Odors: Woodstove, Fireplace, Chimney

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Author – Todd Woofenden

There are several types of odors that could detract from your enjoyment of the wood stove. 

Creosote has a very strong, acrid odor, generally much worse in wet weather or in the summertime when the chimney is less effective in drawing the odor up the chimney.

The first step is to have the chimney and stove pipe cleaned. 

But be aware that creosote can penetrate the surface of the chimney lining, so even after the chimney is cleaned, there may be some odor. During the summer, try disconnecting the stove pipe and plugging the thimble (the hole in the chimney) with a metal cap. Measure the diameter of the thimble and buy a plug for it at your local stove shop. Sometimes blocking the hole will prevent the odors from getting into the house. 

Also, if you don’t have a chimney cap to keep the rain out of the flue, get one. Wet creosote smells a lot worse than dry creosote! 

A water-repellent treatment of the exterior brickwork might also help somewhat, by keeping the chimney structure dry. Talk to your chimney professional about it.

Smoke odor. If your stove spills smoke into the room.

If it is a lingering odor after the stove has gone out, or during the summer months, first have your chimney checked to see if it needs cleaning.  If the chimney has been cleaned recently, consider these possibilities: 


No Chimney Cap


Dampness from rainwater in the chimney increases the odors emitted by soot deposits in the flue and ashes left in the stove. 

Solution: Get a cap.


Soaking/Wet Chimney


Just as a cap keeps water out of the inside of the chimney, a water repellent treatment keeps water from soaking into the outside of the chimney. And since a wet chimney smells more than a dry one, a water-repellent treatment might help. Ask your chimney professional about it.


Wind-driven downdraft in the chimney


Ideally, a chimney will draw air out of the house even when you are not using the stove, pulling odors with it. But if the odors seem to coincide with windy days, reduced draft – especially in warm weather – coupled with wind pressure may be the culprits. 

The principle is the same as for smoke entering the home during windy conditions. 


Depressurized house


In some cases, air may be drawn into the house from the chimney, and odors along with it. 

Burning stove paint odor. When your stove is new, or after you re-paint or polish it, there will be a period of burn-in, during which the stove will smoke and smell. Plan on burning the stove with the windows open for an hour or so after painting or polishing it. 

The procedure for “seasoning” new stoves is to burn several small fires before burning a long, hot fire. During these “seasoning” fires, most of the paint burn-in will take place. But the first few times you fire the stove high, you may get some residual burn-in odor. After five or six fires, it should stop.

~ Todd Woofenden

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