3 posts / 0 new
Last post
smell boiler exhaust


I live in a converted garage apartment, on the second floor. The boiler is on the first floor. The chimney is on the roof not too far from a window that I sit near most of the time. (It's a small apartment.) When the windows are open, from spring to fall, I smell the furnace exhaust sometimes. When I first moved in I thought the smell was from passing buses. I have since figured out that it is the boiler. With the latest tune-ups in the past two years, the smell is better than before; it isn't as rank.

My question is, is this chimney faulty or just poorly placed? It extends about 3 or 4 feet above the roof. The boiler only runs for heat, hot water and occasionally on it's own, I guess to keep whatever water is close-by warm. There is no water tank. It heats on demand but is an old unit, probably 20+ years old.

It burns oil.

Any info and advice would be welcome. Thank you.

John L

Re: smell boiler exhaust


Are you renting an apartment or do you own the building??

In reading your post it sounds like you are renting---in such a case have you talked to the landlord about fixing the problem??

The chimney odor could be caused by any one of 4 or 5 causes---

1) most codes mandate that for adequate draft the chimney extend at least 2' above the roof ridge IF THE CHIMNEY IS LESS THAN 10' FROM THE RIDGE.

2) the inside of the chimney may be covered with soot & need a cleaning--the soot acts as an insulator & prevents adequate draft.

3) There may be inadequate air in the boiler room where the boiler is situated (confined space)--there is not enough outside air going into the boiler room to create a draft up the chimney.

4) The chimney may be catching the downdraft of a nearby larger house or hill.

5) The diameter of the chimney is too small to accomodate the size of the boiler.

If you don't own the building get after the landlord to get it fixed---there are hazardous gases like carbon monoxide in the chimney smoke.

Buy a carbon monoxide detector ($35) at the home improvement centers---if the alarm goes off call the fire dept.

Re: smell boiler exhaust

Thank you for that thorough answer. I am renting. I think I have to live with it since I am getting a good deal on this place, way below market rates. I do have a carbon monoxide detector and it has never gone off but that may be due to it's placement (lying on the floor coming out of an extension cord).

If and when we get the boiler replaced, which is something my landlady is thinking of, I will mention this and hope they do a good job with the replacement and upgrade the chimney if needed. I think the chimney is less than 10 ft from the edge but I also think it is 2' or more in height. I wouldn't be surprised if I was wrong though. There are a few other funky things with this house so I wouldn't be surprised if they they installed it wrong.

I don't think I can get her to clean the chimney. Maybe I'll get it done myself. I'll also mention it to the fuel oil company next time they are here.

Thanks again. It is good to know what could be done about it.


John L

Sponsored Stories

TV Listings

Find TV listings for This Old House and Ask This Old House in your area.