How to resurface your fireplace

Click here to watch this resurfacing youtube video!
David Lamb of Embers Fireplace & Chimney in Cincinnati Ohio pictured above.

Fireplace Resurfacing

Recently, I had a customer who wanted us to resurface the front of their fireplace. As a contractor, I feel it’s important to  be honest with my personal experiences, as well as my likes and dislikes with customer before getting a fireplace resurfacing job underway.

Today, I want to offer two professional opinions about fireplace resurfacing that you may influence your decision before you redo the look of you fireplace. First I will offer an insight from Bill Hussel about the use of veneer during a resurfacing job. Bill is a very successful businessman. He is originally an engineer by education and trade and entered into the hearth industry many years ago. He has operated two fireplace and wood stove stores and also managed a multi-truck service company.

Bill’s insights follow my own personal opinion about stone-stack brick and alternatives.

Bill Hussel on resurfacing using Veneer Stone

Fireplace Resurfacing

“This is a perfect time to reface and redesign the appearance of your fireplace.”

What do you mean refacing, redesign?

In the old days, fireplace resurfacing involved going in with a small jackhammer and literally rip out the old brick work or all the old stonework. Then you’d have to have a mason put back in masonry substrate components to replace what used to be there.

Removing the old masonry brick units in preparing the wall for installation. The new installation would require a substrate or backing board, much like you would see when putting tiles onto the floor.
Veneer bricks
Veneer bricks come in a variety of sizes, patterns and colors. These here only an inch and a half thick and can be man-made or natural stone. They’re man-made from a poured mold, the natural stones are most often cut with special equipment to match sizes. They’re become extremely popular in the last 10 years.

With the advent of veneer brick or veneer stone work, backbreaking-intensive labor and expensive brick reworking is no longer mandatory in resurfacing the fireplace.

Veneer brick? What is the benefit of that?

Weight. Or rather, lack of weight. The fact is that you can go in and mount this material on drywall!

On this picture we’ve put a substrate behind it. But many manufactures don’t require any type of masonry backing, any type of foundation or support. This is because there is a much reduced weight involved here and its appearance, whether its natural or man-made is just stunning! There are so many choices – literally – there are hundreds and hundreds of choices of different masonry designs that are available to you.

One of the best websites that’s on the web right now some people know is website If you go on to that website and use a filter or search word – for example masonry stone fireplace – you will have 15,000 masonry stone fireplace designs. And that’s not an exaggeration. No, there’s there’s really that many on there and in my opinion they’re way better than if you go to Google Images. These are from professional architects and many homeowners just like you that have some very very unique designs to look at.

Clay Lamb’s personal opinion on stone stacked patterns



This more of a more full-joint that has been hand rubbed to provide for a much older appearance of the stone work installation. Notice the random sizes, much like you find on an old farm house.


The customers that recently contacted me for a fireplace resurfacing were considering a stack stoned look. However, their selection of a stack stone pattern was a little concerning. Stacked stone definitely has its place in the building construction market. But my hesitation is this: even though it looks great on a lot of buildings, I personally feel the irregular shapes and mortar joints can be a little visually distracting for a quality finish

I feel this is especially true when you’re observing up close. I feel stack stone designs of today could become be very dated in the next 10 to 20 years. To my delight, they made an alternative selection of very beautiful tile panels that will fit together extremely well!

They fit great!

One thing that I like working with this new material is that you can fill them and dress them easily, as well as put them together and seamlessly shape and mend then into other panels! This provides us the ability to achieve a beautiful color balancing of these tile panels. With a little bit of chiseling on this stone, it was really simply to make this tiles blend seamlessly.

Its very easy to cut tile and make it fit on your fireplace. Always use a wet saw when any kind of cut on tile or cultured brick or stone. You can get them at most tool rentals.

If you take out the existing bricks we install a layer of cement board over the existing cinder blocks to provide for a smooth substrate for our new material to apply to.

