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What is creosote?

As chimney cleaning professionals, we’re constantly bombarding you with messages about creosote. “Have your chimney cleaned from dangerous creosote.” “Creosote can lead to a dangerous chimney fire.” “Creosote is the biggest hazard to your chimney’s safety.” Too infrequently, however, we don’t explain what creosote is or how creosote can threaten your chimney and your home’s safety. In this blog, we’re going to lay give you the inside scoop on creosote: How it forms, how it endangers your chimney and how you can keep creosote at bay.

What is Creosote - Indianapolis IN - Your Chimney Sweep

What is creosote?

Creosote is a highly flammable byproduct of the fires you burn in your fireplace. You know your fire produces smoke. As that smoke travels up your chimney it cools, and condensation forms on the walls of your chimney. When that condensation hardens, it becomes creosote. Creosote can be sticky and tarlike or smooth and shiny. It can be muddy brown or dark, dark black. In most chimneys, creosote can exist in multiple forms and usually does.

What dangers does creosote pose?

The primary danger creosote poses is the risk of a chimney fire. Creosote is highly flammable. If it reaches a high enough temperature, or if a stray ember from your fire enters the chimney and comes into contact with the creosote, it can ignite and cause a chimney fire, putting your home at risk. Creosote also can block off your chimney’s opening, preventing smoke and carbon dioxide from the fireplace. A blockage can force smoke and carbon dioxide back into your home, posing a danger to your family’s health. Creosote also poses some less sever risks. Like most fire byproducts, creosote is acidic and can cause corrosion or damage to your chimney’s flue. In the warm summer months, creosote also can cause a foul smell to fill your home.

How can you keep the dangers of creosote at bay?

The best way to protect your chimney and your home from the dangers of creosote is with regular chimney sweepings. Your annual chimney sweeping will clear any creosote away from your chimney, dramatically lowering your risk of a chimney fire. Your annual inspection also will screen your chimney for signs of a previous creosote-induced chimney fire. You also can reduce creosote buildup in your chimney by burning a hot, efficient fire. Burn only dried, seasoned firewood that is properly sized for your fireplace. Always fully open fireplace doors so your fire can draw in enough oxygen to keep it burning at its hottest. Make sure your damper is opening fully, as a partially closed damper can cause smoke to linger in your flue, causing creosote to form more rapidly in your chimney.

Call Your Chimney Sweep today to protect your chimney from the dangers of creosote. Our certified chimney sweeps will remove dangerous creosote from your chimney and look for any signs of fire damage in your chimney’s flue. We also can advise you on keeping your chimney creosote free and keeping your family safe from the dangers of a creosote-sparked chimney fire.

By Joe Sauter on March 13th, 2016 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

Fire Safety Tips

A fireplace or heating stove can help to heat your home during the cold winter months while also helping you lower your home heating bills. But fireplaces and woodstoves also can bring a home fire hazard. In fact, the majority of home fires occur during the coldest months: December, January and February. Fortunately, you can keep your home and family warm and safe by following some fire safety guidelines.

Practice proper fireplace maintenance.

Fire safety tips - indianapolis IN - Your Chimney Sweep

According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), a good portion of home-heating fires are caused by dirty chimneys, fireplaces or stoves. In wood-burning fireplaces or stoves, flammable creosote can build up on the walls of a chimney, posing a fire hazard. In other types of fireplaces, debris or animal nests can block chimneys. Gas and pellet stoves should have fans and vents cleaned from dust and debris. In all types of fireplaces or stoves, cracking chimneys or malfunctioning parts can lead to a home fire. Because of these dangers, the National Fire Protection Agency recommends that all fireplaces, stoves and chimneys be cleaned and inspected by a certified chimney sweep at least once per year.

Prep your fireplace or stove before lighting a fire.

Before you light a fire, make sure your fireplace or stove has been properly prepared. Clear out any ash from previous fires. In a pellet stove, make sure there isn’t any debris. Make sure your damper is entirely opened to allow for proper ventilation of the fire and to prevent smoke from billowing back into your home. If you have an open-hearth fireplace, build your fire on a metal grate. Glass doors should be fully opened when a fire is burning, and use a metal screen over the fireplace opening to prevent burning embers from flying out into the room. Never leave your fire unattended.

Never burn other materials in your fireplace.

Never burn anything other than the intended fuel in your fireplace. That includes cardboard, wrapping paper, trash, plastics, coal and Christmas trees. These can all cause a flare up that could lead to a chimney fire, or release toxic fumes into your home. In a wood-burning stove or fireplace, only properly seasoned, dry firewood should be burned to prevent an excess of flammable creosote from building up.

Create a safe area around your fireplace.

Make sure you create a buffer between your fireplace and the rest of your room. Flammable materials, such as décor, books, pillows and furniture, should be kept at least two feet away from a fireplace. Consider installing a safety gate around the hearth to keep pets and children a safe place from the fire’s flames or the hard edges of the hearth or stove.

Be prepared for a potential home fire.

Practice recommended home safety guidelines. Keep a fire extinguisher on hand. Have operating smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on all floors of your home, especially outside of bedrooms. Create a fire evacuation plan and make sure all members of the family have the plan memorized.

By exercising common sense and following a few safety guidelines, you can enjoy your fireplace or stove all winter while keeping your family safe.

By Joe Sauter on January 11th, 2016 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment