What Is Creosote and What Makes It Dangerous?
If you have a wood-burning fireplace, it’s likely you already know what a pleasure it is to enjoy warm, crackling fires in winter. It is important to also know the answers to the questions of what is creosote and what makes it dangerous. Home safety is affected by the presence of creosote, especially with continued buildup inside the chimney lining. Chimney cleaning is important, along with an understanding that creosote in chimneys is in three forms. The ease of its removal during a chimney cleaning depends on the type of creosote in your chimney. Answers to creosote questions follow.
What is Creosote?
Creosote is a tar-like byproduct of the combustion fumes created when firewood is burned. As the smoke from wood fire travels up the chimney, condensation occurs that results in brownish-black creosote deposits in the flue lining. Creosote is highly flammable and contains toxic chemicals that can be harmful if inhaled. The three types of creosote are increasingly difficult to remove, though type three actually can be impossible to remove. The three types of creosote are:
- Type 1 Creosote is composed of loose, flaky deposits that are easy to brush away using professional chimney cleaning brushes.
- Type 2 Creosote is made up of hardened, tarry flakes that resemble cornflakes cereal. Specialized brushes or scrapers are often required for this type of creosote removal.
- Type 3 Creosote is hardened, and it looks as though tar has been poured down the chimney. Special equipment is used for removal, though sometimes a chimney liner replacement is necessary to eliminate the heightened chimney fire risks associated with this form of creosote.
What Makes Creosote Dangerous?
When hot embers float up chimneys, they can easily ignite creosote in the chimney lining. Most chimney fires result in structural damage. Many times, homeowners are unaware when a chimney fire occurs. This is one of the numerous reasons annual chimney inspections are crucial. The chimney lining may be damaged because of a chimney fire. Both damaged chimney liners and chimney fires expose a home and its occupants to an increased risk of hazardous home fires and potentially deadly exposure to carbon monoxide.
What about the toxins in creosote? In days gone by, chimney sweeps were easily recognizable because they were covered in chimney soot. Sadly, evidence that creosote contains cancer-causing chemicals became plentiful back then. Most full-time chimney sweeps were eventually afflicted with cancer. Because of this occupational hazard, they rarely lived to an old age.
There’s no need to worry about today’s chimney experts, however. They have professional equipment and methods of chimney cleaning that protect them and the homes where they work from a dangerous level of exposure to the toxins in creosote.
How Can I Minimize Creosote Buildup in My Chimney?
There is no way to eliminate creosote when you have a wood-burning fireplace. You can, however, minimize creosote buildup. To reduce the amount of creosote in your chimney, avoid the circumstances that contribute to an increase in the amount of creosote deposited in the chimney flue. The primary causes of creosote are:
- Burning unseasoned wood, meaning it is wet
- Incomplete combustion
- Contact with cool surfaces
Use well-seasoned firewood, which means that it has a moisture content of less than 25%, though moisture levels from 15% to 25% are best. Maintain briskly burning fires and avoid lackluster fires with slow-burning wood. To prevent creosote condensation, the flue temperature needs to exceed 250ºF, which is achieved by burning energetic fires. Please Note: Other dangers are created by over-fueling fires in fireplaces and creating temperatures that are too high.
Who Provides Creosote Removal in Richmond VA & Surrounding Areas?
Annual chimney cleaning is recommended by all leading fire safety experts, and Chimney Saver Solutions can help if you live in Richmond VA and the surrounding area. Our chimney sweeps are virtually soot-free and fully CSIA-Certified. Answers to the questions of what is creosote and what makes it dangerous are known and fully understood by our experienced professionals. We offer chimney cleaning, the removal of all forms of creosote, chimney masonry repair, chimney inspections, flashing repair, fixes for leaky chimneys, and much more.
Contact us at Chimney Saver Solutions today using our nifty contact form or schedule an appointment by calling 804-440-5000.