Nothing can spoil a quiet evening spent in front of the fireplace quite like chimney odor. Unfortunately, chimney odors can also occur when the fireplace is not in use, leaving many homeowners scratching their heads as to what is causing their stinky chimney.
Chimney odors should never be ignored and are often the sign of a more serious chimney problem. Because of this, it is important to have a certified professional evaluate your chimney in order to uncover the source of the chimney odor and repair the source to keep it from coming back.
Causes of chimney odor
There is no one cause of chimney odor; because of this, it often takes the combination of a certified chimney professional and a chimney inspection to uncover the source of the odor. Below are some of the most common sources of chimney odor, what causes them, and how they can be prevented.
Type of odor: Musty or damp odor that may be more noticeable after a rain storm. Long term exposure to moisture in the chimney can cause mold or mildew growth; in addition to creating a round-the-clock odor, mold growth can also affect the air supply in your home, especially for those with respiratory issues such as allergies or asthma.
Cause: While water can get into your chimney system in a number of ways, it most commonly comes in from a damaged chimney cap. In addition to protecting the chimney from moisture, chimney caps also keep debris and animals out of the chimney. Likewise, cracks or holes in the masonry can also cause water to enter the chimney system.
Signs of water entry: Using a flashlight, look in your firebox or the lower portion of the chimney for signs of moisture or water. Likewise, from the ground look for any evidence that the chimney is cracked or otherwise damaged.
Type of odor: Sharp, smoky odor. Creosote smells are often worst during the hot and humid summer months.
Cause: Creosote is a naturally occurring byproduct of fuel-burning fires, but is most prevalent with wood burning fires. Tarry creosote can coat the inside of the chimney flue and leave you at increased risk for chimney fire. Annual chimney sweeping removes creosote – as well as the odors that can accompany it.
Other causes of smoky odors: Your smoky chimney odor may also indicate an air pressure problem; outside air flows down the chimney and into your home, bringing chimney odors with it. An improperly fitting damper or the installation of a new HVAC system can cause pressure imbalances.
Type of odor: Sharp, foul, rotting odor.
Cause: A sudden rotting smell almost always indicates the presence of an animal or animal droppings in the chimney. Animals can find their way in through a damaged or missing chimney cap or other surrounding masonry damage on the top of the chimney.
Getting animals out: Wild animals should ways be treated with caution and should only be removed by a professional. Likewise, it is important to never “smoke out” a trapped animal; rather than getting out of the chimney, many animals become disoriented or injured by the smoke and heat.
Stop dealing with foul odors coming from your fireplace. Contact Lords Chimney and let a certified professional inspect your chimney and start enjoying your heating appliance once more.
Every time you burn wood in your fireplace or wood stove, condensation forms on your chimney’s flue. That condensation forms a dark, tar-like, highly combustible substance called creosote. When creosote builds up in your chimney, it can lead to a damaging and dangerous chimney fire, or it can force carbon dioxide back into your home, endangering your family.
Creosote sweeping logs promise a solution. They claim to reduce creosote buildup in your chimney simply by burning them in your chimney. Some such logs carry the seal of approval of the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), but even the CSIA acknowledges that the logs are not a replacement for your annual chimney sweeping and inspection by a CSIA-certified chimney sweep.
Creosote sweeping logs don’t remove all creosote
Creosote sweeping logs work by sending chemicals up your chimney that react with the creosote, causing it to flake away and fall back down your chimney to your firebox, where it either burns up or can be swept away. At best, the logs only remove up to 60 percent of the creosote from you chimney over a 15-day period. That means that creosote still can build up to dangerous levels within your chimney, blocking smoke from leaving your chimney and potentially igniting a chimney fire.
Additionally, many fireplaces aren’t a straight vertical channel. That means creosote can fall to and gather on your chimney’s horizontal surfaces, where it can build up. If your chimney is a straight vertical line, the creosote that falls into the firebox can cause flare ups that can harm your hearth or someone standing near it.
Creosote sweeping logs can’t spot problems with your chimney
Your annual chimney sweeping is more than just a cleaning. Your certified chimney sweep also inspects your chimney for structural damage, water leaks, crumbling mortar, and other problems. A creosote sweeping log simply can’t help you identify and solve problems with your chimney. Missing your annual chimney inspection gives small problems, like a minor leak, time to grow into a major problem that potentially will be expensive to repair.