Mounting a Television?

Our customer wants to install a large flat screen TV onto this wall. To do this we work with their electrician on installing electrical outlets and conduit prior to doing any masonry work. You need to be cautious so not to drill too deep in the fireplace. It should be 8-inches deep. You can visually confirm this using a bright light through the fireplace, looking at the smoke chamber. Most electricians would be aware of this.

Our customer selects a beautiful granite piece for the new hearth.

One feature that is worth noting here, not only do these rounded edges look great, they are a lot less likely to chip when hit with the edge of a vacuum cleaner.

Our new granite hearth is carefully carried into the home and a bed of thin-set adhesive is installed onto both the floor and the back of the granite.

We lay the granite cautiously in position and finish off the edges. Another hint here would be to be sure to mark off the boundaries of where the hearth is going to go so you can set it to that point. You can do this with tape or pencil markings. This is not be as hard as it may appear. You want a properly-sized notched trial that provides the plowing look pictured above.

What a mantle!

As you can see here, this customer has chosen to have us install a minimal-sized marble mantel. This was due to the large screen TVs that will be mounted on the wall after our trim work has been completed. These materials can be found at most tile and granite suppliers.

Your imagination is your own limitation. But again I recommend going to Houzz to get ideas. I have personal opinion that every home should have theme or feel to it. And that feel should be consistent throughout your home. With fireplace resurfacing, we’re primarily trying to removed the dated appearance of your fireplace and in most cases it could add value to your home.

Imagine the difference it would make to your home to have your existing fireplace transformed from a dated fireplace to a designer showcase. I feel our customer has made a great selection of materials and now so can you.

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Vent Free Appliances (Risks, Considerations, and Operating Tips)

Vent Free Logs

This is a less than 5 minute video by industry expert Jerry Isenhour. Join us as he explains the insights and the positive and negative sides of:

Vent Free Appliances and Vent Free Logs

If you’re thinking of converting an old fireplace in a gas unit, you’re not alone. As a popular option today, a lot of consumers today want to put a gas product in their fireplace. This could be because they dislike burning wood, want ease of use, or prefer the look. Whatever the reason is, we’re here today to primarily talk about Vent Free Logs and Appliances.

There are three main choices when it comes to adding a gas appliance into your home. They are:

  1. Vent Free Gas Appliance 
  2. Venting Gas Appliance
  3. Direct Vent Gas

Personally I feel direct vent gas fireplace inserts are the best investment you make for your home today. For years we’ve been offering regency fireplace products that you can find and can be at many fireplace companies around the country.

But today we are talking about Vent Free Gas Appliances (Vent Free Logs). They are popular units but they are also controversial and come with a host of potential risks.

Check the regulations.

Direct free units are restricted in many areas of the country. They are banned in the entire state of California as well as cities and counties across the US.

Vent free or ventless equipment is a very controversial topic in the chimney and fireplace industry. There are many varying opinions on its use. When considering if vent free is a viable option for your family and lifestyle I consider you read the manufacturer’s guidelines. Determine if it stacks up favorably for your investment and safety. I’m going to say personally that I am no longer a fan of vent free fireplace units or gas logs. I have stopped servicing, selling, or installing them. We currently only sell and install vented gas log sets and direct vent fireplace inserts.

We’re going to supply 2 links to vent-free code maps that may want to consider before investing in a vent free appliance. Check out these map links from and Hansen Wholesale to determine if vent free is even an option in your own county or state.

For health and safety purposes we have these regulations. However, if you operate a vent free unit with care and consciousness, you can potentially safely operate a vent free unit without problem. Take a moment to read the information below to help you operate your vent free appliance safely and efficiently.

What Is a Vent Free Gas Appliance

When we’re talking about vent free we’re talking about logs and gas units that do not do require a chimney to vent out of the home. A vent free gas appliance is an appliance that doesn’t require venting to the outside. These units have been particularly popular in the southeastern United States, but many counties no longer allow the sale of these units.

