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Why Won’t My Fireplace Work?

With winter here, you want to enjoy a nice evening by the fire, but you’ve tried lighting the fireplace and nothing happens. The last thing you want to worry about is something wrong with your fireplace, the good news is, it might not even be something that needs to be fixed. We’ve compiled the five most common reasons why your fireplace might not want to start.

A Closed Damper – This is usually why a fire can’t start in your fireplace. The damper is the metal plate that opens up the connection between the chimney and the fireplace. If it’s closed, the smoke from the fire will have no way of escaping your home, and it can leave your room full of smoke. Now you might be thinking, ‘I never close or touch the damper’, but it’s possible the wind or something else has knocked the damper closed. Just open up the damper and your problem should be fixed. Not all dampers are the same, so it’s key to understand how your damper works and how to tell if it’s closed or open.

Your Chimney Needs a Sweep – Chimneys can accumulate soot and build-up, and ultimately affect the way fireplaces and chimneys can operate. Sometimes the build-up can be so bad it can restrict the flue from opening and prevent the proper airflow that’s needed. Not only can the chimney become dirty from creosote and soot, but small animals and birds can create a home in there. If you believe you may have a dirty chimney, and that’s why a fire won’t start, contact your local chimney sweep, Valley Chimney today and have a certified professional remove any unwanted animals and perform a cleaning. If there have been animals living in your chimney, you might also want to have the chimney professional install a chimney cap to prevent any further animal issues.

Not Enough of a Draft For Your Fire – This is the second most common reason as to why your fireplace might not want to work. When you first light a fire, the chimney flue is cold and a draft has not been established yet. You have to let the flue warm up and establish a draft before lighting a fire. It’s important to start your fire slowly with a small piece of kindling, light it up and test it to make sure the smoke goes up and out of the home through the chimney and doesn’t come back into your home. Start small and go from there, if the small piece of kindling works then you can add the big piece of wood. Build the fire as the draftgets established, and as the flue warms up it will improve and pull the smoke up through the chimney.

Too Much Moisture In the Wood – You want to make sure the wood in your fireplace has enough moisture, because if there isn’t enough moisture, you won’t get much heat from the fire and it can actually produce a lot of creosote buildup which isn’t good for the chimney. Wet wood or “green” wood will always smoke more and make it appear like your fireplace isn’t working quite right. It’s important to know what to look for when buying wood logs because while you might not think about it, there’s an optimum moisture content of 10-20% that’s important to keep in mind.

Home is Too Tight – Fires need a lot of air volume to be able to burn properly. Your fire might start out good, but after a while, you might get smoke coming into your home and this could be causing your problem. There needs to be an ample amount of air coming back into the home to replace the air lost through the fireplace. The air can come from windows, doors, and general ‘air leaks’ in your home. That’s not to say you should keep a window or door open when you start your fire, but if you’re been burning wood logs for a while and the doors have been closed, your fireplace will start to smoke. It’s important to crack a door or window because when fires can’t burn properly, they produce smoke in the home and can cause carbon monoxide and increase your risk for poisoning.

If you’ve tried lighting your fireplace this winter, and haven’t had luck starting a fire, it’s important that you contact your local chimney sweep to come in and take a look. We can diagnose the problem and offer a solution. As a full-service chimney sweep company located in the western suburbs of Chicago, we hold the title for longest-running continually Certified Chimney Sweep in the U.S and are founders of the Illinois Chimney Sweep Guild. Our professionals are experts in reducing fire hazards and strive for chimney and fireplace safety. Our main goal is to make sure your family is safe and can enjoy a nice evening by the fire. If your chimney needs repairs or a sweep, contact Valley Chimney today!

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“I had Terry and Lee come out for our initial chimney sweep moving into a 30-year old home. They both pointed out issues that we were not even aware of (and that hadn't made it on our inspection). Terry gave us advice on how to fix the problems. After a 30 year old home, and the chimney had never been cleaned, I will definitely be using Valley every year!!”

‐ Lindsay S.

St. Charles, IL

8940 B Route 34
Yorkville, IL 60560

(630) 553-5995


Service over 30,000 clients across the western suburbs of Chicago