When you build a fire in your fireplace, and you notice your house getting a bit smokey, you may have one of two problems.
1. You are reloading too early.
That's right! It's best to wait until the wood burns down to coals before opening the doors and reloading your firewood.
2. You have a screen instead of glass doors for your fireplace opening.
The simple solution is to install or have installed glass doors for your fireplace opening. It also comes with the added bonuses of beauty and increased warmth due to more radiant heat filling your home instead of going up the chimney!
Just remember to keep those fireplace doors clean, because you lose heating efficiency with the more soot build up that you allow.
Sometimes smokiness from your fireplace can be caused by back puffing and in that case you would want to call in a reputable professional to help you assess the reason for your fireplace's back puffing problems. Most of the time it will probably be a simple solution, such as decreasing the size of your fireplace interior in correlation to the size of your flue. Metal inserts can be purchased to deal with this problem. However, the best solution of all is probably to install or have installed a special exhaust fan for the top of your chimney. It will make sure that no smoke escapes into your home. Unfortunately, this is the most costly solution to a fireplace's back puffing problem.
There is also the possibility that between you and your neighbors, who also have fireplaces, that you may be experiencing a problem with poor window and door seals. If your home is not well sealed, smoke will get into your house from the outside, and that can cause various problems, none the least of which is the discomfort factor.
A fireplace with a back puffing problem can be very dangerous because it can allow deadly (scentless) carbon monoxide to build up in your home. So make sure you deal with this problem before it deals with you!
Also, remember to have your chimney and fireplace inspected, cleaned and otherwise maintained at least once a year if you don't use your fireplace that often and twice a year or more if you use your fireplace a great deal of the time or it is the main source of your household heating.
When I was a kid, my dad would simply replace the pipes for our wood-burning stoves and that was a fairly simple solution to any smokiness we experienced. Although, I do remember a time when the whole house filled up with smoke (must have been just before the first time he changed out our pipes) and I went to school the next day smelling of bar-b-que. Yes, there were a few hungry guys with bottles of bar-b-que sauce following me around that day. ;-)
Just remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, especially when dealing with something as potentially dangerous as fire and smoke.
Keep your fires well contained and well maintained for the safety of all in your home and you can expect to enjoy your fireplace or other wood-burning units for years to come.
Have any tips you'd like to add? I'd love to read all about it in the comments!