Help! Wasps are coming in through my fireplace damper!

Help! Wasps are coming in through my fireplace damper!

Q: Jason, I live in Dallas TX and I have a gas log fireplace. Every fall I get wasps coming in through the fireplace chimney and they make it through the damper into the house. Right now I am running the gas log 24/7 to keep the wasps out, but I know it is going to cost me in the utility bill at the end of this month. If I put in a Chimney Balloon will it seal tight enough so the bees cant get in the house? Can the bees sting through the Chimney Balloon? – TY

A: Dear TY, In the late fall (usually November) we get inundated with calls from fireplace and gas log owners that have wasps and bees coming down their fireplace chimney and right around their metal damper.

The Chimney Balloon seals wall to wall inside the chimney flue so it is a very good way to plug the chimney nice and tight so the wasps have no entry point through the flue. The Chimney Balloon material is made of a multilayer laminate so the wasps would never sting their way through it. But, It is always a good idea to get the Chimney Balloon installed before the wasps start their annual pilgrimage down your chimney. Once wasps start coming in they generally do it en-mass, so it is best to cut them off first.

Plugging the flue will allow you to turn off the gas log fireplace and save some of that gas you are burning up. It also won’t hurt for you to look around for other entry points that the wasps and bees may be coming in through like soffits or window jambs – Jason

My house reeks of smoke long after the fire is out in the fireplace.

My house reeks of smoke long after the fire is out in the fireplace.

Smokey House

Q: How can I stop the strong burnt odor smell from the fireplace and from my home? It is even there when I am not using the fireplace and it is an unpleasant smell. -GHJ

A: GHJ, The first thing you have to do is stop the odor at its source by closing off the flue and chimney airtight. Your damper will not do this since it is metal and it will not lend you a tight enough seal. You can use a chimney plug or a chimney pillow to seal it off so no more odor will descend the chimney. The creosote up there can give off a surprising amount of stink especially if the wood was moist or pitchy.

The white vinegar trick will work very well if you put a large flat bowl of it in the center of the room for about 24 hours. With kids or pets, this may not be very practical.

If the weather is nice you can also open the house up and use fans to exhaust the air outside. Turn your furnace off before you do this though. As my mother always said, “No sense in heating the neighborhood.”

If you need the smoke smell out of a surface then put baking soda on it overnight and vacuum it off in the morning. – Jason

The real issue of this question is indoor air quality. Read more about indoor air quality at

My fireplace is smokey when i have a roaring fire in the fireplace, how do i stop the smoke from entering the house?

My fireplace is smokey when i have a roaring fire in the fireplace, how do i stop the smoke from entering the house?

Baffled chimney Cap

Q: Jason, whenever we have a really good fire in our fireplace, the whole house gets smokey. The flew is open so I’m not sure why. What should we do to fix this? I called my fireplace shop and they said to open a window a crack, that seems counter-intuitive since it is 5 degrees outside. I kind of like being warm.

A: I always get a kick out of people who say if your fireplace is smokey when you use it just open a window a little. Those people must not live in a cold climate because who wants to open a window when it is cold outside?! Tell them: “I live in Minnesota for crying out loud!”

Honestly, the best thing you can use to keep smoke where it belongs is some glass doors for the fireplace. They will keep the smoke and the sparks in and keep you from loosing quite so much interior heat to the combustion process and the suction of the chimney draft.

Another option is a directional wind may be blowing down at your chimney. Often winds can bounce off nearby trees and push wind currents down at your chimney. In this case, a baffled chimney cap will do the trick. My fathers Avalon wood stove had this problem and a baffled cap fixed the issue. See the image below of the baffled cap.

Remember to close that damper up good and tight when the fireplace is not in use. If you still have outside air entering even with the damper closed. Get a plug like a Chimney Balloon and it will keep the room more comfortable.

I have birds coming down through the fireplace chimney into the House!

I have birds coming down through the fireplace chimney into the House!

This was a conversation on Google Home Improvement groups that was an interesting recommendation for a Chimney Balloon to stop birds from entering a home:

Q: Hi I have never used a fireplace and never needed one but an old house I bought has one in it.  I have not moved into it yet and are updating it here and there.

I was working on removing some wood paneling this afternoon and I heard some bird sounds.  Did it seem to come from the inside?  I ignored it and then I heard it again, and from the direction of the fireplace.  I walked over to the fireplace and I saw two birds, one was standing at the bottom of the fireplace and one was laying at a corner – dead.

