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  1. #1
    David Macy's Avatar
    David Macy Guest

    Default Whats that smell!

    I have a question pertaining to my own fireplace.

    It is a masonry wood burning fireplace. I have a cozy grate insert installed and use the fireplace a lot.

    Numerous times the family room where the fireplace is smells of soot. I have a top of chimney damper & the regular damper both closed. There are no ashes at the fire box or ash dump. It does not mater if it is raining/windy/calm it still smells sometimes.

    I have the fireplace cleaned twice a year. I also used a product called anti creosoot as recommended by my chimney specialist as I have some glazing of creosote on the flue & smoke self.

    My glass doors are older. Would replacing the doors help?
    I have used a odor product but it just make the soot smell like vanilla or whatever the odor product is.

    What causes the smell & why. What can I do to eliminate the smell.


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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Rockwall Texas

    Default Re: Whats that smell!


    I found the following on a Google search. It may help you out.


    The Chimney Sweep Online Fireplace, Woodstove, Gas Stove and Barbecue Shop
    Handouts - Smoke Smell In House From Fireplace Chimney

    Smoke Smell In House When Fireplace Not Burning

    "Q: We just bought a newer, tightly built house, and are grappling
    with a rather strange problem with our fireplace. We might expect to
    smell a little smoke when we have a fire going, but we don't. We
    notice a strong smoke smell that comes from the fireplace when we're
    NOT using it. We had the chimney cleaned and it didn't help (maybe our
    Sweep didn't do a good job?). Do you have you any idea why our
    fireplace smells so smokey, and what can we do about it?

    A: Wood-burning fireplace chimneys smell smokey whether they've just
    been swept or not, because no matter how thoroughly your Sweep brushes
    the flue, he can't possibly remove every trace of soot and soaked-in
    creosote. Even if he were able to sand-blast every microscopic remnant
    of wood smoke deposits out of the flue, the very first wood fire would
    deposit a fresh layer, and the pungeant, smokey odor would return. So
    the real question isn't why your fireplace smells smokey: the question
    is, why is the odor entering your house?"


    "The biggest air pathway to the outside in most houses is the
    fireplace chimney. A fireplace chimney can allow airflow in both
    directions. When in use, a fireplace chimney is a powerful evacuating
    force: the chimney updraft created by an open fireplace fire can move
    hundreds of cubic feet of air per minute out of the house, in many
    cases more air than the other pathways combined can supply! This is
    why you don't smell the smokey odor when a fire is burning in the
    fireplace: it is only when the fire dies down, and the updraft
    diminishes to the point where evacuation from other sources overcomes
    it, that the airflow in the fireplace flue reverses and the odor

    So what other forces are evacuating air from the house, causing makeup
    air to be pulled in through the fireplace chimney? At any given
    moment, a combination of evacuating forces might be at work. Some are
    mechanical, as is the case with exhaust fans and clothes dryers. Some
    are from natural causes, as when the wind blowing against the house
    creates positive pressure on the windward side and negative pressure
    on the leeward side. Some are thermal, like the rising exhaust gases
    in woodstove, furnace or water heater flues.

    Another example of thermal evacuation is the so-called "stack effect".
    Heated air has lower density than cold air, so the warm, buoyant air
    in your house wants to rise through the roof, and the cold, heavy air
    in your unused fireplace chimney wants to flow downward into the
    house. If there are pathways in the upper stories or roof to allow the
    rising room air to escape, the warm air will flow up and out of the
    house and replacement air will flow down the chimney and in through
    the fireplace. The stack effect is more pronounced in taller, leakier
    houses and in houses with cold chimneys (like chimneys on outside
    walls, exposed to outdoor temperatures for their entire length). Rainy
    weather also accelerates the stack effect, because the wet air
    entering the chimney is heavier than the dry air in the house.
    Whatever the cause, whenever air travels to the outside of the house,
    an equivalent amount of air attempts to enter somewhere to replace it.
    If the chimney offers the path of least resistance for the makeup
    airflow, the smokey smell of wood creosote will enter the house along
    with the replacement air.

    What can you do to stop your house from using the fireplace chimney
    for makeup air? All you need to do is create enough resistance to the
    flow of air down the chimney so that the other air pathways will
    provide less resistance to nature's tendency to equalize air pressure
    inside and outside the house. Here's some ideas:

    1) Close the fireplace damper when not in use. This will sometimes do
    the trick, although a damper alone may not provide sufficient flow
    resistance, as most fireplace dampers are pretty leaky.

    2) Add a good, tight-fitting glass firescreen. This will almost always
    solve the problem, and will also inhibit the flow of heated air OUT of
    the chimney when there's a fire going.

    3) Consider a top-sealing damper. These mount at the top of the
    chimney, and are opened and closed via a stainless steel cable running
    down the inside of the flue.

    4) Provide a source of outside combustion air to your other combustion
    appliances. If your gas furnace, oil furnace, woodstove and water
    heater aren't siphoning air out of the house, the demand for
    replacement air will be reduced."


    "Q: Your writeup about the smokey smell from a fireplace makes
    complete sense. I've lived in our house for two years and have had the
    chimney swept both years and have not been able to figure out why it
    is always smoky for a week or two after a fire. Now I am sure it is
    caused by the "stack effect". It is a very old 3 story house. I plan
    on having the [top sealing damper] installed at the top of the chimney
    like suggested."

  3. #3
    David Macy's Avatar
    David Macy Guest

    Default Re: Whats that smell!

    Thanks Rick.

    I think by installing a new fireplace door might do the trick. The old one I have now does not seal very well & the clamps continuously come loose when I use the doors during the heating season.

  4. #4
    David Macy's Avatar
    David Macy Guest

    Default Re: Whats that smell!

    Now that I looked at my doors & heater I see the problem. There is a 1 inch gap between the doors & brick. The cozy heater is installed to far in front of the fireplace.

    I have a metal fire back installed at the back of the firebrick.

    I guess I will take off the doors & try to adjust the heater so the door can be flush with the brick.

    Can regular insulation be used if the paper is removed to temporarily seal the doors?

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