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Help! My Chimney Stinks

In spite of all that goes on inside it, your fireplace and chimney should be virtually odorless. In addition, the room in which your fireplace or stove is located should not have a smoky, campfire-like smell either. In fact, the presence of an unpleasant smell—or of any smoke inside your living space—almost always indicates that your chimney requires some professional attention. In other words, if your chimney stinks to high heaven, it’s your chimney’s way of telling you that it’s sick.

If handing out clothespins to visitors isn't an option, getting that smelly fireplace looked at should be a top priority!

If handing out clothespins to visitors isn’t an option, getting that smelly fireplace looked at should be a top priority!

Homestead Chimney serves customers throughout south Georgia and north Florida, many of whom complain of chimney odors, especially during the hot summer months when their chimneys are essentially left to bake and the humidity mixes with the contents of the chimney, releasing the smells from years of fires.

What’s Causing My Fireplace to Stink?

We often recommend starting the chimney odor removal process with a good chimney sweeping. Otherwise attempting odor removal is a lost cause—like putting perfume on an unbathed person. By having your chimney cleaned, you’ll be removing all the built-up creosote that has accumulated. Creosote, which is a byproduct of burning wood, is usually what creates that strong smoky smell.

Still other people say they detect a musty, mildew smell. This type of smell tells us that water is getting inside your chimney and that water damage may have occurred. In addition, the propagation of mold inside your chimney can be a detriment to your family’s health. There are many ways Homestead Chimney can keep water out of your chimney in the future, including installing a chimney cap or top-sealing damper and waterproofing your chimney’s exterior.

If your chimney is drawing smoky smells directly into your living space this is a pretty good indication that your chimney has a drafting problem, which may be caused by a blockage or by an improperly sized chimney.

Lastly, animals and birds may have nested inside your chimney and become trapped there. If you think you smell a dead animal inside your chimney, a professional chimney sweep will be able to remove it, deodorize the area, and equip your chimney with the necessary components to keep animals out in the future.

For more information on deodorizing your chimney and preventing future odors, contact us today.

The Science of Combustion

Both chemistry and physics play a part in the burning process of your chimney. If something is “off,” there could be very serious consequences for your home and family. Here is an overview.

Burning happens with the presence of three main ingredients: fuel, heat and oxygen. This is known as the fire triangle.

Burning happens with the presence of three main ingredients: fuel, heat and oxygen. This is known as the fire triangle.

 

 

 

 

Keep Water Out

Our chimneys are probably one of the most taken-for-granted parts of our homes.  It’s one of those things that often remain out of sight and out of mind.  We enjoy sitting by a blazing fire during the winter months, we keep the fireplace and hearth clean, and we even hire a professional to periodically come out and clean the inside of the chimney; however, not very many of us give much thought to keeping our chimney’s exterior in tiptop shape.  If you’re guilty of this, don’t be ashamed.  It’s time to look at the condition your chimney is in, get it repaired if necessary, and coat it with a chimney-waterproofing product.

When rain is not diverted from your chimney, it can wreak havoc on your masonry. This is, without a doubt, a safety issue.

When rain is not diverted from your chimney, it can wreak havoc on your masonry. This is, without a doubt, a safety issue.

The materials used to build most masonry chimneys experience hastened deterioration as a result of prolonged exposure to and contact with water.  The freezing and thawing process—during which time water that has penetrated the various chimney materials freezes and expands—quickly deteriorates the overall construction of your chimney.

Water in your chimney can also cause rust on steel and cast iron parts, ultimately weakening or destroying them.  The exterior of your chimney is constantly getting battered from the weather.  Harsh weather conditions can have a negative effect on your chimney.  In addition, when water mixes with the creosote that is often present in a wood-burning fireplace, it will generate an extremely unpleasant odor that can fill your entire home.  All of these things combined greatly compromise the overall structure of your chimney as a whole.  By waterproofing the chimney, it will repel damp elements—snow and rain—rather than allow them to penetrate the brick or other materials.

