You probably already know that if you close the damper in your fireplace while a fire is burning in the grate, your home will soon be filled with smoke. If you've been keeping the damper properly opened and are still experiencing smoke problems, you are probably confused about the cause. Following are five strategies that can help ensure that your indoor living space doesn't fill up with smoke when you try to enjoy a fire in your fireplace.

Eliminate Creosote Buildup

Creosote is smoke that has condensed on the interior walls of the chimney to form a tar-like substance. Too much creosote buildup can narrow the passageway to the extent that the smoke can't freely escape, causing it to flow back down into the house. You should have your chimney inspected and cleaned at least once per year by a qualified chimney sweep in order to keep creosote buildup and other possible chimney problems at bay. Creosote is also a highly flammable substance that is the cause of many chimney fires.

Burn Seasoned Firewood

Seasoned firewood is wood that has been allowed to dry out for a period of time. Different types of wood require different seasoning lengths, but in general, softwoods such as conifers take less time to season because their wood isn't as dense as that of hardwoods like oak, ash, and maple. Ideally, the wood that you burn in your fireplace should have a moisture content of less than 20 percent. Wood that is too wet will create an abundance of smoke, some of which will drift back into your home interior, and an abundance of smoke will also contribute to creosote buildup on the inside of your chimney. If you don't have space on your property to provide a well-ventilated, covered area that is off the ground to use to season your firewood, purchase seasoned wood from a trusted local source.

Don't Operate Fans While a Fire is Burning

Many modern homeowners erroneously believe that turning on fans will help to circulate the heat generated by the fireplace through the rest of the house. However, this practice mainly distributes the smoke produced by the fire rather than the heat -- it creates a draft that moves the smoke right out of the fireplace before it's got a chance to go up the chimney. To get the most out of the fire burning in your fireplace, pull some chairs up close with friends and family on a chilly winter night and enjoy the fire's warmth and glow.

Have a Specialty Chimney Cap Installed

You should have a chimney cap on your chimney anyway to prevent leaks; debris; and birds, animals, and insects from accessing your chimney. However, if you're experiencing interior smoke as a result of downdrafts coming down your chimney, you should speak with a chimney sweep service about the possibility of installing a specialty chimney cap that has been created to prevent downdrafts from going down your chimney. This is ideal for homes in windy locations that are not protected by natural windbreaks such as trees and tall buildings.

Have a Smoke Guard Installed

Smoke guards are good solutions for older homes in cold climate areas where drafts are inevitable, but they shouldn't take the place of other precautions, such as making certain that the chimney walls are free of creosote buildup or making a point of burning only firewood that has been properly seasoned. Although you can purchase smoke guards from home improvement retailers, it's advisable to have a chimney sweep service like Early Times Home Solutions come to the house and make certain that the device is fitted properly and that it's working the way it is supposed to.