I opened the doors and windows and went to get the live one, he freaked and started to fly around and I lead her to the doors and he flew out.  I then took the dead one and disposed of it.  Then I heard more bird songs.  I stucked my head and looked up the chimney and it’s dark.  Could the birds be coming from the chimney?  Isn’t it supposed to be closed?  I think there are more birds up there but can’t find their way out and they won’t come down until they are exhausted or near dead.

What should I do to free them?  or should I assume that if they can find their way in they should be able to find their way out?  That dead bird obviously did not. – MC

A: MC – It sounds like you have no damper on this fireplace if the birds were just all of a sudden in your hearth. I would go to the roof and inspect the cap. It is likely that there is no screen or a rotted out screen that needs some work. By this rooftop inspection, You will also probably find out if you are dealing with a nest or a couple of curious birdies. If the roof is a steep pitch or not easily reachable be sure to hire a chimney sweep to do the inspection.

Considering the birds came right through you may want to consider a Chimney Balloon to plug the flue to keep from losing heat through the open fireplace and to block the bird noise.

How to stop wind, bird noise, and other noise from comming down the Chimney?

How to stop wind, bird noise, and other noise from comming down the Chimney?

Chimney noise stoppers

This was a post about Chimney balloons as a noise stopper or noise barrier found on Google groups at this link: I thought it was interesting.

Q: I’m having troubles with my fireplace insert. I’m having a quite tall chimney and for some reason, there’s no top or bottom damper in the chimney. When’s a windy weather, it makes very unpleasant noise in the fireplace insert, I hear the wind very loud. How can this be solved, please? – Matt

A: I was having trouble with street noise and pigeon cooing noise coming from my fireplace chimney. It was quite annoying, especially at night. I put in a Chimney Balloon to buffer the noise and it has helped quite a bit. It seems to have stopped some of the cold air passage as well. I also put out some of those pigeon spikes near the top of the chimney but that didn’t deter the little flying rats.

How can a home inspector or energy auditor use a Chimney Balloon to solve fireplace downdrafts?

How can a home inspector or energy auditor use a Chimney Balloon to solve fireplace downdrafts?

Energy audit

Q: Jason, I have a wood burning fireplace with a cozy great heater insert. I have a top of the Chimney Balloon and traditional damper installed. I have bad downdrafts and soot smell on rainy, windy days.

I am a Home Inspector and I am in the middle of a Certified Energy Training Program with RESNET. I just received a copy of Energy Magazine and read about your product. Looks like a good idea. I am going to try the vinegar tip. I need to measure my flue and I will order to try on my house. Once I get my blower door I will try the test like you did. I have doors, 2 dampers, and the Chimney Balloon. Thanks.- MW

PS. I will tell all my clients if I have success with your product. Nice website by the way and I am posting it on a few inspection association boards for others to try.

A: Hi MW, That was a great article you were referring to in Home Energy magazine (Mar/Apr 09) the energy rater that did the testing of the Chimney Balloon (Mark Furst) for that article did a great summarizing his testing of the Chimney Balloon. Mark was chosen to do the review/test because he had no experience with the Chimney Balloon, and could give an unbiased opinion. Mark also has a great reputation in Wisconsin for being very thorough at energy rating. We cannot re-post the article for copyright reasons, but you can click here to see a PDF of a summary of the Chimney Balloon article.

We would really welcome your comments and test results if you decide to do your own blower door testing of the Chimney Balloon with your fireplace.

We have not had the opportunity yet to compare the Chimney Balloon to the top seal dampers in blower door testing. I know the top seal dampers tend to seal tighter than traditional low-in-the-firebox metal dampers, but the trouble that is often experienced with a top seal damper is you are sealing the Chimney Balloon and all of its creosote and soot content into the homes interior air envelope by bottling the chimney at the top. What further compounds the issue is the fact that the warm interior air that naturally ascends the Chimney Balloon and is trapped there by the top damper tends to cool against the uninsulated brick walls of the chimney and the cold metal of the top damper and then that now-cool air drops again to the firebox. This convection process and air movement creates a draft and odor sensation at the hearth and into the room. That could be what you are experiencing.

The Chimney Balloon installed low and close to the firebox seals of the chimney from the homes interior air and eliminates this convection and air movement. – Jason