Drafting Issues Bringing You Down? Check Out Our Negative & Makeup Air Solutions

You’ve had a day. Traffic was horrendous, you spilled your morning coffee in the car, and there’s a permeating chill in the air. The general mood: dismal. The light at the end of the tunnel? Slipping into your home clothes and curling up by the fire.

Yet, when you get home and spark the flame, rather than coaxing a roaring fire to life, you’re hit in the face with smoke plumes – and try as you might, you can’t redirect it up the chimney where it belongs. You begrudgingly extinguish whatever is left and gather every candle you own instead, making a note to call someone to fix your chimney draft problems first thing in the morning. For now, the candles – or perhaps a Youtube “yule log” – will have to do.

The good news for those in and around the St. Louis, MO area is that English Sweep, Inc. has just the solution you’re looking for – one that will last and stand the test of time, rendering your smoky fireside experience a thing of the past.

English Sweep vans sitting in parking lot

Whether you’re experiencing backdraft issues or it’s about that time to schedule your annual chimney cleaning or inspection, the dedicated team of Chimney Safety Institute of America(CSIA)-certified experts at English Sweep has got you covered. Get in touch with us by requesting an appointment online or by giving us a call at 636-225-3340. We’d love to work with you.

What Causes Chimney Backdrafting?

Before we can really dive into solutions for chimney backdrafting, we first must understand not only what backdrafting is, but what causes it, too.

Chimney backdrafting is the term used to describe what happens when the smoke produced during combustion blows back into the living space – as opposed to up and out the chimney as it is intended. Not only is this experience incredibly frustrating, it’s also dangerous. All combustion (especially wood) creates a variety of naturally-occuring byproducts that are harmful to inhale. That’s why traditional, open-facing fireplaces require a ventilation system in the form of a chimney.

Essentially, a chimney works like this: when a fire is blazing in the fireplace, all the exhaust fumes produced by the fire are significantly warmer than the surrounding air so they are drawn up and out of the chimney flue. Keep in mind that, in order for a fire to light in the first place, it requires a certain amount of fresh, unspent oxygen, which it takes in from the outside through the open flue. This is what’s known as the chimney draft (also called draw) and is the principle upon which each and every chimney system is designed to operate.

However, there are a few factors that can affect this process and cause the dreaded backdraft:

  • Flue obstruction. No matter if it’s creosote accumulation, soggy and congealed leaves, or the result of an animal, anything taking up space in your chimney flue will greatly impact overall system performance. It doesn’t take all that much to cause a noticeable issue – even a minor obstruction can contribute to chimney draft issues.
  • Wrong flue size. Did you know that different appliances and fuel sources require different sized flues? Contrary to what one might think, flue sizes are not one-size-fits-all and if it’s the wrong size for your specific unit, you’re likely to experience ventilation problems.
  • Home location. Depending on where you live and how close your house is to tall trees and other buildings, the functionality of your chimney may be affected. If nearby structures are taller than your chimney’s tallest point, they can actually force outside air down the flue and alter the balance of pressures in your home.
  • Temperature discrepancies. Because hot air rises and chimneys rely on the difference in temperatures between the inside and outside, if outdoor temperatures are particularly warm, you could witness some chimney backdrafting. Similarly, if your fire is not burning exceptionally hot, resulting in a cool chimney, ventilation will be challenging – and exhaust could be expelled back into your living space.
  • Negative air pressure within your home. For every cubic foot of air that exits your home, another cubic foot of air must be brought in to replace it. If not, you have what’s called “negative air;” an imbalance of air pressure that often results in poor chimney draw, which then causes backdrafting.

Can a Chimney Draft Problem Be Dangerous?

Much like any other chimney-related issue, not only is a poor chimney draft unpleasant, it is also dangerous. Remember, a chimney’s main purpose is to release the harsh chemicals and dangerous toxins created during combustion to the outside so they don’t linger inside of your home. If your system isn’t venting properly, you run the risk of being exposed to the noxious fumes inherent in the fire’s exhaust.

One of the most common dangers is exposure to carbon monoxide, which is colorless, odorless, and deadly. For this reason (and because nobody wants to sit in front of a smoky fire – especially inside), the first time you notice strange system behavior like a backdraft, it’s important to schedule a service with a professional technician.

That’s what we’re here for: to make sure your fire – and the smoke it creates – stays inside the firebox or chimney where it belongs. If you’re experiencing issues like weird burning patterns or billowing smoke, our friendly and knowledgeable CSIA-certified professionals will not only be able to diagnose the problem, but suggest a long-term solution too. All you have to do is get in touch and then we’ll handle the rest.

Call 636-225-3340 or book with us online to learn more about us and what we can do for you.


Are There Ways To Improve My Chimney Draft?

There are a handful of things you can do to try to improve your chimney draft and promote some good airflow, but usually these act more like band-aids on a wound that really needs stitches. A band-aid might help for a while… but it isn’t a feasible, long-term solution to your problem.

That being said, you can always try the following to see if they help temporarily improve your chimney draft issue:


Crack open a window.

A simple, yet typically effective suggestion. With a new source to draw in fresh outside air, your chimney should have an easier time expelling the spent, combustion fumes.


Schedule a professional chimney sweep service.

Without someone actively brushing out any accumulated creosote and other debris, you’d have no idea whether or not your flue was clear and able to properly allow the passage of fumes.


Change out your damper.

If your damper is old and deteriorating, it is likely that its seal is also suffering and contributing to the system-wide poor airflow. Perhaps it’s time to look into a top-mount damper that sits on top of your flue and under the chimney cap. This handy contraption has a watertight seal and also helps to keep the flue warm when it’s not in use.


Pre-warm your flue.

 Just like the rest of us, a chimney flue is not fond of drastic and sudden changes in temperature. This can cause a sort of shock to the system that results in the frustrating drafting issues. To prime the flue, try rolling up a newspaper and holding it inside the mouth of your chimney for a few minutes. That way, when you light a full fire in the firebox moments later, the rush of heat won’t be so intense.


Replace your chimney liner.

If the leading cause of your chimney draft issue is due to improper flue size, the best and safest correction is to schedule a relining service. No matter what fuel you burn or specific type and model of appliance you have, our team of experts will craft and install a liner that is the right size for your system.

What Is Negative Air/House Pressure & What Does It Have To Do With My Chimney?

Of all the causes for issues with chimney drafting, one of the biggest – and perhaps most difficult to solve – is that of negative air pressure. After all, think about the amount of appliances in your home that are designed to expel air out in comparison to those intended to draw air in. Between your clothes dryer, ceiling fans, chimney, and more, it’s no wonder there’s an imbalance.

…and if this pressure balance between what’s coming in and what’s going out is required for optimal fireplace and chimney ventilation, it makes sense that any discrepancies can cause inefficient chimney performance (and a smoky living room).

Modern homes are very well insulated, which makes them excellent for keeping in any produced heat, but without adequate air transference, this tightness also makes it very tricky to effectively utilize a chimney. The biggest problem is that, because everything is so well-sealed, when you light a fire in your fireplace, all the warm air rises and escapes faster than cooler, outdoor air can replace it. The result is a chimney working on overdrive, attempting to draw new air in and push old air out all at the same time.

If you’re a homeowner in the greater St. Louis area and are experiencing irritating chimney draft issues because of this pressure difference, English Sweep is here to help. Let’s make your smoky fireplace a thing of the past!

Get in touch with someone from our team by filling out this appointment request form, or you can give us a call at 636-225-3340. We’d love to discuss solutions with you.

How Do I Fix Negative Air Pressure in My Chimney?

So, what do you do? You can’t very easily “fix” your home’s general lack of draftiness and solid insulation, but you’d also like to enjoy your fireplace without a face full of smelly smoke every time you try to spark a flame. Enter makeup air.

What Is Makeup Air?

Aptly named makeup or make-up air, this solution aims to – you guessed it – make up the replacement air whose absence is causing the pressure imbalance. Designed to draw in fresh air from the outside, makeup air systems do a great deal for ventilation in circumstances where there is none – like homes experiencing backdrafting issues whenever there’s a fire burning in the fireplace.

Not only does makeup air improve chimney performance and fireside experiences, it also significantly improves the indoor air quality (IAQ) and boosts the efficiency of the other appliances in your home that regulate the temperature. This increased efficiency also means that you’re saving money on your various utility costs – a definite win-win.

Want more information (or a clearer explanation) of makeup air systems and how they can work to regulate pressure imbalance in your home? Get in touch with someone from our team! You can reach us through our website by filling out this form, or you can give us a call at 636-225-3340. We’re always happy to answer any and all of your questions, so you can get back to enjoying your heating system the way it was intended.

We Offer Long-Term Make-Up Air Solutions

We’re guessing if you’ve had problems with makeup air and backdrafts in the past that you’ve already searched for ways to prevent this. And, like we mentioned earlier, there are definitely things you can do to help – like open a window, prime your flue, or adjust your damper. But, unfortunately, these solutions are all short-term and, let’s face it, don’t always work.

What you need is a long-term solution that takes the stress off of you and finally offers a way to enjoy your chimney system with the ease and peace of mind you deserve. That’s why we invite you to optimize your air with Plusaire® products installed by our team of experts.

More About Plusaire® Products

Plusaire® is all about encouraging air flow, while ensuring you’re breathing in the freshest air possible. It’s a ventilation system that sends warm, fresh air into your home to make up for all of the air you’re losing, so you aren’t left opening every window in the house trying to find some balance.

We love these products because they solve the problems involved with operating a fireplace in a house that’s airtight, while also ensuring you’re breathing in clean air that won’t affect your health or levels of comfort.

Here’s everything you’ll get from Plusaire®:

  • A consistent supply of warm fresh air to your home
  • Better indoor air quality
  • Less condensation-related issues
  • Fewer issues with negative air pressure
  • Less risk of health issues
  • Cost-effective solutions
  • Reduction in potentially foul odors in the home
  • More enjoyment from your fireplace

We Also Offer Fans

We’re proud to also offer our clients Enervex chimney fans, which solve draft issues easily and affordably. These are installed at the top of the chimney and prevent soot and smoke from coming back into the home. They’re simple, affordable, and quiet – which is why our clients love them.

Call Us Today for Cleaner Air & Better Draft

We’ve been in the field long enough to know which draft solutions work and which don’t. If you’re looking for a team that’s knowledgeable and won’t send you on a long trial-and-error process when solving chimney issues, then give us a call today.
We’d be happy to provide you with more information on the draft solutions we offer and answer any questions you may have.

Reach out at 636-225-3340 or right here on our website to get started.


For the best chimney services in this area, call on us for your regular chimney sweeping to keep your chimney system working at its peak performance.