Every time your fireplace is in use, your chimney is working. It works to vent the harmful byproducts of your fire, which includes: soot, creosote, unburned wood particles, and hazardous gases. Soot and creosote will coat the interior of your chimney. Over time, it will affect your flue if it isn’t removed regularly.
What is Creosote and Why Does it Matter?
When a fire burns, you see smoke, but what makes up the smoke can affect your chimney system more than you know. Creosote is a byproduct of organic flames made up mostly of tar. It is black or brown residue and can be crusty, flaky, tar-like, drippy, sticky, or shiny and hard. Due to its high tar content, creosote is flammable and dangerous if not removed. When it builds up in the flue and is heated by the fireplace, it is transformed as moisture evaporates. The result? Leaving only a hardened substance called glazed creosote. Glazed creosote is highly flammable and can result in a creosote fire. This is a fire so hot that it can damage the structure of your home, and ruin your chimney in minutes!
There are three stages of creosote, and all of them can be removed safely. In addition, it can be done without damaging your flue liner – when you hire a professional. This regular preventive maintenance can prevent a buildup that results in level 3, or glazed creosote, decreasing your risk of fire and property loss. If your creosote problem is already a level 3 buildup, it can still be removed with an industrial solution. This solution transforms the creosote from the hardened buildup into a brittle substance. Afterwards, it is easily brushed away and cleaned up with a vacuum system.
You cannot stop creosote completely if you burn wood, but you can decrease it and slow it down. As you prepare for burn season, take these steps to prevent a creosote buildup:
- Schedule Routine Chimney Sweeps.
These appointments are your first defense against creosote buildup. You can stop a dangerous buildup by having the flue cleaned regularly.
- Burn Only Properly Seasoned Wood
Firewood should be cut, split, and stored for 3-6 months before burning in order to dry out. Wet, or fresh wood will burn incompletely, decrease efficiency, and increase the rate at which it builds up in your flue. If you purchase your firewood, make sure your wood is properly seasoned before you pay! The color should be dull, the bark should be loose, and cracks should form around the split and bark.
- Schedule Annual Inspections
Your annual inspection will tell you how your chimney is working. The less efficient your chimney system is, the more creosote you will have in your flue. An inefficient chimney means the air cools as it rises up the chimney, causing the creosote and soot to coat the liner instead of rising out of the chimney. Your inspection will identify any issues with your chimney system that contributes to creosote buildup.
Your chimney’s efficiency will decrease each year that you burn wood without having your chimney swept. Schedule now, and avoid problems later!
To learn more about chimney fires, click here or ask your trusted chimney expert today!