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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!

Chimney Odor Problem?

Stinky chimney can make your home an unpleasant place to be in. Call us now and we'll have our certified chimney technicians get rid of the odor.

A stinky chimney can make your home an unpleasant place to be in. Call us now and we’ll have our certified chimney technicians get rid of the odor.

It is never fun when you have a stink in your home that you cannot get rid of and are having to constantly mask with air fresheners. The worst part is when you are forced to live with the smell, because it has sunk into your home. Chimneys can produce these types of odors when their maintenance is not up to date. If you feel this is a problem in your home, call the professionals at Clean Sweep of Michigan, Inc.

What causes an odor in a chimney?

Creosote is the number one reason that your chimney will stink. Creosotes are released when untreated wood is burned in your fire. They then clump together on the inside of your chimney, and overtime can soak into the structure and leave the odor behind. This can also cause draft problems where air will not be able to properly leave the chimney. As the weather becomes more hot and humid in the summer, the smell will be more obvious. Your annual sweep that you have with your inspection will help with keeping it to a minimum, but it is recommended that if you are a frequent fireplace user you have an additional sweep.

Another reason your chimney will smell is if mold is growing in the unit. This is most common in areas of brick where there are cracks, or where other pieces of the chimney may not be in working order. Your Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) certified professional will be able to recognize if this is a potential hazard for you during your inspection. Since mold can grow very fast and in a variety of colors and textures, it is important to ask for help if you see something out of the ordinary. Your technician can introduce you to different ideas on how to better protect your chimney from the elements, including waterproofing. This is when they will spray a coat of sealant on the outside of your chimney that will repel water on contact. If you live in an especially wet climate, you may need more than one coat.

How do you get ready for the sweep?

  • Let your chimney cool down by not having a fire for more than 24 hours before the sweep.
  • Clear the area of anything valuable such as breakables, furniture, etc.
  • Make sure pets are safe and out of the way

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