Many homeowners view their chimneys as integral to their home’s winter aesthetic and cozy heat source during the colder months. They’ll throw some logs on the fire, turn on some holiday music, and grab some hot cocoa to enjoy a nice evening around the fire. However, if you haven’t kept up with your chimney maintenance routine, there’s a substance that may have built up within your chimney that could be a significant danger to your home — creosote. 

If you haven’t heard of this substance, Tony’s Home Services is here to help answer your burning questions — what is creosote, and why is it bad for my chimney?

Understanding Creosote

When you burn firewood in your home, the smoke should go up the flue, through the chimney cap, and safely disperse outside. However, when the smoke does not completely dissipate, the residual substance left behind is the tar-like creosote that forms along the inside of your setup. This substance is highly flammable and can potentially cause significant chimney fires that can extend to other parts of your home. 

When the smoke doesn’t rise fast enough to completely escape your chimney, creosote accumulates within the flue. In the early stages, it’s relatively easy to clean and remove with the help of a professional chimney sweep. However, it can become more difficult to remove when it’s left to fester. There are three stages of creosote that can affect your chimney:

First Degree Creosote

It’s a thin layer of creosote flakes that get left behind when you first begin using your fireplace. The smoke escaping from your setup will leave some creosote deposits behind, whether a fireplace or a wood-burning stove. While not an immediate concern, clearing the deposits is easiest during this stage.

Second Degree Creosote

The creosote begins to take on a more tar-like consistency when it hits this stage. It becomes more concentrated over time and stands a moderate chance of catching fire and becoming a hazard. It may still look like the flakes of the first stage, but it’s more serious. Your fireplace and chimney are still well within recovery, but you should take immediate action to ensure the next stage doesn’t cause significant damage. 

Third Degree Creosote 

When the creosote buildup reaches the third stage, the highest likelihood of it damaging your chimney and the rest of your home lies here. During this phase, the substance has achieved a thick, tar-like consistency and is the most likely to spark into a full-blown chimney fire. It restricts air movement within the chimney flue and makes the air column exceedingly smaller.

At this stage, your best course of action is to call in a professionally trained chimney sweep to address the lingering creosote buildup and ensure you aren’t at a higher risk of a chimney fire.

What Causes Creosote in the First Place?

While the smoke from your fireplace contains the creosote that can linger on your walls, what causes the smoke not to disperse as quickly as it should? In most cases, there are two primary reasons why smoke doesn’t clear a chimney as soon as it should — slow-burning wood and a lack of oxygen in the chimney. 

When you use slow-burning wood in your fireplace, the smoke and air take longer to clear your chimney. The longer it remains in the space, the higher the chance it will leave significant creosote deposits behind. Additionally, the wood may not be burning as quickly because the chimney isn’t hot enough yet. Keeping the temperature around 250 degrees Fahrenheit or more should help keep the smoke moving through the system. 

Additionally, the smoke won’t rise as quickly if your chimney doesn’t have enough oxygen. The longer it lingers inside your chimney, the more creosote can be left on the walls. 

How Can I Get Rid of Creosote Buildup?

While the open market sports “self-cleaning chimney logs” that say they can remove creosote from your chimney, it never gets all of it. Instead of relying on this incomplete method of addressing your creosote problem, consider calling a professional chimney cleaning service in Downingtown, PA, to handle the job. Tony’s Home Services has helped countless homeowners deal with their creosote buildup before the issues could fester and become a more serious issue. 

Now for a limited time, we’re running a special for chimney cleaning and inspections. Get your flue inspected and clear of creosote for $177 for each flue. Check out our current deals and keep an eye out for new deals as we roll them out. Contact our team and schedule your first chimney inspection with our experienced chimney sweeps today!

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