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Getting Rid of Creosote

Have a certified chimney sweep inspect and clean your chimney to avoid the dangers of creosote build-up.

Have a certified chimney sweep inspect and clean your chimney to avoid the dangers of creosote build-up.

It’s dirty. It’s sticky. It is extremely flammable. Creosote is something that is almost impossible to avoid, and is extremely harmful to your chimney. However, if you catch it in time, creosote can be removed before it sinks into the structure of your chimney. To get more information on a chimney sweep or any other chimney related questions, contact the professionals at A-1 Chimney Specialists.

What is creosote?

Creosote is the byproduct that is released when untreated wood burns. This will then clump together and cause blockages inside of your chimney. When these clumps grow large enough, they can begin to slow the draft through your chimney. This makes the smoke and harmful gases unable to exit the home. This can put you and your family in danger of Carbon Monoxide poisoning. The symptoms for CO poisoning include anything from headaches and nausea to severe cases of difficulty breathing and even fatality. Creosote can also lead to chimney fires. When the heat from the fire comes into contact with the clumps, it can begin to spark. Since chimney fires spread so easily, it can overtake your home in minutes.

How do you get rid of creosote?

The best way to get rid of creosote is to have a chimney sweep. You should have at least one a year, but it is recommended that you have two. One should be after burning season to remove any build up, and the second should be before to remove anything that they may have missed or that has built up over the summer. The person doing your chimney sweep should always be Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) certified. To prepare the chimney, make sure that you do not burn any fires for at least 24 hours so that the unit has enough time to cool down. Next, move all of the furniture away from the fireplace so that it does not become dirty or damaged. Lastly, for their safety and the safety of the technicians lock your pets away in a spare room. You can find a reliable chimney sweep by asking friends and family, or by looking at various online websites.

Cleaning Out Creosote

Fireplaces are designed to safely contain a wood-fueled fire, while, at the same time, heating your home.  Chimneys are designed to expel the substances—smoke, water vapor, gases, etc.—produced from your wood fire.  As these substances are ushered up and out of your house, another substance is formed in the process; that substance is known as creosote.

You’re probably asking yourself, “what exactly is creosote, and why is it dangerous to allow it to accumulate inside your chimney?”  It’s fairly easy to explain.  Creosote is a sticky chemical residue—somewhat similar to watery tar—that is formed when wood is burned at lower-than-optimal temperatures and is capable of building up within your chimney, thereby decreasing the amount of open space through which exhaust gases and smoke can pass.  Increased amounts of creosote are formed from burning unseasoned softwoods in your fireplace than properly seasoned hardwoods as well.  The residue begins as unburned oil in the form of gas.  As the gas moves up the chimney, the oils begin to form a coating inside the chimney as they cool.  This buildup is a definite fire hazard.

Creosote must be cleaned out regularly and even more often if you aren't using the right kind of wood.

Creosote must be cleaned out regularly and even more often if you aren’t using the right kind of wood.

The residue continues to build up over the course of the heating season.  Depending on the internal dimensions of your chimney, this buildup can restrict the flow of air tremendously, which can lead to smoke buildup in the fireplace as well as in your house.  This reduced airflow can also cause your fires to burn cooler, as they’re not able to get the necessary amount of oxygen for increased combustion; all of this results in additional creosote buildup inside your chimney.  Creosote becomes dangerous when it is allowed to accumulate in your chimney because it turns into a fuel source for a possible deadly chimney fire.  The build up of creosote can never be avoided completely; however, burning small, hot fires and using dry, seasoned wood can minimize the buildup.

Sooner or later, every chimney needs to be cleaned, as this is the only way to truly remove dangerous creosote buildup.  It is highly recommended that you leave this task to a CSIA Certified chimney sweep to ensure that the job is done properly.  The frequency for your cleanings will depend on the amount of use your fireplace receives, but it should never be any longer than a year between cleanings.  Remember: a clean chimney is far less likely to catch fire than a dirty one.  So what are you waiting for?  Call to schedule an appointment to have your chimney cleaned so you can enjoy the rapidly approaching cold-weather months with the rest of the fireplace folks.

