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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

The dangers of creosote

Most fireplace owners have heard of creosote: It’s the substance that a certified chimney sweep should be removing from you fireplace annually. But what exactly is creosote? How does it form? What dangers does it pose to your fireplace, your home, and your family? What can you do to mitigate the dangers of creosote?


What is creosote?

Creosote is a tar-like substance that builds up on the walls of your chimney’s flue each time you burn wood in your fireplace. The smoke your fire sends up your chimney includes gases and water vapor. As the smoke nears the cooler top of your chimney, condensation occurs. Over time, that condensation hardens into creosote. Creosote is black or brown, and can be sticky, shiny, drippy, or hard. Usually, creosote in all forms exists in the chimney of a wood-burning fireplace.

Why is creosote dangerous?

Creosote is highly flammable. As little as a quarter-inch of creosote buildup in your chimney can pose a hazard for a chimney fire. If a spark from your fireplace hits the creosote, or if the creosote is heated about 1,000 degrees, the creosote can combust, causing a dangerous and damaging chimney fire. If creosote is allowed to fill a chimney enough, it can prevent smoke and gases from traveling up the chimney’s flue. That can cause the potential for carbon monoxide building up in your home, endangering your family’s health.

How can I avoid the dangers of creosote?

The best thing you can do to avoid the dangers of creosote is to have your chimney cleaned and inspected annually. A certified chimney sweep will remove any built up creosote from your chimney’s flue, keeping the chimney safe for a winter full of cozy fires in the fireplace. Your sweep’s inspection also will make sure that none of the creosote has caught fire, causing harm to the structure of your chimney and making way for a future chimney fire. Unlike a creosote sweeping log, a professional chimney sweep will be able to assess the thickness of creosote deposits in your chimney and strategize the best way for removing those deposits.

Making sure your fire is burning properly also will help keep your chimney free of creosote. If you’re burning wet, unseasoned wood, your fires won’t burn hot enough, and creosote will build up more quickly in your chimney. Similarly, if your wood is improperly sized for your fireplace, your fires will burn at a cooler temperature, encouraging more condensation and creosote. A flue that isn’t opened wide enough causes smoke to stay in your chimney longer, allowing for more creosote to build up.

If you’re overdue for a chimney cleaning and inspection, call the experts at Your Chimney Sweep to schedule your annual chimney cleaning. Keep your family and your home safe from the dangers of creosote and a potential chimney fire.