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!

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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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Moisture Meter

Burn Wise: 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.  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 required when any changes are made to the flue or the construction. Additionally it is required when the home or property is for sale.

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

Level 2 Inspections:

Level 2 inspections are needed 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’ve had any accidents that may have caused damage, a level 2 inspection is needed. 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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Leaky Chimney: Chimney Water Damage

Got a Leaky Chimney?

A Leaky chimney is no April Fools joke, with Spring just around the corner the rainy season will be upon us! Keep this video and hope that you never have to use it!

Schedule an appointment to get it checked out!

  1. Moisture coming in from the top

So this isn’t hard to imagine especially when there isn’t a chimney cap. Even though chimney caps and rain shrouds are accessories, they are still necessary. Not only does it keep out birds, animals and debris out, but it also keeps rain out. Rain water comes straight from the top of the chimney flue, and leaks down and creates moisture problems. The types of damage caused by rain pouring into the flue include a rusted firebox, rusted damper, and a damaged flue lining. The moisture can also cause strong odors from the fireplace, especially during warmer months.

So, a simple solution to rain in the chimney is to have a chimney cap or rain shroud installed. Whichever is appropriate for your heating unit. One of the most important value of a chimney cover is it keeps the chimneys from getting blocked. This can cause CO poisoning. (Check out our blog on CO poisoning for more information).

  1. Leaks from a damaged chimney crown

The chimney crown is at the cement part at the very top of the chimney where the masonry ends, the chimney crown covers the top of the masonry and forms a waterproof seal all the way around the flue. Then the crown is made with cement, and cracks can form due to shifting of the structure, freezing and thawing cycles in wintertime, from age, or shrinkage dating back to the first day the crown was put on. When your crown has cracks, the water goes right through those cracks.

  1. Condensation, Leaking from Inside Out

Even when you try a chimney cover, flashing or even rebuilding the top of your chimney, the problem of condensation cannot be fixed. To fix the problem, you might have to resize the loner. Some places along the way a gas furnace was installed, the chimney is not lined with a properly sized liner. So the fumes of the gas were condensing on the inside of the chimney and soaking the bricks and keeping them moist all the time. This can be easily fixed by a chimney liner.

  1. Flashing that is not Watertight

The flashing may not be watertight. So this can be caused by faulty installation or deterioration. Flashing is the metal pieces used to form watertight connections between the chimney and the roof. When the flashing weakens or hasn’t been correctly installed, water can get in the chimney flue and make wood rot, attic damage, roof damage or even ceiling damage. Then you should have your chimney checked annually. Along with checking your attic regularly for signs of leakage around the chimney area. Flashing leaks are common problem. So make sure you watch out for it.

Check out our YouTube channel and blogs with Ask the Chimneysweep!

How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

“Get a bucket, the Chimney is leaking”

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When to get a Chimney Cleaning

When should I clean my chimney?

When to get a chimney cleaning is one of the most common questions that chimney sweeps answer daily. The real answer lies within: when was the last time it was cleaned?

Schedule an appointment with American Chimney to get your chimney swept.

  1. To Prevent a Chimney Fire

A chimney fire can be very large and noticeable with loud popping and cracking sounds, lots of dense smoke and a strong, and hot odor. But chimney fires aren’t always dramatic enough to let the neighbors know something is wrong. Sometimes, they burn slow and aren’t visible. They still can reach high enough temperatures to seep into the walls of your house and ignite flammable objects. Flames from a chimney fire can quickly spread into the walls or onto the roof of your home and cause massive devastation of your home.

This is a very bad scenario, but it can be carefully avoided with the right care and maintenance of your chimney. One of the most common causes of chimney fire is, a dirty chimney. Over time, chimneys will become clogged with creosote. Creosote is a natural, tar-like substance that is created by burning wood. Creosote is black or brown in appearance and, over time, it builds up. As it builds up, it leaves a glazing inside your chimney. So, this glazing is highly combustible and it can take a small amount of glazing to start a chimney fire. Not enough air supply is only one of the factors that contribute to the buildup of creosote. This is an it important reason to make sure your chimney is cleaned regularly.

  1. To Protect Your Health

Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced whenever fuel is burned. At low levels, CO can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, confusion and fainting. So, a blocked chimney or a chimney with an nonfunctioning flu can cause a buildup of this dangerous gas. With too much CO, it can be fatal.  CO is responsible for thousands of deaths in America each year, and many of these poisonings are caused by blocked chimneys. This is why it is critical to have your chimney examined and swept to make sure your flue is clear before using the chimney.

  1. To Avoid Smoke Damage

So, when a chimney is not cleaned regularly, shoot will start building around the flue. This makes it difficult for the flue to draw the smoke upwards. This can cause the smoke to enter your rooms. Soot will leave a black film around your hearth and dirty any furniture, carpeting or decorations nearby. Sometimes, smoke can even cause black staining around your chimney. This can be near impossible to remove.

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