Fireplace and chimney odors can come from a variety of different sources. Fireplace odors usually occur because of a buildup of creosote, grime and soot. Chimney odors may develop from creosote deposits or even a dead animal in your chimney, but the real cause is air flowing down the chimney and into your home. This is a sign that you may have a negative air pressure issue within your house. It is a typical problem of an airtight, energy efficient house. As the air flows down the chimney this allows the smells to infiltrate the house. Regular fireplace and chimney cleaning can greatly reduce the unwanted odors.
Your negative pressure problems can be caused by:
- Inefficient damper closures.
- New furnace, boiler, and/or water heater.
- New windows and/or doors.
- Home additions.
- A change in your roofing ventilation (attic fan).
- Stove range exhaust fans.
- Dryer vent exhausts.
- A neighboring structure’s height increase.
We understand that a fireplace can be both a source of warmth, and a source of comfort at all times in the year. Though, whenever you begin to forget to take care of your fireplace and chimney by performing the standard necessary maintenance, it can lead to severe problems for your home. The most annoying of all problems, which also tends to be the most difficult to solve, is odor problems.
Issues Caused By Creosote
There are a few main causes of most all odor problems that are coming from your chimney. One such odor source is the wood you burn. An incomplete and incorrect combustion of oils inside of the wood occurs when you burn wood at too low of a temperature, which effectively released those oils into the smoke as volatiles. The air at the top of your chimney is significantly cooler than the air at the base near the fire, so as the smoke rises, it cools, causing the water, carbon, and the volatiles inside of the smoke to group themselves together onto the surfaces of the bricks exposed in the chimney. This is a material more commonly known as creosote, and while it groups together inside of your chimney, it begins to restrict the airflow down your chimney to your fire, which then forces it to burn at a low temperature, which then ads to the production of creosote. This problem is one that could easily escalate given the chance, and it should be solved quickly to prevent the possibility of a chimney fire occurring. It is understandable that creosote is the primary cause of all residential chimney fires. Creosote is also able to make your entire chimney unstable, because of it’s high acidity, it has been known to erode the mortar in-between bricks and effectively separate them from each other. The simplest way to handle creosote problems is to make sure your chimney stays clean.
Over time if you do not have your chimney professionally swept, the creosote on the inside of your chimney flue may be absorbed into the porous surface of the bricks and mortar, allowing the creosote residue to transfer the odor to the whole length of the inside of your chimney. The damage done to your bricks during this process is often irreversible, so the only way to ensure that the odor is removed is to completely reconstruct your chimneys. Even if you have your chimney swept by a trained and certified technician, it will only be able to remove the creosote from the top layer of the bricks, leaving behind the residue built up inside of your bricks and mortar. Having your chimney professionally swept is the only sure way to make sure that your chimney will remain completely free of odor problems. To ensure all of the creosote inside of your chimney is completely removed, everyone of our technicians will perform an inspection both before and after the sweep to make sure there was nothing missed. Being that it’s a carcinogen, creosote can cause just as much damage to you and your family as it can your chimney and fireplace.
Animals are also a known cause of chimney odors. Often times they can nest and live inside of your chimney for prolonged periods of time without anyone becoming aware that they’re there. And during the summer months, when you very rarely use your chimney and fireplace, it’s even easier to not notice them there. And when those months fade, and the colder ones set in, they will be looking for a warm area to stay away from the cold, just like your chimney. But when you attempt to light a fire in your fireplace below, the animals that are typically nested in the lower portions of the chimney will often not make it out. This will without doubt cause even more serious problems in your home, because of the decomposing bodies that would be left behind. Even if they are able to leave, if they were living inside for any length of time, the fecal matter they left behind will surely begin to cause odor problems within your home, especially when you ignite a fire.
While there are multiple animals capable of accomplishing this, the ones most often seen are chimney swifts and raccoons. And while any animal living inside of your chimney can pose both a health and safety issue, if you have chimney swifts, or any other bird nesting inside of your chimney, not only is your chimney’s health in danger, but also your family’s. The reason behind this, is the chance of histoplasmosis, a serious and sometimes life threatening disease that comes from a bacteria named ‘Histoplasma Capsulatum’, which is found inside of materials that have had bird droppings on top of them. Since their droppings are proven to be a transmitter of this harsh disease, chimney swifts and all other birds should not be welcomed in your chimney.
Issues Involving Improper Draft
An improper draft can take an odor problem present in your chimney, whether it’s from an animal problem or a creosote build up, and effectively multiply it. When the air from outside your home flows down your chimney, it brings the smell of inside your chimney along with it. An expected reason for an improper draft to occur in a home is that the air inside is warmer than the air outside. While the warm air inside of your home escapes through various locations in your home, whether it be through doors or windows, or cracks in the ceiling, the air that is on it’s way out is replaced by air from outside your home, that comes down from your chimney. The most effective solution to stop a draft from ever happening, and to also prevent the odor from coming into your home, is to just stop the air from coming in from your chimney. This can effectively be done by adding a lock-top damper to your chimney, which will allow the top of your chimney to open and close, by pulling a switch inside of your fireplace. This means that you will be able to keep your chimney closed while it’s not in use, but when you’d like to start a fire below, simply open the top, and allow the smoke to exit safely. This will also stop animals and other miscellaneous materials from entering into your chimney while the top is closed. If you would like to start a fire, it’s so easy to just open up the chimney top before hand before you start your fire, allowing the smoke to safely exit your home. While this won’t remove any of the creosote that may be inside of your chimney, it will effectively prevent excess odor from coming inside of your home.
If there is a specific question you have about any odor problems, or any other the other services we offer for that matter, contact us at 888-565-0124 and we will help you with any information you need regarding your specific situation. All of our office staff are highly knowledgeable when it comes to dealing with chimney problems of any size, and they will surely be able to answer any questions that you may have. Odor problems can be the first sign of more severe problems like an animal infestation, or eroding creosote, so don’t wait any longer, call a professional as soon as the problem arises. If you would rather contact us through our website, you can use the contact form on the contact us page, or if you prefer to call in, we’re available to help every day of the week. The most effective way to ensure that no chimney odor problems arise, is by simply having an annual chimney sweep performed, so call The Fireplace Doctor of and make your appointment at 888-565-0124 today!
By installing an Hurricane Proof Energy Efficient Lock Top Damper, this greatly minimizes the airflow coming down the chimney. A true understanding of fireplaces requires vast knowledge of airflow patterns, pressure differentials, and fireplace construction techniques. Our ACA certified chimney sweeps are just the right people to assess your chimney, determine the origin of your odor problems, and prescribe for you a remedy. The Fireplace Doctor is in and ready to help. Give us a call.