Tag Archives: glass doors

Six Causes of Fireplace Odors

Fireplace odor like a campfireThere’s nothing better than a warm, cozy fire in the fireplace but there’s nothing worse than the “campfire-in-the-living-room” smell that can sometimes occur afterwards. Understanding some of the causes for a stinky fireplace will help prevent the problem. There are several key causes for fireplace odor issues.


1) Smoking Problems

Sometimes a smoking problem is so subtle that you may not even realize it at the time of the fire but then you notice a bad odor the next day. That’s because smoke rises to the highest part of the house at the time of the fire but by the next day, that smoky odor drifts down into your breathing range. This smell can be absorbed into carpeting, furniture and window coverings so it’s important to avoid the smoking problem in the first place. To prevent smoking problems, check out our blog post on the Top 10 Smoking Problems and their Respective Solutions.

In addition, if you’re using your fireplace at night, the damper has to stay open all night. Hours later, halfway through the night when the fire is down to just burning embers, the chimney loses its draw, especially if the furnace turns on, pulling air down the chimney, resulting in the smoke and resulting odors coming into the room. To prevent this night-time issue, make sure your fireplace has tight-fitting glass doors.

2) Animals

Animals love your chimney because it is a dark place, safe from predators, but once animals enter chimneys, it’s extremely difficult for them to fly or crawl back out on their own. This might mean your chimney will smell of aChimney capnimal feces or worse, a dead animal. In fact, due to federal animal protection laws, there are heavy fines of up to $15,000 for removing live migratory birds without special animal-removal permits. To remove an unwelcome animal from your chimney, contact an animal removal organization with the proper permit, but the better way would be to avoid birds and other critters from using your fireplace as their new home in the first place by installing a chimney cap.

3) Dirty Chimney

A dirty chimney can cause a bad fireplace odor because of the smoking problem but also even when the fireplace is not in use. Downdrafts push air down the chimney, bringing with it the smelly particulates from the dirty chimney and sending a campfire smell into the room. Having a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep to sweep the chimney will help, but keep in mind that creosote can absorb into the porous material of a flue lining so even if a chimney lining is meticulously swept, there may still be a fireplace odor. Keeping the damper closed and installing tight-fitting glass doors will help.

4) Type of Fuel

Burning wood that has not been aged long enough or has been left out in the rain will create a smokier fire which can cause a rank odor. Some people can also be very sensitive to the petroleum odor of certain brands of prefabricated logs. In this case, change your fuel type and make sure that wood is aged and kept dry.

5) Pressurization in the home

To make our homes more energy efficient, builders are making houses “tighter.” Tight homes don’t make for properly-operating fireplaces. Fire needs oxygen, a great deal of oxygen, and it pulls it from the room. If a fire can’t get that oxygen because your fireplace is competing with other systems in the home such as furnaces, clothes dryers, bathroom exhaust fans or kitchen hoods, pressurization problems will occur in the home and can create a smoking problem or fireplace odors. Even if the fireplace isn’t in use, these other systems will draw air down the chimney, pulling down the particulates from a dirty chimney or odors from the ashes in the fireplace. Wind-driven downdrafts will also create this effect. Even during the summer, when fireplaces aren’t being used, rainy weather or high humidity can bring fireplace odors into the house. We recommend closing the damper, keeping the firebox clean, installing tight-fitting glass doors on the front of the fireplace or creating another method to bring make-up air into the home.

6) Rain/Water intrusion

Fireplace odors occur during rainRain falling down a masonry chimney doesn’t land directly in the firebox. Instead, because of the way a masonry chimney is designed, this rain lands in an area behind the damper called a smoke shelf unless the chimney has a cap. The rain collects in the smoke shelf until the water eventually evaporates. This rain water mixes with soot and can have a rancid, musty odor. This is another good reason to have a chimney cap on the top of the chimney.

