What is Creosote and Why is it Harmful?


Creosote Image - Aurora IL - Pozzi Chimney SweepThe Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends that you have your chimney inspected and cleaned on an annual basis, and there are many reasons why this is a good idea. They will be looking for things like obstructions in your chimney, such as birds nests or dry twigs and leaves, that could catch a spark and cause a chimney fire. A good inspector will look for any structural damage that may be occurring, and will also be keeping an eye out for damage to key components of your chimney, such as the chimney cap or the damper system. All of these things are very important because they help make your chimney and fireplace system more efficient and your fire burning experiences more pleasant. But one of the most important things that your inspector will be looking for is creosote buildup.

Creosote Composition

One of the problems with burning a fire in a fireplace is smoke production. No one wants to sit in a smoky room, and that’s where your chimney comes into play. A chimney has two main functions: to help create a draft, which helps your fire burn, and to pull smoke out of the chimney. When wood burns, several chemical elements are released and carried up and out on the water vapor, which is also released during the burn process. When this chemical-laced vapor rises and hits the relatively cooler surface of the upper interior of the chimney, it condenses and forms a layer of crusty, flaky, dark-colored gunk: creosote. Creosote is extremely flammable, so if it is allowed to build up into a thick layer (an eighth of an inch is thick enough to cause problems, you are looking at a dangerous situation waiting to happen. To avoid this problem, you’ll want to hire a CSIA certified chimney sweep like the ones at Pozzi Chimney Sweep to come in and clean your chimney.

Ways to Cut Down on Creosote Buildup

There are some things you can do which will help cut down creosote buildup between those annual inspections and cleanings. One of the most important things to do is to make sure that the wood you burn has been properly seasoned. When you cut a tree into firewood, it can initially have at least a 45% water content, and usually much more. The higher the water content, the harder the wood is to burn and the greater the creosote buildup. Therefore, using dried (seasoned) firewood is a good way to reduce creosote buildup over the course of the year. It’s a good rule of thumb to let your firewood sit for at least six months after cutting, and more is better. Also, burning a hotter fire will help decrease the amount of creosote that collects.

Annual Inspection and Cleaning

Most important, however, is that annual cleaning. Call Pozzi Chimney Sweep to set up an appointment today, before the cold winds of winter start to blow.