5 Reasons Your Fireplace May Smell Bad

Smelly ChimneyA fireplace is designed to provide warmth and beauty.  You can expect that no smelly odors will come into your home from the fireplace.  Bad smells do happen, however, and for a number of different reasons.  Most of the issues which cause an odor to emit from the fireplace are resolved when our professional Atlanta area chimney sweep cleans and inspects your chimneyand addresses all of the problems that may be encountered in the process.  The following are common causes of a smelly fireplace, along with possible solutions:

1-Negative Air Pressure

One of the leading reasons odors enter the home through a fireplace is negative air pressure in the home.  This problem comes up most frequently during the summer, after improvements have been made, such as weatherizing, changing the venting system, or installing a new roof, windows, bathroom exhaust, or kitchen exhaust fans.  When the home is sealed too tightly, even the mild odors common for chimneys escape into the home instead of up the chimney.

The following are a few simple solutions which could resolve the negative air pressure problem:

  • Keep the fireplace damper closed when the fireplace isn’t being used.  If the dampers don’t seal well, this likely won’t be an effective solution.
  • Install a glass fireplace screen.
  • Provide outdoor combustion air to the combustion appliance that caused the air pressure problem.
  • Install a top-sealing damper that is controlled by a metal chain which hangs down the chimney to the hearth; keep the top-sealing damper closed when the fireplace isn’t in use.

2-Excess Creosote and Soot

During annual chimney inspections, excess creosote is removed.  Not only is removal of creosote important to keep your chimney in good working condition, but the buildup of creosote can cause your fireplace to smell like asphalt or barbeque gone bad.

Creosote is a black or dark brown flammable tar produced by wood smoke.  Soot is produced by incomplete burning of organic matter such as wood; it is black and powdery or flaky and largely consists of amorphous carbon.

There is no way to completely prevent creosote and soot deposits from forming in your chimney, but you can drastically reduce the amount of buildup.  Burning seasoned (low-moisture) wood is a good way to burn clean.


If there is water in the chimney, it can cause an unpleasant musty odor.   The best way to eliminate moisture in the chimney is by installing a chimney cap.  Without a cap, naturally, rain water will get into the chimney.  Besides causing an odor, moisture can cause the damper to rust and fail to operate properly.  Mixed with creosote, moisture can damage the flue lining, which results in the need for costly but necessary repairs.

4-Animals, Dead or Alive

A chimney cap with mesh netting does a good job of keeping animals out of your chimney; but if Animal Nest in Chimneyyou don’t have a chimney cap or the netting is damaged, any unpleasant smells coming out of your chimney could be animal scat or, worse, a decomposing animal.  It’s not uncommon for animals such a raccoons, birds, and snakes to access a home through the chimney; but animals usually can’t get back out.  It’s dangerous to deal with a wild animal, since they could bite and may be carrying disease.  Professional chimney sweeps are trained and equipped to deal with this dilemma.

You should be aware that birds called chimney swifts are protected by federal law.  The birds chirp, which is amplified in the chimney; and they leave droppings.  They only stay for a short season, and then they move on.  Anyone who has these birds in their chimney once is well-advised to get a chimney cap or they can count on the birds returning the next year.


Leaves that fall and stay in the chimney can produce the smell of rot as they begin to decompose over time.  Other debris can also get in the chimney, which is just another reason a chimney cap is an excellent accessory and a good investment.

Contact our chimney professionals for your annual chimney cleaning and inspection as well as for any problems you have with your chimney or venting systems.

Chimney Solutions, Inc.
1155 McFarland 400 Drive, Alpharetta GA 30004
Office 770-255-1300

Chimney Sweep / Chimney Repairs / Chimney Liners / Fireplace & Stove Service
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