Smell in upstairs bedroom when fire lite

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Gill S

New Member
Nov 17, 2023
Wisbech UK
Hello we have fitted a second hand woodburner this week, which we used stove black on, also painted inside of fireplace with vinyl mat emulsion!! So all in place, have a fire and all good, until i went to bed and the smell in my bedroom was toxic, not a smoke smell. Not sure what. Had windows open over night and let fire go out and all gone, repeated yesterday, I couldn't sleep in there again. The smell is not in the room where fire is. We have used hardebacker ?? thats what my husband call it. All round and above woodburner, which flue pipe goes through, it is not sealed as we are still wanting to drop down to check things going forward, so our thoughts have been there is some kind of smell travelling up there. but what is it, paint/stove polish or something else?? I am confused because the smell is not in the wood burner room, only my bedroom which the chimney goes up through to outside, I get that there is possible a gap between floors and where rad pipes go up/down so assume its in the chimeny somewhere and coming in via those gaps, but its really bad and what can it be, what are our options. Thanks
Was your vinyl mat emulsion rated for high temperature? Was the fireplace and chimney in good shape before you installed a stove in it? Was an appropriate sized liner installed to the top of the chimney?
Hi. House is very old approx 250 years so bear that in mind lol.. Fireplace internally was re pointed, then lined with cement board all round and sealed. Not a clue re the paint, so I guess not! the stove was 5" so we fitted an adapator to go to 6" steel liner with new chimney cowl. Used fire cement to seal round top of woodburner to flue and then fire silicone/sealant on flue to adaptor.
It is normal for all stove paints to smell very bad during the first few fires, diminishing substantially with each fire after the first. It is the paint "baking-in", and I'm surprised you didn't visibly see any smoke coming off of it. Your chimney chase must have carried that smell up to the bedroom.

Your next fire will be substantially less smelly, and the one after that even better, although it will still put off some smell each time you reach a new high temperature. I am speaking here of the stovebrite used on the exterior of the stove, I have no idea about the emulsion used on the inside of the fireplace, but it might be reasonable to assume that will behave similarly.

Stove pipe with factory finish will do the same, but also usually resolved after the first few fires. Do these early in the day on a new stove, so you have a chance to completely air things out before bedtime. Also, never a good idea to have overnight fires on a new rig, until you've flushed out its safety and operation during the day, and build some confidence in it.
Uses and climates can vary, but for most of us, overnight is the most common time to have a fire, as it's when outside temperatures drop and the house goes cold. I run overnight fires Oct.1 into mid-May, and only add daytime burning mid-November thru March.

In any case, whatever you do, get a dozen firings on that rig to gain experience. I'll bet the stink really diminishes to almost nothing by the third or fourth fire.
I’m wondering why the smell is only upstairs? This is a red flag and could be a sign of something more serious than just burning paint off. Could the liner be touching some old creosote that wasn’t cleaned well? And the old chimney has leaks to the living space??

I would be uncomfortable using the stove until you have verified the safety of the installation.
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Always good to double-check everything, but old houses often have ceiling-to-floor registers and other chases, designed for carrying the heat from some old gravity furnace up through the house by natural convection.
My house was built in 1886. It has a few round cutouts in the floor/ceiling. I guess warm air rises so it would seem to work, I guess. I rely solely on radiant heat.
My house was built in 1886. It has a few round cutouts in the floor/ceiling. I guess warm air rises so it would seem to work, I guess. I rely solely on radiant heat.
That is a description of convection. Radiant heat is line of sight.
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My house was built in 1886. It has a few round cutouts in the floor/ceiling. I guess warm air rises so it would seem to work, I guess. I rely solely on radiant heat.
1880's is right in the sweet spot for the coal fed gravity furnaces. My prior house (1877) had one, as did my father's first house (1865). There were no electric blowers back then, they relied on convection to just carry the heat up from one floor to the next, thru those ceiling-to-floor registers. Those holes were originally filled with usually pretty ornate cast iron or brass grates with louvers to control how much heat was allowed into the room above. There would have been a large (like 2 x 3 feet) register between the furnace heat exchanger and the first floor, usually centrally-located.
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