What is Creosote and How Can I Avoid Buildup?

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When you call a chimney sweep to clean your chimney, the main purpose of the task is to get rid of a substance called creosote. When you use your chimney, it will produce this substance, and the more you use it, the higher the levels will be. This is the main reason why chimney experts recommend more frequent cleaning for chimneys in colder areas.

Creosote is formed by gases produced by the burning of wood. The heat causes the wood to release these gases which then cool as they go up the chimney. As they cool they are deposited inside the chimney, and as you use your fireplace the buildup continues. This continuing process leads to what is known as creosote. Now you will have not just a dirty chimney, but also one filled with a highly flammable substance.

Creosote is especially problematic because it can take different forms. As a liquid it can run back down the chimney, the piping or into the fireplace. It can take on a fluffy appearance and block pipes. It can also build up as a hard coating which is difficult to remove especially if the chimney has not been cleaned in a while. Using poorly seasoned wood speeds up the development of creosote in the chimney.

Avoiding Creosote Buildup

Creosote results from the burning of wood in the fireplace or from using a wood stove. Even though it is unavoidable, you can still take steps to slow this process and keep your chimney in good condition. These steps include:

  • Making sure that the wood you use is properly dried. Wood that still contains water does not produce enough heat. Even worse, it gives off steam as it burns, which cools the smoke quickly leading to faster creosote deposits.
  • Having your chimney cleaned regularly to get rid of any creosote inside it, and to make future cleanings easier and less time consuming.
  • Having your chimney properly lined and insulated as this will slow the process of creosote buildup.
  • Do not overload your woodstove or fireplace as this limits the air supply and causes the fire to start slowly, leading to more smoke and therefore more creosote.

When you call a chimney sweep, the main goal will be to clear creosote from the chimney and fireplace. Ignoring this essential maintenance task can cause a house fire. Your chimney sweep can also provide a professional assessment of your chimney. It may be necessary to upgrade some of the components to ensure that it continues to function effectively.

You should have your chimney inspected and consult with a Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) Certified professional about the best options for repairing any damage and adding preventative measures for the future life of your chimney. Both of the licensed and insured chimney sweeps here at Lou Curley’s Chimney Service are CSIA certified with experience dealing with common chimney problems as well as some more complex issues that homeowners may face with their chimney. Give us a call at 610-626-2439 to discuss your chimney problems.

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