Creosote and the Damage it Can Do to Your Chimney
If you have a wood-burning fireplace, there are three things you need to know about creosote: what it is, how it can damage your chimney and how to remove it.
What is creosote?
Creosote is a substance that gets on the inner walls of your chimney during a fire. Cooling smoke within the chimney causes condensation, which hardens into creosote. This substance can be sticky or smooth, black or murky brown. Regardless how it looks, creosote is highly flammable and is responsible for the majority of chimney fires in U.S. homes every year.
What damage creosote can do
Of course, fire is the most serious way creosote can cause damage. Making this problem even worse, is the fact that not all chimney fires are noticed by the homeowners. Small amounts of creosote can cause small fires that start and then go out on their own. But incremental damage is being done with every blaze. When sufficient creosote exists inside a chimney, the fire can be catastrophic.
Another type of damage creosote can cause is an air-flow blockage that allows deadly carbon monoxide to seep down into the home when a fire is burning. Chimneys that have been used regularly but not cleaned for years can have 50 percent or more of their vent system blocked. Smoke also can back up into the house, but carbon monoxide is more problematic because it can’t be seen or smelled, even in large amounts.
In addition to fires and blockages, the acidic properties of creosote can erode the inner materials of the chimney including the liner. This damage isn’t immediately severe, but over time it can result in the need for major and expensive repairs.
A final problem with excess creosote in a chimney is foul odors, which are pronounced when the weather outside is warm and humid.
How to remove creosote
Creosote removal and chimney cleaning in general are not jobs for unskilled individuals. Only professional, certified chimney sweeps have the training and equipment to perform a thorough chimney inspection and cleaning. Virtually every fire safety agency in America recommends having your chimney cleaned at least once a year.
While creosote will build up any time wood is burned, you can reduce the rate at which it accumulates. You do this by burning only dry, seasoned wood. Green or damp wood produces significantly more smoke than dry wood, and that excess smoke adds that much more creosote to your chimney. Most firewood you buy will be properly seasoned. If you cut it yourself, give it plenty of time to fully dry out.
So those are the three things you need to know about creosote. Now that you know them, if it’s time to have your chimney inspected and cleaned by a professional, Northeastern Chimney of West Hartford, CT, is standing by to help. Call (860) 233-5770 with questions or to schedule an appointment.