If you use a wood-burning fireplace, beautiful fires should be expected every time you fire up. So should the production of creosote. You can’t burn wood without creating at least some of this flammable smoke byproduct, but you can keep creosote buildup inside your chimney at minimum levels.
Excess creosote is a safety issue
Creosote is produced when smoke condenses in your flue. The result is a substance that can be flakey, sticky or hard. Regardless the form, creosote is highly flammable and is responsible for most chimney fires in the U.S. each year.
The nonprofit National Fire Protection Association, founded in 1896, recommends annual professional inspection and chimney sweep services to deal with the problem of creosote. So does virtually every other fire-safety organization in America.
Chimney fires are tricky
Not all chimney fires are big, obvious, blazing spectacles. Many are relatively small and start and go out on their own. But any chimney fire can cause damage to the chimney liner and the chimney masonry. When damage begins, it’s not long before the intense heat of fires can reach combustible materials of your home’s interior.
Signs of a chimney fire
Chimney fires aren’t always visible, but they are detectible:
Excess thick black smoke from either end of the chimney
A rumbling sound similar to a far-away train
An odd ticking or clicking sound
If you notice any of these while burning a fire, call local emergency services and extinguish the fire in the firebox, if safe to do so.
How excess creosote is formed
The more smoke, the more creosote. The damper the wood, the more smoke. You can reduce the amount of creosote your chimney collects by burning only dry (seasoned) wood, which burns more efficiently and produces much less smoke.
When buying firewood, look for these characteristics:
Flakey bark as opposed to bark that clings to the logs
An empty, hollow sound when two logs are struck together
Light-feeling logs (means they contain minimal moisture)
A dark color to the wood
Ends of logs that are split and cracked
What a chimney sweep does
“Chimney sweep” is the common name for people who clean chimneys. The best chimney sweeps hold professional industry certifications such as Master Chimney Sweep and Certified Chimney Sweep, designations given by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. Always look for industry credentials when hiring someone to clean your chimney.
Skilled chimney sweeps have specialized tools including hand and power brushes, scrapers, solvents and vacuums that allow them to thoroughly clean creosote and obstructions out of your chimney flue.
By scheduling annual chimney cleaning and inspection services, you’ll be able to significantly reduce the level of creosote and various obstruction-causing debris inside your chimney. Burning dry, less-smoky wood and having your chimney serviced regularly will keep your chimney safer and more reliable all year long.
Fluesbrothers Chimney & Fireplace of Kansas City, KS, is ready to help with all your fireplace, chimney and heating stove needs. We offer certified chimney sweep services as well as chimney inspection, chimney repair and chimney rebuilding. Call us at (913) 236-7141 when you want the job done properly by professionals you can trust.
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