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What’s That Smell Coming from My Fireplace?

Smell Coming From FireplaceThe aroma of burning wood is relaxing when there is a fire burning in your favorite fireplace. Few of us like the campfire-like smell of a fireplace after the fire has died down. When a fireplace is not in use, these odors from the chimney should not be wafting into the room. Chimneys are designed to vent smells to the outdoors. While all fireplaces have lingering smoke odors, if these smells are drifting into your home it means that something is effecting the airflow in your chimney. If you are suffering from a smelly fireplace, it is most likely because of one of these 5 reasons.

1. Debris

Leaves, small sticks and other kinds of debris can collect in the top of the chimney. Along with stanching the flow of air out of your chimney, the debris may begin to smell like rot as leaves and other organic material decompose. A professional chimney sweep will be able to quickly resolve this problem by cleaning out the debris. It would be smart to invest in a chimney cap to prevent further debris from collecting in your chimney.

2. Dead Animals or Scat

Animal-related smells are another common cause of a smelly fireplace that can be prevented by a chimney cap. Birds, bats, snakes and other small animals have all been known to nest in chimneys. The stench of a dead animal or animal droppings is frequently the cause of chimney odors. If you believe that you have animals nesting in your chimney, don’t risk getting bit by a wild animal. Call on a professional chimney sweep. We are trained to deal with these situations and have experience removing animal nests.

Chimney SwiftsIf you have a federally protected animal nesting in your chimney, such as a Chimney Swift, removal of the nest will not be immediately possible unless the animal is dead. When a Chimney Swift is nesting in your chimney, the best option is to wait until the swift has moved on. Some people have success installing a fake chimney in their yard that is designed for Chimney Swifts so that it can nest there instead. Once the animal has left your chimney, a chimney cap should be installed to prevent it from nesting there again the following year.

3. Moisture

Is the smell coming down your chimney musty? If so, the odor may be caused by excess moisture in your chimney. When moisture combines with creosote it can produce a strong smell, especially in the heat of the summer time. This is usual the warning sign of a bigger problem. Too much moisture in your chimney can cause more serious problems than a strong odor. It can rust the damper causing it to malfunction or result in serious structural damage to your chimney and flue lining. To determine the extent of the problem and eliminate the source of the odor, contact a professional chimney sweeps. If caught early, the solution may be as simple as adding a rain cap or waterproofing the chimney.

4. Creosote and Soot Deposits

Creosote and soot are byproducts of burning fuel that build up in chimneys. Both can look flaky or powdery. As creosote accumulates it can become a tar-like substance that is highly combustible. Buildup of creosote and soot can smell like asphalt or an unappetizing barbeque. Eventually, this buildup can block the opening of your chimney if it is not regularly cleaned out. Professional chimney sweeps have the equipment to clean these combustible materials out of your chimney. Along with reducing your chimney’s odors, removing the buildup of soot and creosote helps to prevent a chimney fire.

5. Negative Air Pressure

Smoky ChimneyEven the best chimney sweep can’t eliminate all odors from your chimney. Soot and creosote seep into the masonry, leaving behind a smell even after they have been removed. If your chimney is functioning properly, these odors will drift outside. If your home has negative air pressure, a reserve draft is created that draws these odors into your home. When you still smell a strong odor from your fireplace after your chimney has been cleaned, it is a good indicator that your home has negative air pressure.

Alterations to your home such as remodeling, weatherizing and adding a venting system can all result in negative air pressure. When a home is too tightly sealed, it will draw air from other places. A chimney often provides the least resistance.  There are a few ways that you can prevent this reverse draft from drawing odors into your home:

  • When your fireplace is not in use, keep the damper closed. If your damper does not seal tightly, the problem may still occur.
  • At the top of your chimney, have a top sealing damper installed. This can help a great deal but be sure to open it when you use your fireplace.
  • Have glass doors installed on your fireplace.
  • Vent combustion appliances to outside air to reduce the imbalance of air pressure.

We understand how unpleasant chimney odors can be. Hopefully, this guide will help you to find the right solution. If you are looking for a knowledgeable and experienced chimney sweep to answer your questions or clean out your chimney, contact us today.

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