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What’s that Smell? Fireplace Odor Causes and Solutions

Updated: Jan 6, 2023

The smell of a burning fire is a welcomed scent on a cold New England night. But after using your hearth all winter, the hot, steamy days of summer can cause your fireplace to really stink. The CCP-certified professionals at Admiralty Chimney explain the cause of these foul odors and how to manage them.

Why does my fireplace smell?

One of the primary reasons your fireplace reeks in hot weather is from a combination of moisture and creosote (a tar-like byproduct of wood burning) that has saturated your chimney during heavy winter use. Creosote absorbs into the porous masonry construction inside your chimney, creating fireplace smells beyond the masonry’s surface. When warm, humid outside air enters the flue, it reacts with the acidity of the creosote. The result is a stench that can infiltrate your entire home.

Animal nests, trapped critters, built-up leaves and debris, and water within your chimney can also cause an unpleasant smell. And like creosote, these odors will intensify with summer’s heavy rains and high humidity levels.

What can I do to get rid of the smell?

Because there are a number of reasons why your system has an odor, start by scheduling a professional chimney inspection to determine the underlying cause or causes of the smell. After a thorough assessment your technician will devise a plan to eradicate those odors. When your fireplace isn’t in use, close the glass doors and damper to minimize the smell from seeping into your living space. You can manage future odors by performing regular chimney care including:

  • Repairing your masonry. All masonry chimneys are porous, allowing water to penetrate the surface. Professional masonry repair will fix cracks, leaks, and mortar damage, eliminating the number of entry spots for water to creep in.

  • Waterproofing your chimney. One of the most effective ways to put a barrier between moisture and your masonry is to have it professionally waterproofed. When applied correctly, the waterproof barrier will be effective for 10 years.

  • Scheduling professional cleanings and inspections. We recommend annual chimney cleanings and inspections to check for damage and deposits. If you use your chimney frequently, it may need to be cleaned more often, as excessive creosote buildup can lead to a chimney fire.

  • Removing ashes at the end of the season. You don’t have to remove ashes after every fire, but do need to shovel them out at the end of the season. Be sure to use a non-flammable container to dispose of the ashes.

  • Installing a chimney cap. Caps are an essential tool for your chimney. They keep moisture at bay and prevent drafts and odors from finding their way down your chimney. Chimney caps also prevent critters from turning your chimney into their nesting spot (and possibly their final resting place).

Chimney Cleaning, Inspection, Service, and Repair in NH and MA

Summer is a great time to schedule your annual chimney cleaning and safety inspection. We’ll clean and assess the condition of your system so you can be ready for the cool days of fall. Contact us today for your appointment.

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