Our Company Blog

House Pressure Issues

Fireplaces are supposed to add warmth and comfort to our homes. However, if you are experiencing pressure issues your fireplace could be directly affected. If it seems like your fireplace is not producing any heat, is using too much wood, or is letting cold air in you are most likely experiencing problems with house pressure.


Airtight homes

Open hearth masonry fireplaces are not known for being efficient; what they lack in efficiency is more than made up for in warmth and ambiance. However, more and more modern homeowners find themselves experiencing burn issues with their open hearth fireplaces. This is, in part, due to a home’s air pressure.

Modern homes are designed and built to be air tight, keeping the conditioned air inside and the hot or cold air outside. While this lack of airflow saves you money on your monthly gas and electric bills, it can have a major negative impact on your fireplace system.

Fires need oxygen in order to burn their best; in an airtight home, a lack of fresh oxygen can cause fires to burn sluggishly. Likewise, tight homes may also have issues with drafting. A lack of outside air can create a weak draft, making it difficult for smoke to be pushed up and out of the chimney. This can lead to smoky fires that affect your home’s overall air quality.

The stack effect

House pressure issues can also be caused by the stack effect. The stack effect is based on a principle that everyone knows – cold air sinks and hot air rises. However, this can wreak havoc when you are trying to heat your home or use your fireplace in the winter.

As the warm air in your home rises up – and out – through upper attics and windows, cold outside air is drawn in through holes or cracks near the bottom of your home. For homeowners with a fireplace, the stack affect can cause cold air to be drawn down the chimney and into your home. In addition to causing your heater to work harder to compensate for the influx of cold air, this can also create fireplace burning problems. The cold air being drawn down the chimney can disrupt the draft of the fireplace, pushing smoke, soot, and ash back into your home.

Fixing pressure issues with makeup air

While an airtight home or the stack effect can create drafting issues in your home, utilizing exterior air intakes, or makeup air, may help resolve the problem. Makeup air can be as simple as cracking windows or doors around the fireplace; for homes with more serious pressure issues may need to install a permanent supply of outdoor air. By installing an exterior air intake, the pressure inside your home can naturally equalize, leading to a reduction in fireplace draft issues.

House pressure issues can have a major negative impact on your ability to enjoy your fireplace system during the winter. This year, rather than dealing with problematic pressure problems, contact the experts at Pristine Sweeps. Our staff can help identify and fix the cause of your pressure issues, allowing you to get back to worry-free enjoyment of your fireplace.

Know the signs of a chimney fire

Would you know if your chimney caught fire? You probably assume you would, as some chimney fires come with flames and sparks shooting from the rooftop, smoke billowing from the chimney, and a roaring sound like a freight train filling. Often, however, chimney fires go wholly unnoticed, and an undetected chimney fire can mean big danger for your home and your family. Knowing the subtle signs of a chimney fire can help keep your home and family safe.

chimney-fire-facts-image-seattle-wa-pristine-sweepsThe subtle signs of a chimney fire

There are some small signs that might indicate your chimney has caught fire. A stronger than usual smell of smoke may fill your home, or you may hear popping noises coming from your chimney. If you experience any of these signs, or the less subtle signs like billowing smoke, a roaring, or sparks shooting from your chimney, exit your home and call 911 immediately.

Sometimes chimney fires are so discrete, however, that the fact that they’ve occurred can only be detected by a CSIA-certified chimney sweep during your annual chimney inspection. If your chimney has had a smoldering fire, your chimney sweep will notice puffy or honeycombed creosote deposits; warped metal dampers, smoke chambers, or connectors; a warped factory-built metal chimney; broken flue tiles; cracks in the chimney’s exterior masonry; flakes of creosote on the roof or ground; damaged roof, roof-top TV antenna, or chimney cap; or evidence that smoke has escaped through cracks in the chimney.

The dangers of an undetected chimney fire

While it may sound like you’ve dodged a bullet by having a minor chimney fire, minor chimney fires can lead to a damaging, dangerous fire down the road because even a minor chimney fire can damage your chimney. The high temperatures of a chimney fire of cause the bricks and tiles of a masonry chimney to crack with the shock of the temperature change, and the high temperatures will cause mortar to melt. Prefabricated metal chimneys are made to contain the extreme temperatures of a chimney fire, but such temperatures usually will weaken, or even crack, the chimney. Once a mortar or metal chimney is damaged by chimney fire, that chimney will be unable to contain any future chimney fires, giving the sparks, flames, smoke, and high temperatures access to your home’s structure.

The importance of your chimney sweep

Your certified chimney sweep has two major roles to play in chimney fire prevention. First, chimney fires most often are caused by creosote buildup in unswept chimneys. Keeping your annual chimney cleaning prevents creosote from building up. During your annual chimney sweeping, your sweep also checks your chimney for the subtle signs of a chimney fire or other damage that would prevent your chimney from containing the high heat, flames, and gases of your fireplace.

If you’re overdue for your annual chimney sweeping and inspection, call the certified technicians at Pristine Sweeps. We’ll make sure that your chimney is free of creosote, undamaged, and ready for a winter’s worth of fires.