Smoky smell in room with fireplace


  #1  
Old 03-07-06, 01:34 PM
ballpeen
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Smoky smell in room with fireplace

I recently had a chimney-top damper installed and had my chimney cleaned by a professional chimney sweep. After my first fire I noticed a smoky smell in the room that remained for weeks, even though I didn't see any visible smoke in the room while the fire was burning.

The firesweep company told me that the only cause would be moisture in the flue and that I should burn some paper in the fireplace before adding the wood to provide a "path" for the heat/smoke to follow.

Does this sound right to you?

Also, will I get more smoke in the room with the glass doors closed and the air supply vents on the bottom of the enclosure open or with the doors open and the air supply vents closed?
 
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Old 03-07-06, 01:49 PM
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Burning some paper in the fireplace before "lighting" the wood, will produce the necessary draft to get the flow of smoke going up the chimney.
Once you have the draft going, it should not make much difference if the doors are open or closed. Having the doors open will allow the rooms heat to also go out the chimney. The problem that could arise is that your house is "tight" and not allowing the draft to work properly. Some houses have to have a window cracked open to supply the draft. Having a ceiling fan running can also cause smoke and smell to come out of the fireplace especially if the direction of the fan is pulling air upwards. Having a window opened a bit supplies the "flow" of air to carry fumes out the chimney. Good luck.
 
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Old 03-07-06, 02:07 PM
ballpeen
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"Once you have the draft going, it should not make much difference if the doors are open or closed. Having the doors open will allow the rooms heat to also go out the chimney. The problem that could arise is that your house is "tight" and not allowing the draft to work properly"

Seems like a catch 22. If I leave the doors open, the room loses heat up the chimney. If I close the doors, the heat from the fire will not be able to effectively heat the room.

Also, when I close the doors and open the air supply vent I can hear the air whooshing through the vent into the firebox. Could limiting the air supply in this manner cause backpressure in the box thus forcing smoke out into the room? (I have an older home, circa 1938, so I don't think it's a tightness problem.)
 
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Old 03-07-06, 02:29 PM
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I was not aware of the age of your fireplace. The newer units have heat circulators that take heat from the fire and a fan that blows across the circulator which heats the room. Glass doors also radiate heat into the room. When you close the doors and open the vent, the sound is the fire sucking combustion air, just as if you opened the doors but noisier due to a smaller inlet.
When I had my Franklin stove up North, I was told that the open area of the burner took 17 cubic feet per second of air from the room and up the chimney.
 
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Old 03-07-06, 05:04 PM
jocelynj
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Smile

I have a couple of questions about your fireplace and the smell:
Is this the first time you have ever noticed the smoke smell?
Do you have any additional flues sharing the same chimney structure?

Additionally, when you had the chimney swept did the company offer an internal video inspection?

There are a few reasons why you may have that smoke smell and answering those questions may help to trouble-shoot this problem.
 
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Old 03-08-06, 03:43 PM
ballpeen
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I noticed the smoke smell after the first time I used the fireplace, which was a few weeks ago. After that, I reinsulated the gap between the stone surround and the decorative firebox cover that houses the glass doors. But I still smelled smoke after using the fireplace again this past Sunday. However, I forgot to light paper in the flue before starting the fire.

There are two flues in the chimney structure: one for the fireplace and one for the combustion products of my home's gas-fired burner/boiler.

I do not believe that the chimneysweep did an internal video inspection. He did clean and inspect the flues and told me there were no problems.

Any help would be appreciated.
 
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Old 03-08-06, 05:26 PM
jocelynj
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Ok, I apologize in advance, this will probably be a long post.

First, I would definitely try lighting some paper, it is possible that you just need that extra draft boost to help your chimney draft completely.

Next, I will address "The firesweep company told me that the only cause would be moisture in the flue "
--Usually if a chimney has excess moisture in the flue (ie a leak, rain, or a humid day) and there is creosote in the chimney the moisture and the creosote together experience a chemical reaction and produce an acid that often gives off a very heavy smoke or bonfire smell. In most cases it is noticeable even when the fireplace isn't used. So, either that is not your problem or there are still sizeable deposits of creosote in your chimney. However, if you don't notice it to be a problem only during humid/rainy days that probably isn't the case.

Finally, "I do not believe that the chimneysweep did an internal video inspection. He did clean and inspect the flues and told me there were no problems."
--Sometimes if there are gaps or cracks in the lining of one flue the smoke from that flue goes into an adjacent flue or into the chimney cavity between the flues, causing a strong, lingering smoke odor. At this time the only way to determine the true condition of the flue lining is to use an internal video inspection, it is like an endoscopy for your chimney. Please understand, I do not intend the following to be argumentative; if you were to take a flashlight and a mirror and look up your chimney you would have the ability to clearly see about 4 feet (depending on the height of your smoke chamber) that is essentially what the chimney sweep was able to see too. Unfortunately without the internal inspection it is virtually impossible to clearly determine the condition of the flues. If there is breeching in your lining it may be the cause of your problem and is also an unsafe situation. I would recommend that you see if there is a company in your area that offers that type of service and have that done so you can at least rule it out.

I hope this was not confusing and that we're able to help you get this problem fixed!
 
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Old 03-09-06, 06:57 AM
ballpeen
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Thanks for your help. I will try lighting the paper first. Since the smoky smell isn't just on rainy/humid days, if the paper thing doesn't work I'll see if there is anyone in my area who can do the video inspection.
 
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Old 03-14-06, 09:37 PM
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Make sure the smell is not carbon monoxide and creating a draft with the windows works too.

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Last edited by majakdragon; 03-15-06 at 03:59 AM.
  #10  
Old 03-16-06, 09:34 AM
ballpeen
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Interesting you should say that because I plasticized the bay window which is the only window in the room. There, is however an archway opening to the adjoining foyer which should provide enough draft air from the rest of the house. I also noticed that the smell is stronger closer to the fireplace. Not that that is unusual but I smelled the couch in the room and couldn't detect a smoke smell. Seems the smell is lingering in and around the fireplace.

Would it help to plug the gaps between the surround and fireplace doors?
 
 

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