Fireplace odors are a common problem but with a little knowledge, odors can be avoided, decreased or completely eliminated. Reduce smoking problems, have your chimney swept regularly, install tight-fitting glass doors, provide make-up air in tight homes to prevent pressurization problems, and install a cap to keep out rain and animals. Then sit back and enjoy your fireplace without the smell of regret the next day. After all, the smell of a campfire can be enjoyable on a camping trip, but not in your living room!

Gas logs on fire in fireplace

The Pros and Cons of Gas Logs

Gas logs on fire in fireplaceImagine coming home after a hard day of work and sitting down next to a cozy fire in your fireplace, and relaxing with a cup of soothing tea or a glass of Merlot, all in just a matter of minutes, with minimal effort. Think this is impossible? With gas logs in your fireplace, this is totally possible. But you need to know all the facts about gas logs in order to make an informed decision.

Advantages of Gas Logs

Time Savings and Ease of Use

Gas logs are instant on/instant off. You can light a fire within seconds. Even better, at the end of the evening, there’s no waiting for the wood embers to finish burning out before going to bed like you need to do when burning wood.

Clean Burning to the Environment

Gas logs don’t produce many particulates and therefore are very clean burning to the environment.

Beautiful Display

Gas logs are very realistic looking and make a cozy display even when the gas logs aren’t on.

Less Work

No more lugging in the firewood from outside and no more cleaning out the debris from the firebox after a wood-burning fire. This makes it ideal for older people who may find it difficult to carry in the heavy wood or bend down to clean out the fireplace.

Less Maintenance

Gas logs produce minimal creosote build-up in the flue, which means that a chimney sweeping is not required as often as wood-burning fireplaces. However, according to the National Fire Protection Guideline 13:2, this code requires that “Chimneys, fireplaces and vents shall be inspected at least once a year…cleaning maintenance and repairs shall be done if necessary.”

Termite- and Rodent-Free

Woodpiles can attract termites and rodents which isn’t a problem with gas logs. On a similar note, woodpiles should never be located up against a house.

Absolutely No Hassle

You never have to clean out the ashes and debris from the fireplace. In fact, we highly recommend that you never even touch the gas logs after they’ve been installed. The logs have to be positioned in a very specific way on the grate and then tested with a special combustible gas detector to ensure the gas logs are positioned correctly.

Available Space

Not everybody has a backyard with space for a cord of wood. In addition, not all homeowner associations permit woodpiles. This is especially true for people who live in condominiums or urban areas.

Disadvantages of Gas Logs

Heat Loss from the Home

Uniform Mechanical Code and the gas log manufacturers’ instructions require that the fireplace’s damper be locked permanently in a FULLY open position. If you don’t have glass doors on the front of your fireplace, an open damper is equivalent to an open window and you will lose heat from your home during the winter. In fact, every time your central heater or furnace kicks on, all you’re doing is sucking cold air down your chimney and into the room which totally defeats the whole purpose of having your furnace on.  This also holds true in the summertime.  With an open damper and no glass doors, every time your air conditioner kicks on, all you’re doing is sucking hot air down your chimney and into the room.

The solution to an open damper is glass doors in front of the fireplace, but not all fireplaces can have glass doors, especially prefab fireplaces where the manufacturer may not have listed glass doors available for that system. Therefore the glass door solution won’t always work for all fireplaces.

In some states and regions in the United States, ventless gas logs are allowed which doesn’t have the requirement of the locked-open damper.

Less Heat Generated

In most cases, gas logs don’t produce the heat that burning wood does, although some manufacturers’ logs may produce more heat than others. Gas logs are not designed so much for heat as for appearance, ambiance and romance.

To compensate for the lack of heat from gas logs, many people will turn on the furnace to get the heat that they’re not getting from the fireplace.  Having both the gas logs and the furnace on at the same time is not a good idea.  You may lose the draw on the fireplace which means that instead of the gases going up the flue, the gases can be drawn into the room.  (To what extent this can happen depends on how tight the house is and where the air intake is for the furnace.)  The rule of thumb for fireplaces and furnaces: One on at a time; never on at the same time.

