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Stop Creosote Damage Early

Having your chimney swept is about more than just removing soot and ash! One of the most important parts of an annual sweeping is creosote removal. Wood burning appliances are the most vulnerable to creosote buildup and damage. However, burning all types of fuel can create this dangerous and flammable byproduct of combustion.

What is creosote?

Cresote is a natural byproduct of combustion; while creosote is created by all fuel-burning fires, it accumulates in much larger amounts in wood burning fireplaces and stoves. While naturally occurring, creosote is not as innocuous as soot and ash. It damages the chimney in two ways: it is highly flammable and corrodes the chimney liner.

Accidental creosote ignition is the leading cause of chimney fires in the United States. When creosote is allowed to accumulate in the flue, stray sparks and embers can ignite. This is what can cause a chimney fire. Even if a fire does not occur, creosote buildup can corrode the liner of the flue. This is often seen in homes where the fireplace fuel source has been changed but the chimney has not been relined.

Three stages of creosote.

When produced in a fire, creosote is a sticky liquid. It hardens as it dries inside the chimney and can be identified in three stages.

  • Stage 1: Creosote has dried to a velvety soot. This means it can be easily removed using chimney brushes during a chimney sweeping. Since Stage 1 creosote heavily resembles soot, it can be difficult to distinguish it from normal soot accumulation in the flue.
  • Stage 2: Creosote has dried further, creating a thin, dry, crunchy layer inside the flue. This creosote is the most common and can still be removing using chimney brushes.
  • Stage 3: Also known as glazed creosote, it is extremely difficult to remove. Dried to a hard, glassy finish, special products or equipment is often required to carefully remove glazed creosote from the flue.

Preventing creosote damage.

Having your fireplace regularly swept and inspected is often the best and most effective way to prevent creosote damage. Because creosote is corrosive, allowing it to accumulate in the flue can damage the chimney liner. The longer creosote accumulates, the more damage will occur. Likewise, removing Stage 3 or glazed creosote can further damage the flue or liner.

Small amounts of creosote are created during normal burning conditions. Unfortunately, using your fireplace incorrectly can cause greater than normal amounts of it to stick to the walls of the flue. Letting a fire smolder for a long period of time, burning green wood, incomplete combustion, or burning a fire at low temperatures can all cause additional creosote to be created.

Regular maintenance is the best way to stop creosote damage early, before it seriously impacts the condition and safety of your fireplace system. For more information on creosote removal or to schedule your next chimney sweeping or inspection, contact Clean Sweeps of Michigan today!

The Dangers of Creosote to the Home

Many homeowners are unfamiliar with the dangers of creosote, even if they are very familiar with the substance’s odor. Creosote is a combination of chemicals that is left behind in a chimney or fireplace after certain types of wood have been burned. If it is allowed to build up in the fireplace and chimney, it can cause serious damage and risks to the home.

Creosote - Ann Arbor MI - Clean Sweeps of MI

Image courtesy of Dennis Lamb of Mad Hatter Chimney in Indianapolis IN.

One of the most common issues that homeowners run into when it comes to creosote is the fact that it is highly flammable. Burning a simple fire in the fireplace may quickly get out of control if there is a significant accumulation of creosote. In the worst cases, this may lead to a house fire that destroys the entire structure of the home.

In addition to the danger listed above, there are also health issues about which a homeowner should be concerned. For instance, excessive exposure to creosote can cause digestive and respiratory problems. While this is an obvious concern for adults, parents having children with allergies or respiratory problems will want to be particularly aware because of increased danger to a young child’s developing organs.

Also, let’s not forget about the family pets. While our pets do not have the same exact digestive and respiratory systems as humans, they are close enough to be affected by these very same dangers. Keep in mind, too, that animals such as dogs and cats have a heightened sense of smell when compared to humans. If you see your pets acting funny around the fireplace, it could be a sign to have things checked out.

Creosote can cause serious damage to a home and it is not always easy to tell that it is there. Sometimes it is accompanied by an unpleasant smell but that is not always the case. To avoid significant damage, it is necessary to have regular fireplace inspections completed by a professional.

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