As long as your fire is burning, substances are produced and pushed through the chimney system. Creosote, soot, particulate pollution, and toxic gases are some of these substances, although to us, it just looks like smoke. Creosote and soot coat the inside when smoke rises, building up until it becomes a problem.
The Problem With Creosote
Creosote is a black substance made up mostly of tar. It can be sticky and gooey like tar or it can become hard and glazed. When it reaches this stage it can also be more troublesome to remove. This is because as the creosote heats, it boils and the moisture evaporates from it, leaving behind a hardened material known as glazed creooste. Glazed creosote is a level three buildup, and is extremely dangerous because it is basically concentrated fuel on the inside of your flue.
Once you have a creosote buildup, it becomes less efficient, making the smoke and hot gases rise slower, cooling faster, and settling onto the sides of the flue more. This process repeats itself until flammable glazed creosote dangerously builds up, or until there is a blockage that prevents the proper ventilation of the fire. Without proper ventilation, your fireplace will vent into your home, exposing your family to particulate pollution and smoke that cause respiratory issues, and gases that can poison you and cause serious injury and death. If the creosote ignites, it will cause a fueled fire in a matter of seconds.
What You Can Do
While you cannot stop creosote completely, you can do your part as a homeowner to prevent it in excess.
1. Schedule routine maintenance including a chimney sweep and annual inspection in which your system is thoroughly cleaned and assessed for dangers like creosote buildup.
2. Burn only properly seasoned firewood so that your system will work more efficiently, your wood will burn more completely, and it will produce less creosote. If you cannot cut your own wood, you can buy from a local source.
3. Do not burn trash, clothes, or other items inside your fireplace, stove, or insert. Wood is the only thing designed to burn in your fireplace, and the only thing that will burn properly. Trash, clothes, and other items will burn incompletely, lowering efficiency, and leading to excess creosote, soot, and smoke.
4. In addition to routine professional maintenance, you can utilize CSIA accepted products such as the Creosote Sweeping Log (CSL). This product is professionally designed for homeowner use and to work in conjunction with ongoing chimney maintenance by a certified professional.
With burn season coming quickly, it is the best time to think about your fire safety this winter. It is best to schedule a sweep or inspection before your first fire of the season if you are unsure of when your last one was. We these services and more to keep our customers in Northern California safe and warm this winter. Call one of our experts or request an appointment online today.