As you can see, there are many issues that can develop as a result of water being on and getting in to your chimney, and, as such, swift and immediate action should be taken to ensure that you’re not faced with unnecessary and avoidable repairs bills.  Remember though, waterproofing is only a preventive measure.  If your chimney is already damaged (i.e., it has gaps, voids, cracks, missing mortar, etc.), it should be repaired before any waterproofing agent is applied.  Your chimney’s exterior may also need to be cleaned by a chimneyprofessional before the waterproofing material can be applied.  However, taking all of these steps can help confirm that both the water outside won’t enter your house through thechimney and you are able to enjoy your fireplace for many years to come.

Choosing the Right Firewood

 

Sweater weather will be here before you know it, which means it is almost time for building fires. Is there anything better on a cold winter night than sitting in front of a roaring fire relaxing? However, before you start tossing logs into the flames, you want to make sure you are using the best firewood. So, what constitutes good firewood and bad firewood?

Use Dry Wood - South GA, North FL - Homestead Chimney

Use Dry Wood – South GA, North FL – Homestead Chimney

Ideally, firewood should be solid (not half rotted), as it will burn longer and create more BTUs while it is burning. This is why oak is the favored wood of choice. Oak trees take much longer to grow than other trees, which is what gives it a better structure, especially for burning in fires. Other woods can be used, but they will burn more quickly and that cost does add up over the course of the season.

In addition to burning more rapidly, woods like cherry and pine will also pop when they burn. Cherry is a semi hardwood, many like due to the fragrance, don’t know about popping….popping is usually relative to knots, cat faces, and other areas of highly concentrated fuel storage exploding, sometimes sending the knot into orbit. Not only will this startle you, but it can be quite dangerous. Embers can become airborne and if there is no protective screen or the fireplace is out in the open, this could start a fire outside of the fireplace. You should always have a functioning screen to prevent any flying embers.

Before burning any firewood, it should be properly dried. If you bang dry wood together, the sound is crisp, while wet wood sounds muffled. Wood with too much moisture also causes a smokier fire. It also contributes to creosote buildup which is a fire hazard. With as little as 1/8″ being enough to cause a fire, this is an obvious concern.

Here is a great infographic on firewood that visualizes the concept of green wood vs. seasoned wood. Make sure your wood is covered on top, but not on the sides to allow for further drying. It is best when possible to burn with glass doors open and close when not in use or before leaving or going to bed. Glass doors are designed and rated for proper application and misapplication can cause shattering. Ideally, 1/4″ tempered glass is a good material. Choosing the proper firewood means a longer lasting fire, with less smoke and less toxic buildup in your chimney. Now you are ready for cozy nights by the fire.

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.

How You Can Keep Your Home Protected From Fire

Keeping Your Home Safe from Fire

Your home should be a place where everyone feels safe. Even the most attentive homeowners cannot control every variable. This could include; water, a spark, wind, a critter, or a faulty alarm. It can be compounded by creosote, lint, gas, circuit breakers, and batteries. Because it is impossible to take care of all these risks yourself, there are several things you need to do to ensure that your family knows what to do in case of a fire.

Danger Zones

Most house fires start in certain areas of the home; the kitchen, the laundry room, the fireplace – but it is vital to remember that every area of your house is a danger zone. Even though 28% of house fires start in the kitchen, electrical wiring and other household malfunctions can produce an open flame…and that is all it takes.

Open Flames - South GA/North FL - Homestead Chimney Service

Open Flames – South GA/North FL – Homestead Chimney Service

Similarly, outdoor fires are almost always started by carelessness or inattention to the safe use of pits, places, and grills. They are made worse when no one is there to see the spark slip through the screen and onto something flammable. Open fire, regardless of where it is, needs to be watched to prevent it from causing damage.

Oversight and Supervision

The other real damper, the one for your fireplace, should never be closed until a smoldering fire is completely out. There is no way for the smoke to leave your home when you close the damper, so the smoke has to stop first. If you misjudged it, you need operating smoke detectors to alert you to the mistake. There should be a fire alarm on every floor of your home. Batteries should be checked at least once a year.

As for the chimney and dryer vent, both need regular professional cleaning and inspection of their condition. Beyond that, attentiveness to nearby clutter, flammables, and warning signs of problems are where non-professional care makes a difference. Keeping your home safe from fire is a matter of identifying its likely sources and being a responsible homeowner – learning to call in the professionals to confirm your home is as protected as it can be.