Q: Jason, On warmer winter days and rainy days, we have a strong smoke smell in the house. We have a fireplace insert. Would the Chimney Balloon help with this problem?- SQ

A: Dear SQ, The first thing you can do to cut down on smoke smell during the humid days is first to clean the ash out of the fireplace insert with a shop vac. Humidity has a bad habit of making soot, creosote, and ash to smell stronger.

Some people are under the misconception that a chimney sweeping or cleaning will remove this burnt smell, and I have not found that to be the case. Chimney sweeping is good and should be done regularly, but the brushing action often stirs up the creosote and ash in the flue making it stronger smelling for a while.

The next step is to separate your flue from the house by sealing it off. A Chimney Balloon will work to stop the smelly fireplace stink if you can access the chimney flue opening. Some inserts have metal baffles in the firebox that prevent access to the chimney flue from the firebox. However, there should be a way to access your flue since a chimney sweep has to do this in order to sweep the chimney and then get the ash he brushed off out. You may want to ask your sweep how he accesses your lower flue to remove the ash he brushes off the flue wall. There may be an ash clean-out or removable portion of your flue pipe that you are unaware of. If you can touch the inside of the flue or damper opening area then you can install the Chimney Balloon and it will seal off the chimney low and tight and will not allow the creosote buildup in the chimney to stink up the house.

If you still have a smell to deal with it is probably from the firebox. To further neutralize any lingering smell, you can use a large salad bowl of white vinegar. Just put a good amount of vinegar in the bowl and set it in the firebox for a  day or two. This can also do a great job of neutralizing the fireplace burnt smell.

If you need to go one step further, you can also treat the firebox with baking soda (just remember to remove the vinegar bowl first). Sprinkle baking soda liberally over the floor and walls of the firebox. Let it set a few days and then vacuum it off. – Jason