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Does Your Chimney Make Your Nose Wrinkle?

The Types of Odors That Come from a Chimney


Anyone who has a fireplace in their home knows that they will occasionally deal with odors coming from their chimney. This can be an annoyance, but it is not something that must be tolerated. Understanding where the odors come from is the first step to eliminating them and enjoying the fireplace without unpleasant odors. However, this can be tricky since there are a variety of factors that can contribute to chimney odors.

Chimney Odor - South GA, North FL - Homestead Chimney Service

Chimney Odor – South GA, North FL – Homestead Chimney Service

In many cases, the odor in a chimney is caused by creosote, a combination of chemicals that is left behind after wood or coal burns in the fireplace. If creosote is the culprit, the smell will be very similar to the smell of a burning fire, but it will occur even when there has not been a fire in the fireplace for some time. In the summertime, the combination of humidity and air conditioning can intensify this smell and allow it to spread throughout the home. In order to avoid this, it is a good idea to have the chimney cleaned as a part of the spring-cleaning routine.

Other times, the smell coming from the chimney will be one that is distinctly of smoke, even long after there has been a fire burning. Many people who have this smell in their homes notice that it is worse when it has been raining or very windy. This is because the damp weather intensifies the odor of normal fireplace debris, such as soot and ash. The best way to avoid this is by having a rain cap installed, which will help keep the moisture out of the chimney.

One of the most unpleasant situations is to have a rotting smell coming from the chimney and the fireplace. This is almost always the sign of something decaying and it could range from simply dead leaves and plant matter to the debris of animals that have set up their homes in the chimney. If there is a rotting smell coming from the chimney, it is best to hire a chimney sweep to look into the problem. If it is, in fact, the result of animals living in the chimney, untrained homeowners could put themselves in danger by trying to remove the animals on their own. A chimney sweep will be able to take care of the problem, whatever it is, efficiently and safely.

All chimneys create odors when they have been used but the smell usually goes outside of the house instead of in. If it is working the opposite way, it may be that there is negative air pressure in the chimney. There can be many causes, but in many cases, it is because of home improvements that have impacted the air pressure. Oncoming storms may also cause a “flow reversal” of pressure, causing the smells to come through the fireplace. The best way to prevent this is to keep the damper closed. This may be a change in venting, the installation of new windows or fans or weatherization of the home. In order to solve the problem of negative air pressure, it is necessary to first identify the change to the home that has created it.

There are a few simple tips homeowners can follow to control the odors that come from their chimneys. One simple solution is to close the fireplace damper when it is not in use, keeping odors out of the home. Using glass screens can also be an effective way of keeping all smoke and odors where they belong. If combustion appliances are used in the home, be sure to set up outside combustion and avoid the issue of negative air pressure. Of course, a chimney cap is also an effective way of avoiding many sources of chimney odors, from rain to animals.

Some chimney odors can become such an issue that people avoid using their fireplaces all together. Instead of denying the family the pleasure of a warm fire during cold months, simply take steps to avoid chimney odors. They come from a variety of different places, from the air pressure to debris in the chimney, so it is important to properly identify the culprit before coming up with a plan of attack. Hiring a professional sweep can make life a lot easier on the homeowner by answering these questions more quickly…and with an eye toward the care of the chimney and your own well-being.