Fireplace smell in house. Is my chimney leaking smoke?

Do you have a fireplace smell in house? With all solid fuel appliances there will be an associated smell of the material being burnt. Perhaps when you open the stove door a waft of smoke enters the room. Flues take a while to warm up and therefore may not draw well immediately. This is normal and properties where wood has been burnt over the years may have that attractive smell throughout the year. However, if you are starting to notice the smell of smoke elsewhere in your home you will need to get this investigated.

There are various ways that smoke can arrive in other rooms, some are fairly benign but others will require immediate attention. In particular we do not want to see smoke in bedrooms where the potentially toxic gases can loiter without the occupant being aware. Amongst the products of combustion is carbon monoxide gas and this can be lethal.

Fireplace smell in houseWith a well constructed stove and flue arrangement there is nowhere for the smoke and fumes to go except up the flue to be dispersed safely into the atmosphere. However, even where this is the case it can be that, with a multi flue chimney stack, smoke billowing from one pot can be drawn into a neighbouring pot and into the associated room. This is more likely to happen where a room has an extractor fan for instance and this creates a down draught in the unused chimney strong enough to draw the smoke into that room.

Sometimes it is simply the conditions of the day or the way draughts move around a particular house or the wind being in a particular direction. Whatever the cause there are a number of options to resolve the problem. The most commonly effective is to simply increase the height differential between the live flue and the offending one. As distance is created between the two terminals there is a reduced likelihood of smoke being attracted into the unused flue. If not already fitted, a vent cap on the unused flue can reduce the exposure to the smoke from other pots.

Other sources of smoke smell in upstairs rooms.

From time to time we are invited to inspect a new installation, perhaps a register grate and an attractive marble surround or similar. These fireplaces are very appealing to the eye, redolent as they are of the elegant past. However, what is sadly often overlooked is that the fireplace and surround have to work as one. On occasions the aesthetic has been given greater priority than safety, even though they do not have to be exclusive.

What can happen on installation is that the surround is not properly sealed to the fireplace itself so that an air gap is left and this can be enough to draw smoke into this gaps and it can then travel easily into upper floors. This can happen without anyone noticing. It is essential that the fire surround and gather are fully sealed so that the only route for smoke to escape is into the flueway.

As chimneys age they will deteriorate and if the flue to your fireplace is unlined then smoke can sometimes arrive in other flues. The brick structure of a chimney includes brick “withes” these separate each flue so that the products of combustion from one flue will not be allowed into a neighbouring flue. Withes are not structural and usually only one brick wide so that once the mortar starts to fail there is little to stop smoke transferring from one flue to another. This may make the smell of smoke more apparent in upstairs rooms as it leaks out of its ow2n flue and into other unused flues. Once the outer walls of the flue start to leak then action is imperative if you plan to keep on using the fireplace.

Smoke, a little like water, can end up in places where you would not expect. When we carry out sealed smoke tests to check the integrity of the flue, the procedure includes inspecting around door frames and windows for traces of smoke as well as the more obvious places. With the wind in a particular direction or a window open smoke can be persuaded into any number of places but do be aware that if the smell is often noticeable, in particular in upstairs rooms, then be alert to its cause and make sure that it will not be a source of danger.

Remember, if you smell smoke in any area of the home away from the appliance then do check it out. It may be for any number of reasons some benign and some dangerous but it is best to call in an expert than run the, albeit slight, risk of poisoning.

Billing Chimneys offer CCTV Camera Inspection and Surveys for both Domestic and Commercial Clients, please take a look at our Chimney CCTV Camera Inspection page.

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