Stinky Fireplace Odor Solutions

fix that stinky fireplace

Do you smell sour wood smoke after your fire burns out? You may have stinky fireplace! Most cases of stinky fireplace are caused by moisture from rain or snow that has soaked into the flue liner and the soot deposits in the chimney. The first steps to take toward fixing a smelly fireplace are to have your chimney professionally cleaned and install a chimney cap to keep out the rain and snow in the future.

Stinky Fireplace Solutions

Consider installing a chimney top mounted damper with an integral chimney cap. The chimney top damper tightly closes your flue at the top of your chimney, stopping cold air from sinking down the flue and carrying that sour odor with it. A top damper will pay for itself in one year by reducing your heating costs. Plus it eliminates fireplace smells from coming down your chimney and into your house.

Many homes are built very tightly to hold down energy costs. If opening a window about an inch makes the fireplace smell go away, consider installing an air supply ventilator, a small vent from the outdoors to the room where the fireplace is.stinky fireplace odor deodorizer

There are flue deodorants for smelly fireplaces on the market that may help with fireplace odors, but most need to be applied frequently. Plus, they do not remove the cause of the fireplace odor.

You may find that your flue tiles have deteriorated from the acid content in our rain and snow. (Cracks in the flue tiles may allow heat to contact wood in the structure of your home, causing a chimney fire.) If your chimney sweep says your flue is in bad condition, discuss the option of installing a flue liner, a stainless steel tube that carries the smoke up the chimney. Flue liners are very easy to clean and keep odor free.

The best options are to attack smelly fireplace at its source: either prevent moist soot by installing a damper such as a Lymance damper with integral chimney cap on top of your chimney or repair a deteriorated flue that’s holding in moisture by having a flue liner installed.

Posted in Fireplace and Chimney Maintenance Tagged with:

How to Clean a Fireplace

Cleaning a dirty fireplace

If you’re planning some decorations for your fireplace, or if you just want to get rid of the unsightly build-up of soot, you are probably wondering how to clean a fireplace without making a mess. Cleaning your fireplace may look like a forbidding job, but if you take it step-by-step you’ll neither swear nor sweat. This tested method has worked on fireplaces up to 100 years old.

Items You’ll Need from the Hardware Store for a Clean Fireplace:

Removing Soot for a Clean Fireplace

You can use latex doctor’s gloves to keep your hands clean, but be very careful when scrubbing that you don’t blister your hands, which will be moist and soft inside the gloves.

Put down a cheap plastic drop cloth to kneel on. It’s a good idea to have a large trash can, lined with 2 trash bags, standing by.

Remove your andirons and grate and take them outdoors. Remove the excess soot with your wire brush and set them aside. If your andirons are brass, you can polish them with a brass polish such Brasso, if you like. If the grate and/or the andirons are black, you can restore their look to new with a spray paint appropriate for high temperature use.

Making sure no hot coals remain, now remove the accumulated loose ashes with your fireplace shovel, placing them in an ash bucket, and sweep up the loose dust. An ash vacuum is ideal for this purpose. (Wondering what to do with those ashes?)

Line the fireplace with newspapers, overlapping the edge of your drop cloth. Arrange your newspapers so that they “climb” the fireplace walls by 3-4 inches, so that all the soot will land on the newspapers.

Use you wire brush and its scraper to loosen soot from the walls of the fireplace, starting at the top. As soot builds up, you can ‘package’ the soot in a couple layers of newspapers and put each package in the trash can.

Deep Cleaning the Fireplace Walls

Put down several layers of new newspaper.

Don your rubber gloves (not latex doctors’ gloves) and goggles. (Did I say put on old clothes? I should have!)

Some cautions: TSP and TSP Substitute are very caustic; either will burn skin or eyes; either will de-gloss enamel painted surfaces. Read and follow instructions on the label.

Mix 6 tbsp of TSP or TSP Substitute and 1 cup of chlorine bleach with one gallon of warm (NOT hot) water. Making this mixture in a gallon-sized bucket will help you avoid drips and splashes.

Set the bucket in the fireplace. Dip your wire brush and scrub the fireplace walls, starting at the top. Use plenty of TSP solution and scrub until the walls are clean. On older fireplaces, there will probably be areas that remain stained black even though they are clean. Gather up the wet newspapers and put them in the trash can.

Give the fireplace floor the same treatment. Wipe down the walls and floor with clean water and rags or paper towels.

The Paint N Peel Alternative

If elbow grease is not your thing, a paint-on then peel-off product at removes soot and stains from fireplace brick, stone and marble may be more your style.  Paint N Peel Fireplace Cleaner takes the scrubbing out of the fireplace cleaning task.

Before and after cleaning with Paint N Peel.

Before and after cleaning with Paint N Peel.

When the fireplace has dried, put back your andirons and grate, or give your fireplace a “make-over” with a fireplace candelabra.

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How to Stack Firewood

How to Stack Firewood

Properly stacked firewood dries more quickly and thoroughly than firewood just dumped in a heap.  Well-stacked firewood also prevents mold and termites from using your wood as a host.  So take a moment to learn how to stack firewood to get the most from your efforts and the wood.

How to Stack Firewood Outside

Split your firewood to help it season.

Splitting firewood exposes much more of the interior of the log to air circulation.  So splitting your fire logs into before you stack your firewood will hasten the drying process.  Wedges no larger than 6 inches wide are recommended by Burn Wise Program of the U.S. EPA.

