What to Do When You Smell Chimney Odors
Having a chimney can be a great addition to a home but the smells they sometimes emit can be extremely unpleasant. There are many different things that may cause chimney odors, from animals living within the chimney to creosote that has built up on the chimney walls. Whatever the cause, there are a few things that every homeowner should do if they notice a strange and unpleasant odor coming from their chimney. Anything that can cause an odor can be identified with an inspection.
As soon as noticeable odors start coming from the chimney, it is important to stop using the chimney immediately. There are some causes of chimney odors, such as creosote, that can actually cause a fire hazard in addition to a smell. Until the cause of the odor has been determined, it is best to avoid the risk of a flame getting out of control by ceasing to use the fireplace at all. In many cases, the problem will have a quick fix and a fire can be enjoyed again soon.
The next step is to do a basic cleaning of the fireplace and the surrounding area. For example, make sure that there is not any excess ash or debris inside of the fireplace. A small amount of ash is fine for purposes of insulation, but too much can be dangerous as well as unpleasant. In addition, debris could be an indicator of what is causing the issue. For example, moisture could cause a smell but it could also cause brick and clay to fall from the chimney.
If a smell starts coming from the chimney, stop and look at what is being burned in the fireplace. Only material that is intended for the fireplace, such as coal or properly seasoned wood, should be used to make a fire. Burning other material may be the source of the smell that comes from the fireplace or chimney. Not only will it smell bad, but this could also cause potential damage to the chimney as well as a dangerous flame.
There are a few simple habits that every homeowner should establish in order to keep their chimney from producing unwanted odors. Perhaps the most important is making sure that the damper is closed when the fireplace is not in use. This prevents normal chimney odors from blowing into the house and through the air of the living space. This is a simple fix that may take care of unwanted odors for good.
If the problem is not immediately apparent or if it requires a thorough cleaning of the chimney, it is important to call a professional chimney sweep. A chimney sweep will have the tools and the know how to take care of the issue quickly, safely, and efficiently. Trying to clean the chimney can be dangerous for an inexperienced person, both because of potential animals or chemicals and because of the necessity to climb on the roof. To avoid the problem in the first place, consider having an annual cleaning by a chimney sweep.
If there is an unpleasant smell coming from the chimney, the safety of the home and everyone in it should be the first priority. Until the cause of the odor can be determined and fixed, stop using the fireplace and chimney immediately. The problem may require a simple solution, such as closing the damper, or it may be more complicated. In this case, contact a professional chimney sweep instead of attempting to make it a DIY project.