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odd smell from gas fireplaces, not gas

ar7499b's picture

Hello there,

I have an approx 75 yr old house with 2 fireplaces. They were originally wood burning, but have been converted to gas. They both have gas log arrangements, and the fake 'ash' material in the bottom.

Every time we have a fire, the fireplace emits a strange odor. Not a gas smell, and not necessarily a burning smell. More of a chemical odor. It drives my wife crazy.  I try to explain that just because something has an odor, it is not necessarily dangerous. I use the example of an Indian restaurant. The kitchen has a strong aroma, but it is not a danger. However, I do not want to ignore something that could really be hazardous to us and our family.

It is worse in the lower level, where the room has a low ceiling, and not a lot of fresh air coming in, but now it is becoming more noticable in our upstairse fireplace where there is plenty of air circulation.

I do not know how long it has been since the chimneys were cleaned, not since we moved in 2 1/2 years ago, but I didn't think that was so important on gas fireplaces, where there is no soot being generated, and no burning embers drifting up the chimney shaft.

I have CO detectors throughout the house, and have never had one go off.

Do you think it is the function of having dirty chimneys? Could old soot be burning off, and would this create a chemical smell? If it is burning creosote wouldn't that be carcinogenic? I don't know what it could be. We are going to get the chimneys cleaned as soon as we can get someone out here, because we love the look and the heat from the fireplaces, but it is too much for my wife to handle.

If anyone can confirm if a dirty chimney is the likely culprit, or if they have any other ideas of what it could be, input will be grealty appreciated.

Thank you so much for your help, and Happy Holidays.


(post #84982, reply #1 of 7)

I would look closely at the "gas log arrangements, and the fake 'ash' material in the bottom".

That is what is being heated up right in the fireplace.

Could you replace one of them and see if the smell goes away?

Replace whatever is right around the gas burner.

______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ There are three kinds of men: The one that learns by reading, the few who learn by observation and the rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. Will Rogers

(post #84982, reply #2 of 7)

No telling what was burned in the fireplaces before they were converted, and people may even have been cooking in them, dripping grease on the fire pan. Plus burned ashes may have been left sitting in the fireplaces for months, gotten damp in the summer, etc.

Most likely you're smelling the odor of old fires, being driven out of the masonry by the heat. Eventually the odor will go away, if you can stand it that long.

The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of a mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one. --Wilhelm Stekel

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

(post #84982, reply #3 of 7)

This thread's solution may interest you.



    Small wheel turn by the fire and rod, big wheel turn by the grace of god.


    Small wheel turn by the fire and rod, big wheel turn by the grace of god.

(post #84982, reply #4 of 7)

Don't know how long you've been using them but when you first fire up one straight from the factory, there will be a chemical smell for a while. The heat is reacting with some of the stuff (like paint) from the factory.

We just built a house with three gas fireplaces and the product lit said this would occur. Not dangorous or anything (or so it said) just a new product being broken in. Maybe it's kinda like the new car smell (which most of us like) only not as pleasing.

The fireplace we've use the most is over the smell after 10 weeks (and maybe 30-40 fires) and the other two are coming along.

Hope that's what it is.


(post #84982, reply #5 of 7)

Good idea. I agree that some products need to be heated up a couple of times before they are rid of the small.

The original post did sound to me like they had used it for a while though. But I could be just reading that into it.

______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________ There are three kinds of men: The one that learns by reading, the few who learn by observation and the rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. Will Rogers

(post #84982, reply #6 of 7)

thank you all for your insights. These fireplaces are original (1940), so there is no paint or packing grease to burn off. There must be something to the idea that old smells might just be cooked into the masonry....

It is very doubful that anything crawled into the flues because a new cap (with chimney top dampers) was installed last winter when we had some tuckpointing done.

As always, the input is very much appreciated. If anyone else has a guess as to what the source of our odor might be, or how likely it is to be dangerous, please let us know.




(post #84982, reply #7 of 7)

Our furnace and gas fireplace always have an odor at the beginning of the season. We have the furnace serviced every year and it is fine. I've always assumed that it is accumulated dust/oxidation burning off and after a week or so of steady use it is gone.

Edited to add - your chimney sweep will probably be able to offer a good opinion on what is causing it.

Edited 12/21/2008 11:05 pm by aimless