Smelly Fireplace? Call Lords Chimney To Take Care of It

That “fireplace smell” is charming for some and very bothersome for others. Whether you love the smell or loathe it, your fireplace really shouldn’t have your home smelling like an old cabin in the middle of the woods. In fact, your fireplace shouldn’t have much of an odor at all. A smelly fireplace – usually described as having a musty, campfire-like smell – indicates that there might be some problems within your chimney that need to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Don’t hold off on booking an inspection or chimney repairs if you notice your fireplace is giving off unpleasant odors. Schedule an appointment with Lords Chimney through our website or by contacting us by phone at 281-497-4000.

Why Does My Fireplace Smell?

Walking by your fireplace and getting hit by a weird smell is an unsettling experience. When an odor appears suddenly, it’s usually a hint that something is happening within your chimney system. There isn’t a single specific cause of chimney odors. There can be a lot of different factors that can contribute to a smelly fireplace. The only way to figure out what’s going on is to schedule a chimney inspection. 

During these, one of our chimney technicians will take a good look at your chimney to diagnose the root cause of your stinky fireplace. These are some of the most common problems we come across during inspections:

    • There’s a buildup of creosote. Creosote is a natural byproduct of burning wood that sticks to the walls of the chimney. Too much creosote can produce a pungent, acidic odor that gets worse when your fireplace is lit.
    • There’s water damage in your chimney system. Is the smell coming from your chimney musty? That can be due to water entering the chimney and mixing with creosote and soot. Moisture can also foster the growth of mold and mildew.
    • You might have a pest problem. Chimneys are popular nesting spots for animals like birds, squirrels, rats, and raccoons. When these critters make nests or get trapped in your chimney, their waste and nesting materials can cause unpleasant stenches.
    • There’s another type of blockage. Animals aren’t the only things that can get trapped in your chimney. Debris like twigs and leaves can block the chimney flue if you don’t have a chimney cap installed or it has been damaged. An obstructed chimney will lead to poor draft and ventilation, causing odors to be pushed back into your living space.
    • The airflow isn’t good enough. Insufficient airflow through the chimney can lead to incomplete combustion and the accumulation of odor-causing particles and gases. This can cause the smoky or “campfire” smell that a lot of homeowners complain about.
    • The damper is damaged. A malfunctioning or damaged damper can allow air and odors from the chimney to enter your home.
    • You burn unseasoned wood. Burning wet or unseasoned wood produces more creosote than seasoned wood (firewood that has been left out to dry). Wood that is seasoned burns more efficiently and isn’t likely to cause problematic smells.

What Does Creosote Smell Like?

We touched on it a bit above, but the reports vary as far as what creosote actually smells like. Here are some odors homeowners have noted:

  • Burnt or burning wood
  • Sharp, chemical-like odor
  • Mothballs
  • Subtle sweet smell
  • Campfire-like odors
  • Bitter or astringent
  • Tar-like smell
  • Earthy or wood undertones
  • Burning plastic or rubber

Or sometimes, people can’t pinpoint exactly what creosote smells like. They just know that they don’t like it and it’s overpowering, with some even stating it triggers feelings of nausea or stinging in the nose. No matter what your household is noticing, one thing is certain – if you smell something off, then some professional insight is needed – and Lords Chimney is here to help. Reach out today.

How To Fix a Smelly Fireplace

Once we’ve been able to get an in-depth chimney inspection completed, a chimney professional will offer a suggestion based on their findings. There are a few possible solutions for a smelly fireplace. You may need to:

  • Have your chimney cleaned by a professional certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). Not all chimney technicians are created equal. Make sure that your sweep can prove that he is CSIA-certified and can show you what the inside of your chimney looks like with a closed-circuit camera – before and after a cleaning.
  • Have a chimney cap professionally installed. You want to keep rainwater and critters out of your chimney at all costs. Water can soak into your chimney liner and create an odor, and animals can leave behind smelly nesting materials or droppings. Chimney caps keep them out for good.
  • Install an outside air kit. Also sometimes known as a “fresh air intake device,” an outside air kit can prevent backdrafts that are caused by negative air pressure in your home.
  • Install a top-sealing damper. These dampers sit at the top of the flue, rather than the throat, and can help keep cold air from coming in through your chimney during the winter – and keep air-conditioned air from escaping out during the summer. And if all the air is staying put, then there’s no worries about odors entering your home through the chimney.
  • Have a ventilation fan or chimney draft fan installed. A ventilation fan, positioned atop your chimney, will ensure correct pressure in your chimney, which helps to ensure air – as well as any odors that might come with it – isn’t pushed back into your home.

Not sure where to start? Then, start with us. We’ll look things over, then offer our advice on the best plan for moving forward. Call 281-497-4000 or book with us online today.

Can I Prevent Fireplace Odors?

No homeowners want to deal with the possibility that their fireplace may start to stink one day. The bright side is that you don’t have to. You can stop fireplace odors from becoming a problem before they even start. How do you do that?

    • Schedule an annual inspection. How often should you have your chimney inspected? Every chimney industry leader – including the CSIA and National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) – recommends getting your chimney looked over by a professional at least once a year.
    • Have your chimney cleaned regularly. Creosote and soot buildup are primary causes of smelly fireplaces. An annual chimney cleaning will clear out the creosote, soot, and debris that often lead to chimney odors. You can be practical and schedule your inspection and cleaning for the same day – we’d be happy to get both services done for you.
    • Don’t wait to complete repairs. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes an inspection will reveal an issue. If that should happen, don’t wait to get a chimney repair service scheduled with us. The longer a problem goes unaddressed, the worse the damage will be long-term.

Monitor humidity levels. Some fireplace odors aren’t due to chimney issues at all. An excess of humidity can be a cause of odd smells. If your chimney inspection doesn’t show an underlying problem, consider using a dehumidifier in the room to control moisture levels.

  • Use your fireplace correctly. Burning only seasoned wood and following the manufacturer’s guidelines for safe and proper operation are vital to keeping your chimney and fireplace in good shape for the long haul. And the better shape your system is in the less chance of smells and bad odors.

You Don’t Have To Live With a Smelly Fireplace

Don’t settle for living with a smelly chimney. If the odor is due to a problem in your chimney system, get it taken care of as quickly as possible. Whatever the cause of your smelly fireplace, Lords Chimney can help! We’ll diagnose the issue and come up with a game plan to get rid of it. If you live in the greater Houston area give us a call at 281-497-4000, or use our appointment request form. We’re happy to help.


If you’re having a problem with a smoky fireplace, our chimney repair experts are ready to get it fixed, safely and efficiently.