What Can Happen If I Don't Have Creosote Removed Each Year?

The Importance of Creosote Removal

On average, there are over 20,000 house fires sparked by fireplaces every year in the United States. 87% of those are chimney fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association, the most common cause is a failure to clean out creosote. Creosote is a highly flammable compound produced by burning fuels like wood that builds up in chimneys. Even a small amount of creosote can spark a destructive chimney fire.

What is creosote, and how do I get rid of it?

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Smoke from a wood fire is filled with hot gases, particles, and soot. When these  combustion byproducts interact with condensation in a chimney, the result is creosote. Creosote can look like soot or tar, depending on what stage it is. Even a small amount of creosote can be a fire hazard.

The best method to remove creosote depends on what stage it is.

Stage 1 Creosote:

First stage creosote is the easiest to remove. It looks like dry, flaky soot. A chimney sweep can clear it out using
a chimney brush.

Stage 2 Creosote:

Second stage creosote requires special equipment and training to remove effectively. As creosote builds up, it’s composition changes. It hardens into a tough substance that looks like black or brown glass. Typically, a professional chimney sweep will remove it using a rotary loop to break it up and clean it out.

Stage 3 Creosote:

Third stage creosote is the most difficult to remove. When creosote builds up enough to reaches this stage, it turns into a tar-like substance. A certified chimney sweep, typically, removes it using strong industrial-grade cleaner and specialized equipment.

What’s the best DIY solution to remove creosote?

If you are an experienced handyman, you may be able to clean out stage one creosote with a good quality chimney brush. However, we don’t recommend it since untrained DIYers often miss pockets of creosote. For stage two and three creosote, it is crucial to call on a certified chimney sweep. Cleaning out late-stage creosote requires both the right equipment and training to remove it without harming the chimney. An untrained chimney sweep may break or damage the flue liner in the process.

How can I prevent creosote build-up?

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Every wood-burning fireplace and stove produce creosote. You can reduce the amount of creosote produced by always burning seasoned hardwood. Firewood that has dried out for at least six months (or seasoned) has dramatically lower moisture content than freshly cut wood. This allows it to burn more completely, producing less smoke and, as a result, less creosote. Hardwoods also produce less smoke than softwoods.

Every spring, it’s a smart idea to have your chimney cleaned to remove creosote. The National Fire Protection Association recommends an annual chimney cleaning to dramatically reduce your risk of suffering through a house fire. This is one job it’s best not to DIY. Certified chimney sweeps have the training and equipment needed to clear out this combustible compound efficiently without damaging your chimney. Now is the best time to set up an appointment before the busy season starts. Give Burlington Fireplace and Solar a call today to set up an appointment for your chimney cleaning or learn more about
our chimney services!


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