If you have a fireplace, you probably hear a lot about creosote tied to your home maintenance. You know that keeping your chimney creosote free is key to keeping your home safe and preventing a chimney fire. But what exactly is creosote? How does it form and what does it do to your chimney? And, most importantly, how do you protect your chimney from creosote?
What is creosote?
You know that as you burn fires in your fireplace or stove, smoke makes its way up your chimney. As the smoke cools near the top of your chimney, condensation forms on the walls of your chimney. That condensation hardens into the substance we call creosote. It can be tarlike and sticky or smooth and shiny. It can be dark black or a muddy brown. In most chimney systems, creosote exists in different forms.
What does creosote do to your chimney?
The most significant impact your creosote has on your chimney is as a fire hazard. Creosote is incredibly flammable. Any significant amount of creosote buildup in your fireplace can ignite, causing a chimney fire that can threaten your home and your family. Creosote also can be hazardous because it can block off your chimney, preventing smoke from escaping. If smoke can’t escape, it’s forced back into your home, along with dangerous carbon monoxide gas.
If that carbon monoxide builds up within your home, it can cause a major threat to your home’s inhabitants.
Creosote also can have some less significant impact on your chimney. Like most fire byproducts, creosote is acidic. It can corrode and damage the walls of your chimney if it’s not swept away. If you have creosote in your chimney, it also can cause a foul smell in your home, especially in warm, humid weather.
How can you prevent creosote from building up in your chimney?
The most significant way to reduce creosote buildup in your chimney is to have your chimney swept regularly. As the saying goes, a clean chimney doesn’t catch fire, which is why the National Fire Protection Association recommends having your chimney swept and inspected at least once a year. The sweeping removes the creosote, and the inspection ensures that creosote hasn’t already caught fire and caused damage inside your chimney without your noticing it.
There are some other steps you can take to slow the buildup of creosote in your chimney. Cooler fires cause creosote to build up more rapidly, so you want to burn a hot, efficient fire in your fireplace. Using properly sized and properly seasoned firewood ensures a hot fire. Keeping fireplace doors on your open-hearth fireplace fully opened allows enough air to enter your fireplace to fuel your fire properly. Always make sure that your damper is fully open, as a partially closed flue allows smoke to linger and creosote to build up more quickly.
If you’re concerned about creosote buildup in your chimney and the effects it can have, call the sweeps at Fluesbrothers! We can sweep away any creosote buildup and inspect your chimney to make sure it hasn’t suffered any damage from creosote. We’ll also be able to answer any questions you have about keeping your chimney creosote free and safe.