Ready for Inspection?

What to Expect During a Chimney Inspection

If you are a responsible chimney owner then you probably already know that your chimney should be inspected and swept at least once a year. You also probably already know what to expect during the process. But what if you are a new chimney owner or possibly have a new appreciation for what it means to be a responsible chimney owner. Well have no fear. Apprehension is common the first time you have someone start looking around all up in your flue. Lucky for you we are here to dispel some of the common myths about chimney inspections and have you looking like a pro when that first chimney sweeper comes calling at your door.

If you have a chimney (working or not) you need an annual cleaning and inspection. This ensures maximum safety and protects the structural integrity of your home.

If you have a chimney (working or not) you need an annual cleaning and inspection. This ensures maximum safety and protects the structural integrity of your home.

The first thing a chimney sweep will do is lay down a tarp or other covering to contain the mess. Chimney inspections can be a messy business but as with many things if there’s no mess it’s not being done right. A chimney sweep will be checking every nook within your chimney to make sure there are no cracks, creosote buildups, or other potential problems. This has a tendency to dislodge a small amount of soot. Thus the tarp. This will contain the mess and keep your living room or den as clean as it was when the sweep arrived. After everything is properly covered the sweep will get to doing the dirty work.

One of the first things a chimney sweep will check is that you are using proper protection. Every chimney should have a liner within it that will contain the nasty byproducts that result from regular use of your fireplace. There are 3 main types of chimney liners (ceramic tile, steel, and cast in place) which will determine exactly what problems the sweep will be checking for. As an example if you have a ceramic tile liner the sweep will be checking for cracked or broken tiles as well as cracks in between the tiles. If a problem is found your chimney sweep will know the best way to deal with it.

In addition to making sure that your byproducts are being properly contained a chimney sweep will check for buildups of creosote that could lead to a costly chimney fire. Creosote will build up within your chimney as the smoke from a fire in your fireplace moves up the chimney and cools. This tar-like gunk is flammable and if enough of it builds up can catch fire. No one wants to have to deal with a burning in their chimney so it is best to be proactive in keeping your chimney clean. A good sweeping once a year will help prevent creosote from becoming a problem.

When many people think of a chimney inspection the envision a soot-covered man peering at the inside of your chimney but what many people do not realize is that just as important is the state of the outside of your chimney. The most common cause of chimney damage is not from fire but is actually from water. Most chimneys are masonry structures and with any masonry structure exposed to wind and rain it can develop cracks. If water gets into these cracks it can freeze and thaw causing expansion and contraction that can do a lot of damage to your structure. There is also the issue of mold and mildew that can be a result of water seepage. It is important to identify these structural blemishes early. If a crack is left unchecked it can spread and before you know it you can have a serious structural situation on your hands. Cracks in the masonry can also lead to less efficiency with regards to the operation of your chimney as they allow air and moisture to get inside. There are several processes with which to repair problems of this nature and your chimney sweep will know best which to perform should the situation call for it.

Depending on the nature of the inspection will depend just how in-depth the chimney sweep will go. There are 3 types of inspection. The first will deal mostly with the easily accessible features of a chimney and is most commonly performed as part of seasonal maintenance. The second level requires the opening of access panels and may involve the chimney sweep going into the attic or other areas to check the masonry. The third level involves actual removal of parts of the chimney and is reserved for if a level 2 inspection reveals intense damage that needs to be immediately addressed. In most cases a level 3 inspection is not necessary.

So whether your fireplace is worn from years of use or brand new and ready to start getting its burn on it is important to have your flue inspected. Chimneys come in all shapes and sizes and can have issues as unique as the structure itself so make sure that you are taking proper care of yours. Don’t let the fear of what an inspection might find stop you from having it done. In the long run you will be glad you did!