When we have a vent-free or unvented gas product, what you’re doing is using room air. The room air goes into the firebox – goes into the combustion process – and all the chemical byproducts in the interior of our home are expelled back into the room.

Now, in truth be told, vent free equipment actually does supply a tremendous amount of heat into the home – but it comes with a cost. In my opinion, I wouldn’t recommend leaving a direct vent operate without following the manufacturer’s written guidelines.

Remember to always follow manufacturer guidelines regarding: opening a window to allow for fresh air, not burning the appliance for more than a couple hours in a 24-hour period, and not operating if you have any respiratory problems.

Extra measures to take with a Vent Free Unit

Just as if you wouldn’t want to operate a car in an unvented mode, and you wouldn’t want to operate your furnace in an unvented mode. This is because you potentially have toxic gases that are produced by the gas appliances during the combustion process.

Open a window!

Most vent free appliance manufacturers require opening a window. You may want to consider not using these types of units if you or family have respiratory issues.

Many manufactures recommend that the vent free appliance is within a room where you can get fresh air as part of the combustion process. Many manufacturers advise opening the window to at least a half an inch. As well as addressing clearances to combustibles such as wood framing and fireplace mantles.

Vent Free Usage

Another thing you need is to be concerned about is the usage level of the appliance. Many manufactures of these appliances suggest these should not be operated over two hours a day within a 24 hour period of your home.


There’s also another byproduct of vent free gas, which is moisture. Any time we combust gas we actually have large moisture buildup in the home that is not able to be vented out. Today’s homes are basically built airtight. We have them very heavily-insulated, so that any moisture produced by a vent free gas appliance will remain in the envelope construction of home. This often leads to various types of moisture issues that must be evaluated for health concerns regarding humidity, mold, and mildew.

General Health Risks

Obviously this picture is an exaggeration. But we all must be seriously aware of the chemicals in our home.

Another word of caution about a vent free appliance, they can possibly cause a stress on the heart. It can also hurt the respiratory system for some individuals. People will report odor issues at times from vent-free appliances. To clarify that, we’re combusting both gas and air in through the appliance. The air in the average home today contains a lot of chemicals. We have cleaners in the homes, household detergents, bleaches, hardwood flooring processes, etc. These different types of chemicals are within our environment.

Remember,  we’re pulling the air from the living space into the home. We’re possibly pulling chemical products such as formaldehyde from the furniture and the carpets. All these things are released back into the home during the combustion process of using vent free equipment.

That New Car Smell!

We all have been in a new home or a new car and smelled what we call the new car smell! Well, actually, what that is is the release of formaldehydes from parts of the interior and upholstery of the car or home. It may smell pleasant to you then, but its really chemical formaldehydes released in the air.

Now, as those formaldehydes airborne go into the burner system of a vent free unit, and they’re combusted, along with animal fur, carpeting, and a wide variety of other indoor pollutants. And they actually transform and create a very toxic, very acrid odor. People will smell a smell associated with rotten eggs. Many people think that they have a gas leak, when its actually coming from the combustion processes of using a vent free unit. Those who sell these appliances often claim its just the burning of the logs, which I’m not sure I agree with.

Remember here are the key things to keep in mind with vent free units:

• Don’t overuse the vent free logs or fireplace for an extended period of time.

• Open a window as suggested by your vent free equipment manufacturer.

• Be sure to read the manufacturer’s installation and use instructions.

We hope this article helps you in the consideration of using or investing in vent free products.

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How to easily remove Creosote from your fireplace

Stuart of SaverSystems explains how to efficiently and inexpensively take care of your creosote problems.

Creosote Problems?

Today we are addressing one of our most common questions: how do I handle my creosote problems? Fortunately, there is a product that greatly helps in treating and preventing creosote.

What is Creosote?

Creosote is the product of unburned combustibles from incomplete combustion in your firebox. It deposits on the interior walls of your chimney. Furthermore, creosote is actually very dangerous because it is easily flammable and can ignite and cause a chimney fire. Additionally, a chimney fire will lead to significant structural damage in the home and puts the inhabitants of your home at risk.

Also, a good signifier you have a creosote problem is when you smell a foul odor emitting from the fireplace.

Additionally, creosote is observable by the human eye, as it is a black tarry substance that you can see building up on the flues inside the chimney chase.

An easy way to treat and prevent creosote with ACS (Anti-Creo-Soot).

Fixing creosote problems

Anti-Creo-Soot (ACS) is an easy and inexpensive way to treat and prevent creosote. There are two forms of Anti-Creo-Soot: Liquid and Powder.

For liquid creosote, you simply spray the ACS into the firebox during the burn while adding fuel. Also, you will want to spray 5 or 6 times.

For powdered creosote, you insert a straw into the top of the canister and puff the powder up inside the fireplace. Also unlike the liquid form, you will puffing the powder into the chimney chase in between fires.

In conclusion, both products modify the creosote. As a result, they break down the creosote and transform it into a harmless char or ash that can be easily removed the next time you have your chimney swept.

Where can I get ACS?

The product is inexpensive and easy-to-use and can be picked up off of Amazon right here:

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below!

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Great Day for a Chimney Fire!

chimney fire
Click here to watch a demonstration of what happens to a chimney flue in the event of a chimney fire.

Chimney Fires

Frequently I get the question: what is a chimney fire like? Half of them sound like a freight train, the other half are slow rumblers that residents often cannot hear. Chimney fires can cause a number of destructive issues in your fireplace and even your home. Also, it can also be extremely hazardous and risk-inducing for anyone inside the home at the time of the fire. We suggest following these steps to prevent a disaster from occurring in your home:

Make sure you are burning dried-seasoned wood and that you’re having your chimney inspected and cleaned annually. Never burn pizza boxes, pine branches, newspapers, or gift wrapping as these things are prone to igniting a chimney fire. If you can observe a fair amount of creosote inside of your chimney, this is usually an indication a chimney fire has occurred. Because Creosote is also highly inflammable, if you can see or smell a heavy creosote build-up, do not use that fireplace until it’s been properly inspected, swept and cleaned.

If you’re looking for a chimney sweep in your area, use the sweeps finder on Burn safe and warm!

Chimney Fire Demonstration

As a demonstration, we’ve created this video below. This is to show the destructive qualities a chimney fire can have on your fireplace. Inside the chimney chase going up and down your home is a flue system. When a chimney fire occurs, the heat expands and creates vertical cracks in the flues – no matter how strong the material!

Furthermore, to further prevent chimney fires, please take the time to share this video with one or two of your friends! Greatly appreciated, Clay Lamb, your Cincinnati Chimney Sweep!

Please leave a comment!


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Fireplace Ash

Ash Pit is a term regarding ash dumps in the fireplace. Some are rather large, concrete closets. You can find them in many older homes in the basement. The homeowners’ fireplace ash shovels down into this cavity and may take many years to fill up. I mean, many years to fill-up.

Fireplace Ash
This is an extremely useful tool you can pick up here:

Some ash pits tunnel ash to the basement and is a real mess to deal with. Others direct the fireplace ash to an outside door for much easier cleanup. Another consideration is an ash box. These can be “about” 12”x12”x12”. These are often found on the floor of the fireplace. Personally, I like to open the damper all of the way and then slowly shovel the fireplace ash. You can use a “metal can with a metal lid”. This allows the ash to draft up the chimney if need be.

Furthermore, I like this approach as it is a much safer method. Additionally, many serious wood burners use no log grate at all and start their fireplace using 2” to 3” bed of ash left in place. In addition, many homeowners like to use the fireplace ash in their garden. Don’t ask me the chemical benefit of this.

Here is my story, and I’m sticking to it:

Years ago, (when I was just starting in the chimney industry), after servicing a customers fireplace and resetting their damper, I was driving down the highway to another job when I began noticing thick smoke filling the back of my service van. I quickly pulled over on side of the highway, opened up the back doors and the entire van was bombarded with a thick black smoke. Through the smoke, I could now plainly see that the smoke was coming out of my vacuum system I had used in the previous customer’s home.

If you didn’t already guess,

I had sucked up hot charred ashes from what I believe to be the cold bed of fireplace ash. Also, the airflow from my vacuum cleaner must have rekindled and sparked a dangerous fire within my truck.

I must have looked like a real fool to those who were driving by,  as I began dumping the burning fire onto the roadside and feverishly stomping on the fire and trying to pour the remains of my water bottle onto the fire hoping to extinguish these now glowing oranges and red ember. Embarrassingly, I was able did get the fire out, I cleaned up my mess, and I was on the way with a lesson learned well.

Lesson Learned:

Most of all, stir up the ashes while they are still in the fireplace. Especially, check for heat and embers and keep it all in a metal container with a tight lid on it. In addition, I would have loved to see a picture of me doing that fire dancing on the side of the road.

In conclusion, burn safe and warn,

Clay Lamb
… like I almost did. 🙂


“Don’t make an Ash of yourself!”


If you’re looking for a useful tool to help you managing your ash, pick up this Ash Bucket from Amazon:

How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning


Nighthawk Carbon Monoxide Alarm 62525 copy
Carbon Monoxide Detector

7 Ways to help prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning (CO)

1)- Have carbon monoxide detector installed on each level of your home

2)- Have your home’s heating and venting systems inspected annually

3)- Have your wood-burning and gas fireplace serviced yearly

4)- Do not use charcoal grills inside your house or fireplace

5)- Never operate a gasoline-powered engine in an unvented garages or basement.

6)- Never operate a car, mower or generator, running in the garage, even with the garage door open

7)- Never use a gas range or cook stove for heating inside your home, cabin, tent or camper 

Carbon Monoxide poisoning is often referred to as “CO” poisoning . . .  the “Silent Killer”

 This poisonous gas is a byproduct of the burning of any type of fossil fuel, or by-products such as gasoline, natural gas, fuel oils, kerosene, coal, wood, or charcoal.

When you breathe in Carbon Monoxide, it quickly replaces the oxygen in your bloodstream that your body requires. Without this needed oxygen, the cells throughout our body die, and your internal organs will begin to shut down. Thus, this is what makes CO gas so dangerous because that you can’t see, smell it, or taste it.

Carbon Monoxide detectors should be installed on each floor of the home!

Carbon monoxide produces whenever we use our automobiles, fireplaces, charcoal grills, and gas appliances. Usually, these appliances will cause no problems if you correctly vent them.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
In finding Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Areas, be sure to inspect both the furnace and hot water heater flues.

All of the flue vents in your home, including your dryer vent, need to be serviced regularly.

CO can become very deadly with just a minimal amount of exposure. It is important to be aware of the many signs of CO poisoning, and knowing what to do may mean life or death for you or your loved ones.

Carbon Monoxide trouble often occurs when cars, trucks, or other engines are left running in enclosed spaces, such as garages. Therefore idling a car in an open garage could be very dangerous, as fumes leak back up into the living space of the home.

R: 128 G: 255 B: 192 X:39852 Y: 0 S: 424 Zs: 0 Zp: 1 F: 670 I: 0 ImgVer:
Removing bird nesting from the fireplace

Sealing and insulating homes may trap poisonous gases inside the house. Often this is due to misusing charcoal grills, generators and heating appliances in unvented areas of the home.

You may have heard of restaurants closing because of customers becoming sick because of CO poisoning. Often this occurs in buildings burning gas stoves and ovens consistently.

What are some of the symptoms of CO Poisoning? 

As carbon monoxide gases build up in the bloodstream and rob us of oxygen, symptoms may vary but include dizziness, headaches, upset stomach and vomiting. Other warning signs maybe a feeling of disorientation, confusion, drowsiness, rapid breathing, racing of the heart, clamminess of the skin, chest pains, blurred vision and even possibly seizures.

Therefore, if you breathe in too much CO it could make you pass out or even kill you. Because breathing in rather low levels of carbon monoxide gas over a prolonged period may go somewhat undetected as a feeling of being little sick or coming down with the flu. Those “flu-like” symptoms’ could be causing prolong heart problems or possibly brain damage.

Three Signs of a possible chimney flue blockages that may be causing spillage of very deadly Carbon Monoxide gases into your home.

1- White chalking called (efflorescence) on the outside of the chimney bricks

2- Watermarks on the walls in the basement flue vents

3- Broken flue tiles on the top of the chimney   


Have you heard someone say ‘I smell Gas”?

If you think your smelling the rotten egg sulfur smell of natural gas what you are smelling is a chemical called Mercaptan and it gives off a very distinctive odor. Most people describe as the odor as “rotten eggs “or hydrogen sulfide. So, if you smell rotten eggs – leave the house quickly!  Do not use a light switch, telephone or cell phone from within the house; get everyone outside as quickly as you can!

Finally, everyone is at a potential risk for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.DSCF0712

As a result, each year thousands of individuals are dangerously exposed to CO poisoning, requiring emergency room care. Many are hospitalized or even die in their own home.

. . . . .  In conclusion, we can’t See, Smell, or Taste Carbon Monoxide, but we can all learn how to identify it, treat it and prevent it!

Click here to check out more videos from Ask the Chimney Sweep.

Affiliate Disclosure

I NEVER recommend a product or service that I don’t personally use (and love) myself but just to be totally transparent you should know that some of the links on my site ARE affiliate links and I DO make a small commission from any sales that are made. Thanks for your support!

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Fireplace Odor? Fix my stinking chimney!

Fireplace Odor? My chimney stinks!

Fireplace Odor
Got a bad case of the fireplace odors!

Fireplace Odor? Ask the Chimney Sweep recently received this question about fireplace odor that you may be dealing with yourself:

I have a wood-burning fireplace that I have not used in at least six years. I have had it cleaned 3 times since last using it. In the late spring and summer, or when it is raining, the fireplace odor is so horrible that I can’t deal with it. It doesn’t bother anyone else. It isn’t “smokey” smell, it is sharp, acrid chemical creosote smell. Short of ordering specially-made doors (2,000$ and that still won’t be totally tight) for it or getting the fireplace taken out (have no idea how much, brick home), I don’t know what else to do.

First off, I agree with you, chimney creosote odors stinks!!

This chimney cap is clogged up with glazed creosote. Most likely associated with closing down the damper with a wood stove. The fire likely never had a chance to burn good and hot because the damper was too tight.

For many homeowners, however, fireplace odor has become second-nature. It emits through the home through the furnace and the duct work to the point where creosote is now a part of the smell of the entire house. Check the faces of your guests the next time they’re over. If you notice anyone cringe or wince when they walk through the door, it may be time to get the fireplace checked out! Additionally, if you’re living with any children or elderly relatives, this also a potential health risk to consider. If it’s a bother to the nose, just think of the bother it is for your lungs! On top of this, creosote build-up can lead to chimney fires! Fortunately, there are much simpler ways to resolve this problem than expensively removing your fireplace.

What causes those nasty fireplace odors?

There are many potential causes of creosote odor, but there are several obvious factors that can easily contribute to creosote build up, thus resulting in fireplace odor.

  • Using wet and unseasoned wood. 

When you’re burning wood in your fireplace, you want to make sure the wood is seasoned properly for burning. If the wood is not completely dry or seasoned, there is moisture in the wood that translates into creosote deposits when burned. Even if the wood looks completely dry, you cannot know this for sure with the human eye alone. The best practice is to buy a moisture meter. A moisture meter is an inexpensive device that you can shove straight into wood that does a very efficient job of determining the moisture content in your wood. You can read more about moisture meters here.

  • Keeping the damper too tight.

For many wood-burning homeowners, it is a habit to keep the damper not open enough. It is important to know that creosote build-up is largely determined by airflow through the chimney system. Frequent hot fires are important to moving the gases in creosote up and out of the chimney. If you’re closing your damper too tight then you’re restricting your air flow, preventing everything from flowing smoothly through your chimney system, which allows for much more likelihood of creosote build up.

  • Your home is fairly airtight.

Creosote odor most often occurs in the spring/summer because the air conditioner is on and pulling creosote odors through the house. Spring rains and those hot summer, humid days are perfect times for odors to be carried back through the house. Air needs to be able to circulate throughout the duct work in your home. If your home is air tight with the air conditioner blasting, usually with lots of glass, tight windows, air has no way to travel outward through your home. This means air can only travel downward through your chimney system, redistributing all the creosote back into your fireplace, instead of out of it.

Chimney Odor Solutions?

Anti-Creo-Soot is a great product to prevent creosote. However, these chemical removers are NOT nearly as effective against serious odor problems in the home.

Many people resort to using chemical cleaners, air fresheners, place heavy glass doors over their fireplaces to resolve their odor issues. Unfortunately, all this does is mask the problem. Creosote odor is distributed into the ventilation of your entire home, so simply blocking or treating the firebox is not going to remove the odor. You must attack the source of. Creosote builds up in the firebox, the smoke chamber, and the chimney flues. This means a complete treatment is in order.

PCR (Poultice Creosote Remover)

Get a quote from your chimney sweep on using PCR to help resolve a severe fireplace odor problem.

Our most effective and recommended treated for creosote odor is Poultice Creosote Remover (PCR). PCR is designed to completely remove glazed creosote all of forms from the flue tiles, smoke chambers, and fireplaces. Poulitce Creosote Remover is a substance that when applied, the creosote dissolves and completely absorbs it. PCR can be applied by brush in easily accessible areas or with a specially designed tool that can be pulled up through the chimney by a winch, check out our video below. Once it completely drys out the creosote, the creosote fails to stick to the chimney and falls off the sides of the flue tiles. The remaining PCR is removed by then sweeping out the rest of the chimney.

  • Completely removes creosote of all forms
  • Eliminates the need for rigorous and ineffective cleaning methods
  • Cleans and prepares surface of flue tiles for additional chimney applications

How to do I get PCR treatment?

The best way to get PCR treatment is to get a chimney sweep to do the treatment. Using the provided resource on the front page of NCSG (National Chimney Sweeps Guild), you can search by your zip code and it will provide you with the nearest NCSG chimney sweep.

Once you’ve found a chimney sweep in your area, you’ll want to ask them if they do PCR treatment. Whenever you allow a contractor into your home you’ll want to do research. Check out Google, Angie’s List, Yelp. A professional will have all the equipment necessary and know-how to complete the job safely. As a Cincinnati Chimney Sweep contractor, I can tell you, everyone I know who’s has this done has told me they’ve been incredibly satisfied with this removing their problems with creosote odors!

Don’t forget to visit our channel, Ask the Chimney Sweep on YouTube.

Affiliate Disclosure

I try NEVER to recommend a product or service that I have not personally used (and love) myself. But just to be totally transparent you should know that some of the links on my site ARE affiliate links and I DO make a small commission from any sales that are made. Thanks for your support!


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Test your wood with a Moisture Meter

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Burn Wise 

Moisture Meters

Burn Wise suggests: Test your wood with a moisture meter

Burning wet wood is detrimental to the efficient use of  a wood burning device. This is because of its effects on air quality. In general, smoke from burning wood is harmful on the respiratory system. Burning wet wood however, actually becomes a more harmful pollutant and can even get you sick.



  • Only burn wood that is properly dried.
  • Cut your wood into a variety of size but no more than a 6″ inch wedge (visualized in the video below).
  • Stack your wood away from your home and other buildings on wood pallets with the wedge side facing down.
  • Cover the wood with a tarp or wood shed, but leave the sides uncovered so air circulates.
  • Give the wood enough time to dry. (Softer woods take about 6 months, harder woods take about a year)

If the wood is cracking on the end, this generally means to dry enough to burn.

The Environmental Protection Agency describes how to use a moisture meter to determine the wood’s moisture level. It then provides information about seasoning firewood.


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Chimney Corbeling: Chimney Masonry Repair

Hips and Shoulders: Chimney Corbeling

Chimney Corbeling can cause bigger problems so it is best to get the issue fixed sooner rather than later. The corbelling hips on your chimney could be allowing damaging water to come into your home. Corbelling aligns the shape of the smoke chamber to allow for better air flow inside the chimney. By design, the smoke chamber height can not be any bigger than inside width of the fireplace room opening, and the depth should not be greater than the depth of the smoke chamber.  The smoke chamber has to be placed at 45-degree angle and perched smooth on the inside.

Smoke Chambers

The shape of the smoke chamber should be capped off so not water can penetrate. Do it with concrete stones as you can see below. It is most important during construction any open voids of the brick itself are properly filled to prevent water penetration. Always remember small holes can allow gallons of damaging water in the chimney smoke chamber and even down into the firebox below. In the 60s 70s and 80s, many builders cut costs by making these flat instead of pitched at all. We’d always recommend having your chimney contractor take a picture of the top of the corbeling to determine if it needs a new stone cover, silicone waterproofing, or grind it out and tuck point it.

See also smoke chambers.
Here’s a perfect corbeling. Really doesn’t get better than this design!


This Chimney Corbeling looks fine from the ground up. But take note of the picture below…




Looking from the roof down you can see that poor masonry craftsman provided trouble for the homeowner. You need to fill these holes in the original construction.


Chimney Corbeling
Again looking down from the roof into the corbel, notice the large holes letting the water in and actually causing further damage. Shoddy craftsman has again failed these homeowners and created further damage.


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Level 2 Inspection: All Chimneys and Fireplaces

Level 2 Chimney Inspection

Level 2 Inspection is mandatory when there are changes to the flue or the construction. Additionally, it is mandatory when the home or property is for sale.

Chimney corbeling can cause bigger problems so it is best to fix the issue sooner rather than later.

Level 2 Inspections:

Level 2 inspections are mandatory if you are making any changes in the way you use your chimney, such as changing the type of fuel used, relining the flue, or if you have any accidents that may cause damage. If you have  had a building fire, chimney fire or an earthquake. You will need to have a level 2 inspection performed. This type of inspection is also recommended by NFPA 211 any time there is a sale or transfer of a property, largely because a large percentage of fireplaces have problems that could lead to a chimney fire.

As you probably assumed, a level 2 inspection is more in detail than level 1. A level 2 chimney inspection includes all of the visual examination included in a level 1 inspection. Also some additional work including examination of the attic, crawlspace and other accessible areas. In a level 2 inspection, a video camera or other device may be in use to examine the flue. It might also check for cracks or damage to the joints in the chimney’s structure. There are no specialty tools in requiring to open doors, panels or coverings in performing a Level 2 inspection.

A Level 2 inspection should also include a visual inspection by video scanning. Or other means in order to examine the internal surfaces and joints of all flue liners incorporated within the chimney. No permanent removal or destruction of an attaching portions of the chimney, building structure or finish shall be required by a Level 2 inspection. When a Level 1 or Level 2 inspection suggests a hidden hazard. An evaluation cannot be in performance without special tools. These will be in use to access in concealing areas of the chimney or flue. A Level 3 inspection is to be in recommendation.

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