"Understanding Your Home" by Building Inspector Mark Visser
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Experiment by raising the back hearth with sheet metal and bricks to decrease the fireplace opening and chimney draft. If this experiment works, the back hearth may be raised by firebrick masonry.

Ways to Cure a Smoky Fireplace
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There are several reasons why a fireplace smokes. Simple corrective measures should be tried before more drastic solutions are considered.
Check the chimney for obstructions that can cause backdrafts.
Never operate exhaust fans or central vacuum cleaner when using the fireplace.
Warm the chimney by igniting some crumpled newspaper placed at the damper level, to induce an up-draft.
Start the fire small. Fires started too quickly can spill combustion by-products into the room. Use small amounts of tinder at the back of the hearth until the chimney is well heated.
Raise the hearth. A fireplace opening can be decreased (and the chimney draft improved) by raising the back hearth. This can be done with a sheet of metal supported on bricks. The height can be adjusted by laying the bricks flat, standing them on edge or by adding more bricks. If it works have a permanent cast iron hearth made.
Install a canopy hood. An experimental model can be made of sheet metal. If it helps a permanent metal hood can be build or purchased.

Extend the chimney. There may be a bad draft if the chimney is not high enough. Clamp a temporary sheet metal extension onto the flue and look for improvements.
Trim tall trees, if smoke patterns above the chimney indicate that they are causing downdrafts.

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