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Get rid of the Fireplace Smell

Q: Recently we went on vacation and had to bring our sheets and blankets along. During the drive, I noticed that they smelled terrible--a very strong musty smell.

When I returned home, I noticed that our whole house had this smell, and that it was coming from our wood-burning fireplace. We do not use the fireplace because I have allergies. It's clear that the previous owner used the fireplace, however.

We have lived in our house for nearly six years, and I never noticed the smell until now. Perhaps the smell is stronger this year because we have had an unusually wet and cool summer. In any case, every time I step into our house, I notice this smell and it really bothers me.

I very much would like to know if there is a way I can rid our house of this smell. Can you suggest anything? Thank you in advance for any advice you can offer.

A: It is certainly possible that the smell you detect is a result of the wet weather. Rain will combine with the deposits from wood-burning to create a strong musty smell.

I recommend that you have the chimney professionally cleaned and deodorized. You may want to have some extra deodorizer left for you to do some touch up if needed.

I would also have the chimney sweep check to see if you have a cap on the chimney to keep rain from going down the flue. The cap should also have mesh sides to preclude leaves or critters from being able to get into the flue.

Raccoons in particular love chimneys because they resemble their natural home -- a hollow tree. And believe me, you DO NOT want a raccoon in your chimney, or more importantly, inside your house.

Another reason to keep rain from entering the flue is that it not only combines with the deposits to create an unpleasant smell, it also combines with the deposits and deteriorates the mortar between the flue tiles.

If the mortar deteriorates and comes out, sparks from a fire can exit the flue out between the flue tiles instead of the top as intended. This can cause a fire because your chimney isn't fire-resistant outside of the flue.

Although you don't have fires, this would still be an important thing to have the chimney sweep look for. Mortar that is intact would be important for any following owner who may wish to use the fireplace -- this might help eliminate a potential hazard for them.

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