If you have a wood-burning fireplace, creosote build-up is something you must always think about as it can be a major cause of chimney fires. With proper chimney maintenance like an annual chimney sweeping and an inspection from A to Z Chimneys, the levels of creosote in your chimney should stay on a manageable level. However, if this important task is ignored, you are risking a chimney fire as creosote is a highly flammable material. We at A to Z Chimneys want to inform you about creosote and its dangers.
What exactly is creosote and how is it formed?
According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, chimneys that serve wood-burning fireplaces and stoves have the task of expelling all the by-products of combustion, substances produced when wood burns like smoke, gases, water vapor, tar fog, unburned wood particles, and assorted minerals. As these substances exit your fireplace and move through your cooler chimney, condensation happens, and the resulting residue that sticks to the inner walls to your chimney is called creosote.
What does creosote look like?
Varying greatly in appearance, creosote can either be brown or black in color. It can also be flaky and crusty, or drippy, sticky, and tar-like, or shiny and hardened. You can even have every different type of creosote possible in your chimney. No matter what creosote looks like, every type has one thing is common: it is highly-flammable and very dangerous when you have a lot of creosote in your chimney. Highly combustible, it doesn’t take much for a build-up of creosote to cause a chimney fire.
What encourages the buildup in creosote in your chimney?
Certain factors speed up the accumulation of creosote on the flue walls of your chimney: burning unseasoned wood and restricted air supply — both of these cause temperatures in your chimney that are cooler than normal. When you burn unseasoned wood, a lot of energy is used to burn off the water trapped inside of the cells of the wood, and this keeps the smoke temperature cooler than usual. Restricting the air supply by closing the glass doors to your fireplace or not opening the damper wide enough increases the smoke’s “residence time” in your chimney’s flue, making it more likely for creosote to form. Similarly, a wood stove’s air supply can also be limited by closing the damper too soon or too often, which leads to creosote buildup. Another cause of creosote buildup in wood stoves is overloading the firebox with wood.
Do I need to worry about creosote buildup with my gas fireplace?
No, creosote only forms from wood burning, so if you have a gas fireplace, you don’t have to worry about this chimney problem.
How do I prevent an excessive creosote buildup?
According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, there are certain things you can do to prevent creosote from building up in your chimney: burn only treated firewood, avoid burning fires that are slow and smoldering, be sure your airways in your chimney are not restricted (damper is open and glass doors are also open), and, most importantly, schedule your annual chimney sweep and inspection.
At A to Z Chimney Sweep, we provide chimney sweeps and inspections to find and remove excessive creosote buildups in your chimney to keep you safe from dangerous chimney fires. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for your annual chimney sweeping and inspection.