What comes to mind when you think of your fireplace? maybe you think of comfort warmth and great times with your family and friends so when your fireplace starts to have strange fireplace odors it can be a bit disappointing and all of a sudden you don’t enjoy your fireplace anymore because the smell is reminding you that you have a fireplace every time you walk in that room and your not even using it, this guide will help you take back your hame from those pesky fireplace odors so you can have your house back.
Fireplace smells can be a real problem, and these fireplace odors can come in different forms like the smell of creosote or a musty smell or maybe even smells like an ashtray then it’s time to take action, so continue reading to see exactly how you can eliminate fireplace odors.
Why does my fireplace smell bad?
If you are having trouble with a smelly chimney then you are in the right place, let’s look at 6 things that can cause your fireplace to stink, and then we will talk about the most effective solutions.
1. Why does my fireplace smell like creosote?
If your fireplace or wood burning stove smells like a barbecue that hasn’t been cleaned in years, or maybe it smells like you just asphalted your driveway then you have a significant amount of creosote or soot build up in your chimney.
Creosote is collected on the insides of your chimney flue as smoke rises, it is the byproduct of burned wood, Creosote is highly flammable because it can become a tar-like substance on the inside of your chimney and we all know that tar is very flammable and has a strong odor.
The solution It is impossible to stop creosote or soot from forming in your flue you can only slow it down during your burn season or make it less flammable and reduce its odor by burning firewood that has been properly seasoned to no more than 20% moisture content or use creosote removing chemicals, and these two methods will only partially control the amount of creosote and soot, and this will make a difference in fireplace odors that come from creosote.
Having your chimney cleaned and inspected is the best way to eliminate fireplace odors and keep them under control, but if you use your fireplace a lot consider having it cleaned twice a year once in the fall and again right after December or the first part of the new year.
2. Why does my fireplace smell like leaves?
If you live near any trees you may have this problem, leaves can blow around your yard, on your roof, and fall right into your chimney, something else that can cause leaves or twigs to get into your chimney are birds they are constantly looking for new places to nest and commonly they choose a chimney because it is warm and gives them protection from the elements.
So if leaves and twigs get inside your chimney that will start to decompose and rot, and making a terrible earthy odor.
The solution is number one make sure you have no tree branches near the top of your chimney that could fall inside and cause a blockage and start to smell.
The second idea is simple too and very effective, if you don’t have a chimney cap buy one that’s the best fix for this problem, but don’t just buy any chimney cap buy one that is stainless steel and has a mesh screen on it to stop any birds or animals from getting inside your chimney.
Third, you can have your chimney cleaned and inspected by a professional chimney sweep, remember when they come to clean your fireplace ask them to make sure that nothing is left above the damper, that’s where most leaves and twigs will collect.
3. Can fireplace ash make my house smell?
Fireplace ashes can definitely make your house smell, depending on the type of wood you are burning or if moisture has gotten in to your firebox causing it to have a musty smell, for the most part ashes are not a big problem for most people.
The solution, If you clean your ashes out of your fireplace at least once a month you can reduce fireplace odors drastically, you can even brush the side and back walls of your fireplace to get rid of some possible soot and creosote, to do this task I recommend buying a small shop vac with a HEPA dust filter, this way you don’t have to wait till your chimney sweep comes for his annual visit to let him clean them out.
Something else that can help reduce the smell of ashes is if you have fireplace doors you can try and leave them closed when it’s not in use.
Another great remedy for fireplace odors is to put a dish or jar of baking soda inside your fireplace or wood-burning stove, this will help neutralize any smells, a few dishes of vinegar inside and around the hearth will also do the trick.
4. Water can also cause your fireplace odors
Musty fireplace odors in chimneys are very common, what it means is that water or snow got in and is making the dry creosote or soot in your chimney wet and this causes a terrible musty tar smell that will travel through your house, and if it gets bad enough you will even see black water droplets falling in to the floor of your firebox, water will also affect your metal damper causing it to rust then start to smell of rust.
The solution Again a chimney cap will make the difference and you wont have to worry about water or snow getting in again, make sure to buy one that is stainless steel so it doesn’t rust and and it will stand the test of time, some chimney caps come with what is called a lock top damper and basically its a damper in the cap that seals your chimney from the elements and you wont lose and heat ether so you will even save on energy costs by installing one.
5. Negative air pressure in a fireplace chimney
Negative air pressure is a big problem even in new homes, most new home are so airtight that a hood vent or bathroom exhaust fan, or even a furnace can cause a downdraft in your chimney brining cold air into your home through the chimney using it as a vent for the home, air that is taken out of a home needs to be made up from somewhere.
So the problem is even if you have your chimney cleaned regularly, there is always some creosote or soot that sits in your chimney and the downdraft brings that smell right into your home.
Sometimes people feel a lot of air rushing in and they know they have a downdraft in their chimney but others don’t know or aren’t sure how to tell, one thing that can do to check if you have a slight downdraft is by putting your hand inside the upper part of your firebox and feeling for cold air or a slight movement of air, and if you do feel air movement then you have some movement inside your chimney causing the problem.
The solution, there are many things inside your home that can cause a negative pressure problem and this is also the most complicated problem in the list to remedy, it may take some trial and error.
Something that can work well is keeping your damper and fireplace doors closed when its not in use, also if you don’t have door you could have some aftermarket ones installed.
If your downdraft problem is extreme and it is bringing a lot of fireplace odors you might want to call a professional energy auditor that can find exactly where your problem is in the house, if its the furnace, the hood vent on your stove, or even just a bathroom exhaust they can find it and give you a solution.
The chimney safety institute of america (CSAI) has more info about the cause of negative pressure in a home.
6. Why does my chimney smell like an animal?
This a common smell, if an animal has left dropping in your chimney or a bird or bat that was trying to get some warmth at the top of the chimney got to much fireplace smoke and falls inside and dies, from time to time a raccoon, will try and make its home inside your chimney and then can’t get back out causing it to die inside.
The Solution, first if your fireplace odors are coming from an animal call a chimney sweep right away to have it removed safely and have your chimney cleaned and inspected also if you don’t have a chimney cap ask your chimney sweep to bring one and have them put it on, just make sure its stainless steel and has a mesh screen.
Conclusion about fireplace odors
So let’s recap to remember a few things to control fireplace odors, the most important preventative measure you can take is having your chimney cleaned and inspected every year, The second is to buy a stainless steel chimney cap, this will save you time and money for years to come, and third burn clean using only hardwoods if possible in your area and make sure you season it properly.
I really appreciate that you have taken the time to read my blog and hope that the information has been informative, if you would like to share it with a friend or on social media you can touch the icons on the left side of the post, and if you have any questions you can leave a comment or email me below
Have a wonderful day