More importantly, your certified chimney sweep looks for problems that could lead to a chimney fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. That includes animals that have nested in your chimney or chimney fires that have gone undetected.
Schedule your annual chimney sweeping today!
While the CSIA recognizes that creosote sweeping logs can be a valuable piece of chimney maintenance, eliminating some creosote in between professional chimney sweepings, replacing your annual chimney sweeping and inspection with a creosote sweeping log is dangerous both for your home and your family. If you’re overdue for your annual chimney sweeping and inspection, call the CSIA-certified chimney sweeps at Lords Chimney. We’ll make sure that your chimney is creosote-free and ready to burn safely this winter.
Your home’s heating system — whether it’s a furnace, gas fireplace, or pellet stove — keeps your family warm and cozy all winter long. However, your home heating system could pose a danger to you and your family: Carbon monoxide poisoning. As homes become more air tight and new heating systems are retrofitted onto older ventilation systems, everyone should be aware of the risk for carbon monoxide in the home.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning
Carbon monoxide poisoning can be life threatening. The overt symptoms are strong headaches, dizziness, confusion, nausea, weakness, blurred vision or loss of consciousness. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should leave their home and seek medical attention. Because often the symptoms of carbon monoxide can be as subtle as a headache, all homes should be equipped with carbon monoxide detectors. If those detectors start to go off, leave your home immediately and call 911.
Sources of carbon monoxide
Carbon monoxide is produced by the incomplete combustion of fuels, including the wood, natural gas, or propane you use to heat your home. Depending on the type of heating appliance you have, your appliance may either burn hot enough to combust all traceable levels of carbon monoxide, or it will be vented out of your home through a chimney or ventilation system. If a ventilation system becomes blocked, such as from soot, debris, or nesting animals, carbon monoxide can be forced back into your home rather than exiting through the chimney or ductwork. A malfunctioning appliance also can cause a carbon monoxide hazard.
Additionally, in some older homes when newer, more efficient furnaces or stoves are installed, sometimes they are vented through older chimneys or ductwork that is not properly sized for the appliance. That can cause a carbon monoxide hazard.
In newer homes, where doors, windows, and walls are more airtight, heating appliances can have a hard time getting the oxygen they need to properly combust their fuel, which could lead to the furnace, stove, or fireplace letting off carbon monoxide.
Preventing carbon monoxide hazards
The best way to prevent carbon monoxide from threatening your family is to have your heating system serviced annual by certified professionals.
Chimneys should be swept and inspected to make sure they are cleared of any soot or fire byproducts, unobstructed from any debris or animals, and free from any cracks or damage that could allow carbon monoxide to seep into your home.
Heating appliances, including fireplaces, gas stoves, pellet stoves, and furnaces should be serviced and inspected by professionals before the cold-weather season begins each year to make sure that they are functioning efficiently and safely and not producing dangerous carbon monoxide.
An inspection also will examine whether your home’s ventilation system is suited to your appliance. That ensures that the gases created by your furnace, stove, or fireplace is exiting your home properly and that your heating appliance is getting the oxygen it needs to burn its fuel entirely.
Schedule your routine chimney, fireplace, and heating stove maintenance today to keep you family safe from carbon monoxide this winter.
Owning an older home often includes beautiful original building features. One of the most sought after features in historical homes are fireplaces and chimneys; these original structures were built with quality materials and designed to last. However, as charming as an original fireplace is, it may not be up to modern building standards.
Older chimneys often have unique problems and different considerations than more recently built fireplaces. Because of this, it is important that homeowners with older fireplaces are educated about the state and condition of their fireplace system.
How old is old?
An older home doesn’t necessarily mean an out of date fireplace. For the most part, “old” chimneys are more than 60 years old and are exclusively built with masonry. Many fireplaces built after the 1950s are prefabricated metal or factory built units; while there are still brick chimneys built after that time, a number may also be block chimneys.
Common problems in old chimneys
For older chimney and fireplace systems, there are a number of safety issues that are likely to occur.
