Creosote: Everything You Need to Know

Creosote is a very dangerous substance that is present in every fireplace. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), creosote occurs naturally during the wood-burning process, and when it builds up in your chimney on its walls, it creates a dangerous fire hazard as creosote is a highly combustible compound. Although Creosote can’t be totally avoided, it needs to be controlled and minimized for the safety of you and your home.

Comprehending Creosote Image - Burlington VT - Brickliners Custom Masonry & Chimney Services

What is Creosote?

Creosote is a highly flammable substance that is formed by the distillation of tar. It comes in many different forms: black or brown in color, shiny or matte, hard or flaky, gummy or sticky. It can be hard to recognize with the naked eye. Creosote also has three different levels of severity.

Level 1: This is the most benign level. At this stage the creosote is still known as “soot.” It is flaky and can easily be removed with the sweeps’ brush. No special tools are needed to remove the soot at this time.

Level 2: At this stage, soot now becomes creosote. It is hard and cannot be removed with a basic brush. The sweep will now have to use a special brush to remove the creosote.

Level 3: This is the most serious level creosote can reach. It is very thick and is known as a glaze. To remove it completely would damaging the structure. It is extremely flammable at this point and special brushes and tools will need to be used to scrape away as much of the creosote as possible.

How Does Creosote Form?

Creosote forms under certain conditions. Restricted airflow, unseasoned firewood, and cool chimneys all contribute to the formation of creosote. When wood is burned in a fireplace it releases by-products such as smoke, water vapor, and gases. As these travel up the chimney, it becomes cooler and cooler and condensation begins to occur. Once condensation occurs, the particles stick to the sides of the chimney and creosote forms. The action is very similar to what happens when you blow your warm breath onto a cold mirror.

Risks of Creosote

Because of its highly flammable nature, creosote can cause damaging house fires. Not only is creosote itself very flammable, it can also cause a blockage in the chimney and prevent gases from escaping properly, causing more creosote to build up. The lack of ventilation, the presence of creosote, and the flammability of creosote are the perfect recipe for a house fire.

How to Remove Creosote

You may think you can take care of creosote by yourself with a broom, but you can’t. Creosote can spark up at anytime and only trained professionals know how to quickly put it out before it grows into an uncontrollable fire. The safest and most effective way to remove creosote is to have a trained professional remove it for you. Annual cleanings performed by our Certified chimney sweeps will ensure the removal of creosote and prevent any dangerous buildup. Give us a call today to setup an appointment for your annual cleaning!

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