What Is Creosote?

Our fireplaces are the focal points of our homes, serving as a gathering place for family and friends and a backdrop for special holiday memories or cozy winter evenings spent around a roaring fire. Because of this, most homeowners take the time to clean and care for their fireplaces throughout the year. However, no matter how much you clean your fireplace there may be a hidden danger lurking in the flue: creosote.

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What is creosote?

Although creosote buildup is the primary reason chimneys need to be professionally swept, very few homeowners actually know what it is. Creosote is a natural byproduct created when fuel is burned. While fires from coal, natural gas, pellets, and propane produce small amounts of creosote, it is created in much larger amounts by wood fires.

Having your chimney swept and creosote removed is an important part of chimney maintenance for three reasons. First, creosote is extremely flammable. When it builds up in the flue, creosote can be ignited by stray sparks or embers from the fire; because of this, creosote is the primary cause of chimney fires. Second, creosote can damage your chimney’s flue liner. In addition to being flammable, it is also corrosive. When left in the flue for long periods of time it can harden, making it difficult to remove to the point of needing to replace the entire flue tile. Third, creosote can cause your chimney to stink. Creosote buildup can create a smelly, smoky odor that can permeate your entire home. Creosote chimney odors are often worst in the summertime or during humid weather.

The three stages of creosote

When creosote begins to form in your flue, it can be found in one of three stages. Stage one creosote is the easiest to remove, while stage three represents long term creosote buildup.

  • Stage 1: Stage one creosote is typically found in small amounts and described as fluffy or velvety soot. Because of this appearance, it can be difficult to differentiate between creosote and normal soot.
  • Stage 2: Stage two creosote is what is most often seen in chimneys. In this stage, creosote creates a crunchy, flaky, or dry layer on the inside of the flue that can be easily removed by a chimney sweep’s special brushes.
  • Stage 3: Stage three creosote buildup is the most serious and hardest to remove. Also called glazed creosote because of the thick, glassy layer it forms, stage three is extremely difficult to remove and often damages the underlying flue tiles.

The best way to prevent creosote from reaching stage three is to have your chimney regularly swept. A certified chimney sweep can identify and remove creosote before it has the chance to seriously accumulate. This not only helps extend the life of your chimney, but also allows you and your family to safely enjoy using your fireplace.

If you have not had your chimney swept in a while, now is the perfect time to do so. Contact Mason’s Chimney Service today to learn more about how creosote can damage your chimney or to schedule a chimney sweep appointment.

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Jet-Black Chimney? That’s Creosote

What is sticky, highly flammable, and makes your chimney jet-black? Creosote. This may be an unfamiliar term for many homeowners, but you will soon learn that creosote is merely a more severe form of soot. However, this fancy-sounding substance should not be taken lightly because once it accumulates in your chimney, a cascade of catastrophic events could occur.

If you've got questions, Mason's Chimney service has the answers. We've been in business for over 55 years and know how important customer satisfaction is!

If you’ve got questions, Mason’s Chimney service has the answers. We’ve been in business for over 55 years and know how important customer satisfaction is!

How It Builds Up

The formation of creosote is inevitable in any chimney with an active fireplace. Specifically, when you burn unseasoned wood, more creosote is produced. Restricted airflow in your chimney can also cause major creosote production. What these two factors have in common is that they both foster incomplete combustion and condensation. The moisture produced mixes with the smoke and all the byproducts of burning and it sticks to the walls in the form of undesired black creosote.

Creosote: 1…2…3

When you first start to use the fireplace, tiny black flakes of soot will stick to the chimney walls. This is where the creosote level should be maintained because at this point the chimney sweep can still remove it with a brush with ease. This is one of the main purposes of having an annual chimney sweeping and inspection.

If you fail to have those flakes removed it will eventually cover the wall entirely and a thin hard sheet of creosote will coat your flue. When you finally call in a chimney sweep, they will have to use more equipment such as specialized video cameras to investigate the extent of damage. The regular chimney brush won’t be able to handle this stage anymore; a heavy-duty brush will be needed.

The third stage is already glazed creosote – very thick, shiny and black, hard to remove, and dangerous. It’s highly flammable so the last thing you want to do is to try and clean it out yourself. Let the trained professionals from Mason’s Chimney Service & Certified Air Duct Cleaning Inc. do it for you in order to avoid any accidents. They will be scraping off layers of creosote and applying certain chemicals to help them reduce the amount of creosote buildup in your chimney.

Creosote Danger

Have you ever seen a chimney still smoking even long after the fire in the fireplace has been put out? It could be that there is a chimney fire. Although it seems minimal and doesn’t immediately cause visible damage, the grave danger is that a chimney fire will escalate the creosote buildup, create a serious blockage in the chimney, and cause highly toxic carbon monoxide to remain in the house.

Take Creosote Off Safely

The safest way to deal with creosote is to have a professional chimney sweep come to your home regularly to clean and inspect the chimney as recommended by the CSIA. The ideal times to do this are right after the winter season when the fireplace and chimney are used the most and right before the next winter to ensure that all parts are intact and ready to function properly. Call us and get to know our reliable sweeps here at Mason’s Chimney Service & Certified Air Duct Cleaning Inc. today.