Unlined chimney: One of the most common issues seen in older chimneys is a lack of a chimney lining. While it may be tempting to believe that a chimney that has been unlined for 100 years or more is safe to use, best practices indicate that all chimneys should be lined. Relining the chimney can improve the efficiency of your fireplace as well as protect the rest of your home from the heat and gasses created during combustion.
Chimney caps and crowns: Older chimneys often lack caps and crowns that meet modern building standards. All fireplace systems should have a chimney cap to protect the chimney from moisture, animals, blockages, and debris. Likewise, the chimney crown of many older homes is more likely to be degraded. Because chimney crowns are constantly exposed to the elements they are more likely to deteriorate faster than the rest of the chimney system. Repairing or relaying the chimney crown can ensure that your chimney is structurally sound.
Masonry damage: Although chimneys are built to last, long term exposure to the elements – especially without regular maintenance – can lead to masonry damage. Masonry joints are more likely to be affected than the bricks themselves, which can compromise the structural integrity of the chimney itself. The tuckpointing process can remove and replace old mortar without removing any brick. Doing this can help reinforce the chimney and protect the surrounding bricks from damage. Likewise, applying a waterproofing agent to the chimney can protect it against further water damage and help extend the life of the masonry.
Owning a home with an older fireplace system often comes with its own unique set of maintenance issues. However, by better understanding the structure and condition of your chimney you can continue to enjoy it for years to come. Contact Lords Chimney today for more information on how we can help you with the upkeep and maintenance of your older chimney, as well as make sure it is up to modern building standards.
Spring and summer rain showers and thunderstorms are often a welcome reprieve from the scorching temperatures. In addition to cooling us off, these rain storms also keep our lawns and gardens green and our rivers and lakes full and ready for summer fun.
Unfortunately, heavy rain can also lead to a leaky chimney. Chimney leaks are one of the most common chimney problems we see during the summertime. Even chimneys without previous problems can develop leaks – and their accompanying water damage – in as little as one season.
What causes chimney leaks?
Although chimneys look like simple brick or stone columns, they are actually complex structures with a number of different pieces and parts. Because the chimney is constantly exposed to the elements, its masonry is at greater risk for damage and breakdown.
The following are some of the most common causes of chimney leaks.
Chimney cap: The chimney cap protects the top of your flue from water entry, as well as animals and debris. Without a properly fitted chimney cap, the flue and fireplace are left completely exposed to water entry from rain.
Flashing: Flashing is the water tight strips that seal the seam between your roof and the chimney structure. If flashing is incorrectly installed, damaged, or merely loses its seal due to wear and tear or age, water can easily seep through any gaps. This can cause water damage to not only the roof and chimney, but also the ceilings and walls around the chimney.
Masonry damage: If one side or part of your chimney is often directly exposed to rainfall or other sources of water, the masonry may deteriorate or become damaged faster than the rest of the chimney. Water can cause bricks to crack and spall; in addition to making your chimney look aged or unkempt, it can also affect the structural stability of the chimney and lead to chimney leaks.
Symptoms of a leaky chimney
Many homeowners falsely assume that all leaky chimneys present themselves as visible water in the fireplace or flue. However, because of the size and complexity of most chimney systems, chimney leaks are often not recognized until they’ve already caused significant damage.
Below are some of the signs that may indicate your chimney is leaking.
Water or condensation inside the firebox
Sound of dripping water in the chimney
Moisture, leaks, or water staining on walls or ceilings around chimney
Musty or dank odors, especially after it rains
Cracked or spalled interior or exterior masonry
Preventing chimney leaks
The best way to prevent chimney leaks is by having regular preventative maintenance done on your fireplace and chimney. Annual chimney sweepings and inspections can often identify any new chimney or masonry damage, allowing you to have it repaired before it leads to a chimney leak.
Another option for preventing leaks and water damage to your chimney is to have your masonry waterproofed. The waterproofing process involves the application of a specially designed sealant that keeps water out while allowing the masonry to retain its semi porous nature. These products can even be applied to chimneys with existing water damage as a way to keep it from getting worse.
If a summer rainstorm has left you with a leaky chimney, contact Lord’s Chimney today. Our expert staff can identify and resolve the source of your leaky chimney!