In the fireplace world, creosote is a dirty word… but what is creosote, exactly?
This highly flammable substance poses a potential hazard when operating a fireplace. The National Fire Protection Association is an advocate for fire prevention — it is their mission to provide fire safety education and reduce fire hazards across the country. The NFPA recommends an annual chimney inspection to determine if the level of creosote buildup has become dangerous. This vital maintenance routine is a critical step in how to prevent creosote buildup from causing a tragic house fire.
What is Creosote & How to Prevent Buildup
What is Creosote
Creosote is a mixture of chemicals from organic compounds that collect inside the chimney every time the fireplace is used. As creosote is deposited in the lining of the chimney or flue, the danger rises. A deadly chimney fire is a risk no one should take. Minimizing creosote buildup will help prevent such a tragedy.
Why is Creosote Dangerous?
One symptom of creosote buildup is the reduction of airflow in your fireplace. All fireplaces need proper, unhindered airflow for safe operation. Consequently, creosote deposits compound and become more significant without adequate airflow.
Creosote is also toxic! This burn residue is a dirty, toxic mix of chemicals that can cause irritating, and sometimes severe, effects on your health. Irritated skin and eyes are common symptoms of creosote contact. Over time, breathing microscopic creosote particles from the air can cause respiratory issues as well.
Needless to say, creosote buildup creating a chimney fire hazard is the most prominent problem we face.
The 3 Stages of Creosote
Creosote builds with fireplace usage. As each stage increases, the fire danger increases as well, and the creosote becomes more difficult to remove.
Stage 1 – Creosote is like flaky soot that can be easily brushed away.
Stage 2 – Creosote contains hardened tar that looks like hard, black shiny flakes. At this second stage, the creosote can still be removed with special tools, such as a rotary loop.
Stage 3 – Creosote resembles a coat of hardened tar dripping down the inside of the chimney. This stage needs to be avoided. It is extremely difficult to remove the creosote buildup when it reaches this level. Unfortunately, a hot fire can easily ignite the creosote buildup, which means you’re looking at a chimney fire, and subsequently a house fire in no time.
How to Prevent Creosote Buildup
Knowing how to prevent creosote buildup is the best way to avoid a dangerous fire hazard. It is obviously easiest to remove creosote buildup in the first stage before it becomes more advanced. Here are some steadfast tips on how to prevent creosote buildup:
- Avoid artificial packaged logs
- Only burn seasoned firewood – it normally takes between 6 months to a year for freshly cut wood to lose moisture content, making it “seasoned”
- Avoid slow, smoldering fires burning
- Ensure fire has plenty of air – fireplace inserts and glass doors can restrict air flow
- Hire a professional to inspect and clean your chimney and flue every year
Don’t let the hidden dangers of creosote buildup lurk in your fireplace. Enjoy these low temperatures with the peace of mind that your fireplace is as safe and warm as it feels.
Contact our professionals today to get the most out of your fireplace and ensure you are ready for the season.