Repair Enthusiasts:

    I live in a rambler-style house built in 1965, with two wood-burning fireplaces, one right on top of the other, with two flues right next to each other (see pic below). The upstairs fireplace works absolutely fine, but there are two problems with the downstairs fireplace, in that it smells of smoke:

    1. When the upstairs fireplace is on, it smells like smoke downstairs, even when the downstairs damper is closed and the downstairs fireplace doors are closed. The reverse does not happen – when the downstairs FP is on, it does not smell upstairs.

    2. When the downstairs fireplace is on, it also smells like smoke downstairs, but really badly, so that even my clothes smell after I use it, and the room smells for weeks afterwards. (Yes, I check the damper before using the FP :) )

    I have CO and smoke detectors, which have not gone on, it’s just the very strong smoke smell, but not smoke.

    I had a chimney inspection done and chimneys cleaned when I bought this house three years ago, and they recommended the following:

    "1-2) Due to the missing mortar joints and gaps in the terra cotta flue liner, it is recommended that the tile be broken out and the flue be relined with an appropriately sized stainless steel liner. This recommendation applies to both the upstairs and downstairs fireplaces.

    3) Due to the exposed hollow-core bricks and corbelling in the downstairs fireplace smoke chamber, it is recommended that the walls be parged smooth with high-heat refractory cement.

    4) Because of the cracks in the concrete crown at the top of the chimney, it is recommended that a crownseal be applied to the surface of the crown in order to prevent further damage."


    The cost for all of this was $11K+, so I passed on the repairs.

    My questions for the forum are:

    1. Why would it smell like smoke downstairs when the upstairs FP is on? Is this because of some sort of a downdraft because the flues are next to each other? Any way to prevent this?

    2. What are some of the main reasons it also smells downstairs when the downstairs FP is on? Most of the smoke does come out through the flue, but the smell is still very strong.

    3. If I were to replace the liner just in the downstairs fireplace, would it fix the problem? Is the price quoted to me reasonable?

    4. Is there a cheaper way to fix this?

    upload_2019-12-8_7-47-34.png
     
  2. Dec 8, 2019 #2

    bud16415

    bud16415

    bud16415

    Fixer Upper Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    I would assume it is a down draft problem also along with maybe the house / basement is sealed well enough that a positive draft is having problems getting started. For warm air to flow up and out the chimney warm air from the room has to be sucked out and that only leaves cold outside air has to leak in as makeup. These kind of fireplaces many times waste more or at least as much heat as they make in venting an already warm house.


    So you are faced with is the cost of all the repairs enough for the nostalgic feeling of the warm cozy fire and even then there it is not certain the fireplaces will draft properly, but with a liner the gasses will stay warm longer and will have a better chance of drafting up. It is the heat rising thing that keeps it moving.


    For that kind of money I would be looking at some sort of gas insert sealed units with positive venting or even something electric that looks like fire.


    The way your chimney is flashed on the upper side sometimes leads to water leaking problems as well. Many people have what I have heard called a cricket built behind it and flashed in. Just a small roof that slopes both directions to send the rain around the chimney.


    These fireplaces built in the 50’s-60s IMO were more decorative than functional and most people used them once or twice a year at the holidays.
     
    Onslaughs likes this.
  3. Dec 8, 2019 #3

    Snoonyb

    Snoonyb

    Snoonyb

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    The flue damper is not a seal, and was never intended as anything more than to control combustion.

    If your door set is decorative you can change it to a better quality sealed unit and keep it closed when using the fireplace.

    You can have the firebox core drilled and add a damper controlled cold air intake so that you are not using conditioned air, as combustion air.
     
    Onslaughs likes this.
  4. Dec 16, 2019 #4

    nealtw

    nealtw

    nealtw

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    How does it work if you crack a window open in the basement?
     

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