Our Company Blog

What To Do About a Smelly Chimney

When you have a smelly chimney it’s easy to know what to do…CALL A PROFESSIONAL CHIMNEY SWEEP. Chief Chimney Services has been serving residents of Long Island and curing smelly chimney issues in Suffolk County since 1983.

On those oh so familiar hot humid summer days, when your nose connects with that foul pungent odor from your fireplace and chimney, hear warning bells in your mind alerting you that something needs attention. Just like the warning tone your ears hear when your fire and carbon monoxide alarms go off, when your nose detects that putrid smell it’s time to call your chimney professional.

smelly-chimney-image-suffolk-county-ny-chief-chimney

Stinking chimneys can be caused by a single problem or a combination of several. Most likely the cause of your smelly chimney won’t be apparent to the naked eye, and even if you forsook your own safety and climbed on the roof, you wouldn’t be able to see far enough into your chimney to locate the problem. Smelly chimneys occur when there is mold growing or water seeping in your chimney, a build-up of creosote, nesting and decaying animals and birds, all of which are complicated by negative air pressure in your home.

Mold remains one of the top health hazards and special care must be given not only to remove it, but also to prevent its re-occurrence. A common misconception is that bleach is a mold inhibitor, which it is not. Mold can exacerbate breathing and pulmonary issues and cause severe health issues. It spreads quickly and needs prompt attention. Seeping moisture breeds mold. A professional chimney sweep will locate the source of the moisture and correct the problem and remove the existing accumulation; both are necessary to solve mold issues and their subsequent odors.

Your chimney presents an attractive living space for birds and rodents as it is warm, dry, and protected from predators. The troubles occur for when the animal droppings build in the chimney and/or they die inside. Both the decaying bodies and parasites the carcasses attract linger inside your chimney. It is not only unhealthy, but it also blocks proper airflow and causes an awful stench. Adding further to the problem is the fact that in many communities, nesting birds cannot be disturbed. Part of the training professional and certified chimney sweeps receive is how to prevent wildlife from turning your chimney into public housing in the first place and what to do if they have while conforming to wildlife protection laws.

Downdrafts present their own issues and causes of smelly chimneys. The Professional Home Inspection Service wants homeowners to recognize, “While a mild smoke odor is a minor problem, the issue can be very serious if the same thing occurs with naturally drafting gas appliances. The same negative pressure could be drawing combustion gases including carbon monoxide back down the utility chimney, posing a very unhealthy situation. If this problem is a possibility in your house, make sure your carbon monoxide detector is in good working order, and call in a professional for further assessment.”

Professional chimney technicians will pro-actively troubleshoot the potential causes of a smelly chimney and remedy them during their annual inspections. Built up creosote, along with all of these causes of smelly chimneys can be identified and corrected by following the guidelines recommended by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) for annual chimney inspections and cleaning.

Remember a smelly chimney is a warning for you to call your chimney professional! Chief Chimney Services is here for homeowners on Long Island.

What Is Creosote?

What Is Creosote? The term creosote in relation to fireplaces and chimney occurs when the by-products of wood are not totally burned off and the residue travels in the smoke as a vapor. When it is cooled to a liquid it coats whatever it encounters. The wood-tar substance is a blackish brown sticky gooey oil mixture that builds up on the interior surfaces of your chimney and fireplace. It is extremely combustible. Due to the hazardous nature of creosote and its offensive odor, Chief Chimney Services takes special care to remove it and protect homeowners from fire and toxic gas risks associated with creosote.

The Hearth.com website explains, “Creosote buildup is pretty sneaky. You may not notice it at first but it tends to feed on itself. As it builds up, it restricts the flow in the chimney and/or stove pipes. This slows the smoke on its way out, allowing more time for it to cool and for the creosote to condense and deposit on itself thus further restricting the flow.”.

creosote-image-suffolk-ny-chief-chimney-services

The fire hazard occurs when it is ignited by a hot fire. Pieces of the built up creosote can also become loose and flake and travel upwards to your roof, or down your chimney into your fireplace and into your home. No matter the direction, the result of burning creosote is no good. A traveling piece of burning creosote can bring on a dangerous and expansive fire.

The inspectapedia website lists these considerations about creosote build up:

  • The temperature of the chimney. Consider long low smoldering fires make more creosote that hotter roaring fires
  • The wood to sap ratio of the wood you burn, the greener the wood the more moisture and the more creosote
  • The moisture content of the wood, wet wood burns more slowly and produces more creosote
  • The chimney size, height, location, and construction materials also influence the buildup of creosote.

There are important things for homeowners to understand about creosote that you need to know if you are even considering to attempt to remove creosote buildup yourself. First, without the professional equipment and cameras a chimney professional uses, you are not able to view the entire length of your chimney and therefore you may not be aware of the buildup that occurs out of sight which still puts you at risk. There are two other considerations as well as access. Dislodging the creosote is extremely dangerous for several reasons. First, as you chip away at the creosote you may do damage to the underlying chimney structure. Worse you will be breathing the extremely toxic materials even if you wear a mask. Worst yet, if you dislodge the creosote it may travel in the smoke and downdrafts of future fires and ignite whatever it lands upon.

Creosote inspection and removal is critical to the safety and security of your home and best done by a technician certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. CSIA certified technicians know the proper methods, cleaning agent, and tools to keep your chimney unblocked. Chief Chimney Services, Inc.wants to be your chimney professional. Contact us today!