Thoroughly dried, or seasoned, firewood is more energy efficient than unseasoned firewood.  Your fireplace fire doesn’t have to expend energy burning of water instead of putting out heat.  Also, well-seasoned firewood produces less smoke than unseasoned wood.  That’s better both for the environment’s health and yours.

Pick out a spot for your firewood stack that gets plenty of sunlight.

Do not allow your firewood to lean against the house, garage, fence or other outbuilding.  Such structures not only reduce air circulation on one side of the stack but also allow termites’ access from your firewood to the building or fence.

Elevate your firewood on a metal firewood rack.  Wooden racks or pallets resting on the ground can provide a termite-friendly medium.

Here’s how to stack firewood to maximize drying and minimize smoky fires:

  • When stacking your firewood, place the split sides of all wedges downward.
  • To create the bottom layer of your firewood stack, line up firewood wedges parallel to each other from one end of the metal rack to the other.  For the second layer, turn all the firewood wedges 90 degrees.  The third layer will face the same direction as the first layer.
  • Build the firewood stack alternating the direction of each layer.

To dry kindling and tender, some firewood users devote the last foot or so of their firewood racks to the smaller pieces used for fire starting.  Like the larger wedges, these too can be stacked in layers that alternate directions.

Firewood experts recommend covering no more than the top 12 inches of your firewood stack with a weather resistant covering or tarp.  Leave the rest of the stack uncovered to allow good air circulation.

short rack cover vs long rack cover

A short rack cover allows for more air circulation than a full cover, but nevertheless keeps the top rows of firewood dry for burning.

By protecting the top few rows of firewood from precipitation, you always have access to wood that has escaped the rain or snow, yet the rest of the stack continues to by dried by the sun and freely circulating air.

Hardwoods, which are recommended for your fireplace as they produce less creosote build-up in flues than softwoods such as pines, take up to a year to season.  See our list of the best types of firewood.

A full rack of firewood is a joy to behold.  It is tangible evidence of our preparation for the winter, of our reliance on nature, and of our hopes for cozy times in front of the fireplace.  Now if your purpose for stacking your firewood is creating wood stack art, that’s a very different way to appreciate your firewood.

Posted in Using Your Fireplace Tagged with:

How to Prep Your Fireplace for Any Holiday

romantic fireplace decorated for Valentine's Day

Your home life may be hectic, top-speed, and constantly changing, but it needs to revolve around something. Every home needs a focal-point, a place that stands as a solid example of home and serves as a gathering place for people. Your fireplace is an ideal spot to represent the rest of your home, as well as to cater to your family’s needs at any time of year. Here’s how to make the most of your holidays by using your mantel as a “centerpiece” for your life.

Holiday Fireplace Decorations around the Year

New Year’s Eve

What better midnight-gathering-spot than right at your home’s heart? Line your mantel with an array of New Year party favors and noisemakers, as well as plenty of tinsel and confetti for a truly festive feel. Place champagne flutes around for ease-of-access. Tie it all together with a beautiful (and accurate) clock above your fireplace.

Valentine’s Day

While you may prefer the cutesy side of Valentine’s Day, with candy hearts and silly messages, the fireplace can act as a perfect romantic getaway for you and your Valentine. Lay a fur or plushy rug down in front, sprinkle rose petals all about, and set the champagne and boxed-chocolates within reach. Blindfold your special-someone, and guide them in for a surprise evening by the hearth.

St. Patrick’s Day

It’s hard for most to go all-green throughout the house, so the fireplace is a perfect area to concentrate your green for a festive look. Clovers are the ultimate symbol of St. Patty’s Day, so incorporate them anywhere you can in your decorations. If you don’t have clovers, you can use house plants, green apples, or anything else you can think of to tie your fireplace’s theme together nicely.


Whether you’re celebrating Easter or the beginning of spring, your fireplace can serve as a wonderful flowery centerpiece. Any type of fresh flower or spring animal you can incorporate into your design will give you a nice seasonal look, and the more decorative Easter eggs the better!

Independence Day

Your fireplace may be your source of warmth in the wintertime, but it can also become your cool-spot on the fourth of July! Work your lemonade pitcher and refreshments into your mantel’s design for your Independence Day party, and keep a red-white-and-blue theme throughout. Drape an American flag banner down past the mantle when the fireplace is not in use.


If your fireplace is close enough to your door, it can serve as the perfect trick-or-treat station on Halloween night. Incorporate any ghouls, goblins, and bats you can get your hands on, and drape fake cobwebs over your mantel. Be sure to include a big cauldron in the center to hold lots of candy!


Keep any leftover Halloween leaves and pumpkins to help reinforce a fall and harvest theme. The more produce, the better for your Thanksgiving hearth. What’s better, your fireplace will serve as a perfect gathering place for your family after your Thanksgiving dinner, and orange-and-yellow lights draped over the mantel will help the fire make it that much more cozy.


There are plenty of traditional fireplace decorations for Christmas, so be creative with them! Stockings and wreaths are the traditional staples, but how they are themed is up to you. Whether you go with a winter harvest, Santa Clause, toy, or snow theme is your Christmas time prerogative! What’s most important is that you create an inviting location for your family to gather around that will provide more than a fire’s warmth on those cold winter nights.

Year ’round, holiday fireplace decorations help you enjoy and celebrate each special event.

Nina Hiatt researches and writes articles to help people find balance and beauty in their personal space through landscape and interior design. In her free time, Nina blogs about many of her interests, which include gardening, technology news, and baking. She loves working with local businesses, and supports Vancouver heating with all her frost-bitten might.

Posted in Decorating, Holidays Tagged with: