Problems in Your Chimney
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Problems in Your Chimney

Excessive smoke

An excessively smoky fireplace can mean many things. It can mean that the chimney needs cleaning due to blockage from creosote buildup or an animal nesting at the top of the chimney. It could also mean that the damper is malfunctioning and not opening up enough to let the smoke out of the flue.

Smoky houses while burning in the fireplace can also mean the house has excellent insulation and not enough air movement is happening and the pressure in the house is dropping, therefore the smoke is being sucked back into the house. Opening a window a little could help the air pressure and allow the smoke to travel up the flue.


Odors from fireplaces are usually caused by buildup of post fire chemicals in the flue of the chimney and are usually noticed most in summer. Creosote builds up in chimneys and because of heat odor is released from the built up chemicals. Another cause for odor from fireplaces can be from infestation. Infestation occurs when animals move into chimneys, particularly chimneys without caps on them. The animals nest in the flue and from animal smells or as the nest decays, or perhaps even because the animal has died, an odor comes from the chimney. The only way to be rid of the smell is to have a professional come and service the chimney. A professional chimney sweep can clean the chimney ridding it of creosote or any other problem causing an odor.


Mechanical malfunctions with fireplaces can result from a breakdown of any of the components that make up the fireplace itself or the chimney. Those components could be the damper, the flue, cap over the crown of the chimney or a corrosion of the mortar leading to a breakdown of other parts in masonry chimneys.

A way to avoid mechanical breakdowns is to observe your chimney while it is being used to troubleshoot any possible troubles in advance. Also, regular check listing of the different mechanisms after the end of burning season can help as well.

Stains and leaks

If stains or leaks occur near or over a fireplace it is evidence of a defect in the structure of the chimney, a problem with the flue, problems with the cap on the chimney or the need for protection in the form of specialized roofing around where the chimney meets the roof.

Water flows through these defective places in the structure of the chimney and gathers behind walls or pools on ceilings. When enough water collects it causes a stain and then a leak. In cases of sudden fractures or malfunctions, significant structural damage can occur rapidly.

When installing a chimney it is best to use a professional person with experience and to use the best grade of materials. How well the structure of a chimney is constructed can have a profound effect on the life of a house and the persons in it. Structural defects will result in leaks, stains, mold, and possibly fire. Always have regular checks on the structural integrity of a chimney.


Chimney infestations occur when animals move into chimneys. Animals hide from the elements in dark places, and chimneys are prime nesting sites for birds, bats and even raccoons. Blockages of chimneys due to animals can cause foul odors and a back draft of chimney smoke because the animals are blocking the way for the smoke to get out.

A professional such as an animal control officer or a chimney sweep must get the offending animal out. It is dangerous for a non professional to exterminate an animal in a chimney due to rabies or other diseases transmitted by animals. If animals other than birds, bats or squirrels are in a chimney they are most likely stuck or dead. Either way, the danger of disease is great and the animal must be removed. Installing a cap for the crown of the chimney is advisable as it will not only keep out animals, but also debris flying in the wind as well as keeping out rain and snow.

Another kind of infestation is insect infestation. This can occur by stacking one's firewood supply too close to the house or from rotted wood around the chimney stack.

Regular checks of the condition of the roof surrounding the chimney stack are imperative for fire safety. Rotted wood around the base of the chimney stack can also cause leaks and quite a bit of house damage. Stacking the wood supply in or too close to the house creates a dinner invitation for insects that eat wood. It is best to keep wood well away from the house and covered to prevent wetness and mold. Wet or moldy wood doesn't burn well and can make a person sick from breathing in the vapor, as well as clogging up the flue with condensation from moisture. Insects prone to eating wood will just eat the wood if it is kept away from the home. If wood is stacked up against a house the insects are unable to compare the difference between the wood pile and the house and will just continue to eat.

Types of Fireplaces

Fireplaces are made in many different types. There are traditional fireplaces that are built in to the home right into the wall. These fireplaces have a hearth and a masonry chimney. read more

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