Dependency on Utility Company

Gas logs mean that you’re dependent on the utility company for natural gas or the propane company for propane.

No crackling Sound

Although many gas log sets have a very realistic look, there are no gas log sets on the market that produce a wood crackling sound.

In Summary…

Making the decision for gas logs doesn’t have to be difficult once you know all the facts. There are many factors to take into consideration but information is power in deciding between burning wood or gas logs.

Spring flowers with the words "Time for a Spring Cleaning"

10 Easy Steps to Spring Cleaning Your Fireplace

Spring flowers with the words "Time for a Spring Cleaning"Spring has sprung and it’s time for some spring cleaning, and that includes your fireplace! Many people would agree that one of the least favorite household chores is cleaning out the fireplace after the last fire of the season but it doesn’t have to be difficult with some easy tips. Ashes should be removed from the fireplace during the spring to avoid what we refer to as “Stinky Chimney Syndrome.”

10 Easy Steps to Cleaning Out the Fireplace

1. Make sure the ashes are completely cool before starting. It’s best to wait at least 48 hours after a fire in order to allow the ashes to completely cool.

2. If you have respiratory problems, asthma or allergies, use a mask. Breathing in the fine particulates can irritate the lungs of people who have respiratory problems. Better yet, if you have any kind of lung problems, let someone else in your family do this chore!!

3. Place plastic sheeting around the fireplace to ensure ashes don’t get on your carpeting. Wipe down the grate and place it to the side on the plastic sheeting.

4. Remove about a cup of ashes from the firebox and set aside. This will be used later to clean the glass in the glass doors.

5. Sprinkle some slightly damp, used coffee grounds on top of the ashes inside the firebox. This will settle down any dust and cut down on the fly-away ash, making it easier (and healthier) to sweep up.

6. Using a whisk broom and a dust pan, place the chunks of wood and ashes in a metal container with a lid. Sweep each interior wall of the firebox from top to bottom.

7. Brush each firescreen mesh from top to bottom. We find, for whatever reason, that firescreens tend to collect “dust bunnies.”

8. Place the metal container of ashes outside but never place the metal container on a wooden deck or patio if the ashes are warm. We’ve heard too many stories of houses burning down from this simple mistake.

9. Avoid harsh chemicals to clean the glass doors. Simply dip some damp newspapers in the ashes that you set aside and rub the glass to remove the soot and build-up. Because the ash is somewhat gritty, it’s much better at removing the residue off the glass than normal glass cleaners. Afterwards, spray white vinegar on the glass and wipe down with a soft rag to get the glass sparkling clean.

10. The last step is to close the damper. An open damper is the same as an open window. During the summer when you’re running your air conditioning with the damper open, all you’re doing is sucking the heat down the chimney and into the house, totally defeating the whole purpose of having your air conditioning on. Close the damper and you will save money on your electric bills. Just don’t forget to open your damper in the fall when you go to use your fireplace!

A Word of Warning

Don’t try to take the easy way out by using your household vacuum cleaner to remove the ashes from the firebox! You run the risk of ruining your vacuum cleaner so use a whisk broom and dustpan instead. In addition, the average household vacuum cleaner does not have the proper filter to prevent soot “blow-back” into the room. This blow-back may create a sooty mess on your carpeting, furniture, walls and window coverings. Even a Shop-Vac has the potential for creating blow-back. Professional chimney sweeps use industrial vacuums with special HEPA filters specifically designed to contain the fine particulates of soot.

The Best Solution

Of course, the easiest way to clean out your fireplace is to call your chimney sweep who’ll take care of that nasty chore for you as part of sweeping your chimney! In addition, your chimney will get a thorough inspection, inside and out, to make sure that it’s ready for the next burning season. The bonus is that we offer a discount during the spring and summer, so call Swede Chimney Sweep today at 858-573-1672. Check us out at www.swedesweep.com for additional information.