My fireplace

Q: Jason, I have a problem when I use my fireplace-Initially, smoke was occasionally coming in and I would feel very sick from the fumes- headaches, dizzy, nauseous.

We had an expert come out and inspect it- he capped off an older part of the chimney that he thought could be causing smoke and fumes to be pulled into the house. (We have a fireplace indoors- that attaches to a grill on the outside of the house- he capped off the grills chimney top).

Now, we have started using the fireplace again- and I am still getting bad headaches. Not right away- but after an hour or two, I get a pretty bad headache. There is no visible smoke coming in- but I feel like something is still wrong.

We purchased a carbon monoxide detector, and it isn’t warning us of any trouble.

Now, the meat of the question: Our central heating intake is on the ceiling about 15 feet away in a direct path from the fireplace. I am wondering if when the heating comes on, the intake is pulling fumes into the house and making me sick.

I’m sorry for the long question- I just wanted to be as thorough as possible. We have consulted the only expert in town and he can find no problems. Many thanks for the informative website. – AP

A: Hi AP, The trick about fireplace use is it turns your home into a huge vacuum. The fireplace is sucking the air out of the home in great volume for combustion and to exhaust heat up the chimney. This makes the home intake air through routes that it might not otherwise intake through under normal situations.

It could be that your fireplace is causing such a suction it may be back-drafting your furnace flue, water heater flue, or even through an attached garage door. It is good that you have a carbon monoxide detector in the home.

Or you could have developed a sensitivity to the carcinogens in burning wood or the fireplace may be putting our NO2 or another aggravating or dangerous gas. This sensitivity is very common. Some people have bought Chimney Balloons just to seal off the chimney from their homes interior air. The passive exposure of their inside air to the creosote, soot and other contaminants in the chimney residue bother them even without the fire.

I do have one other questions for you though…what type of wood do you generally burn and how long have you tried it for? – Jason