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The Dangers of Creosote

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Many homeowners believe that the buildup that occurs in their chimney after a season of use is just extra ash or soot. However, underneath there may be something far more harmful to your chimney – creosote.

Even homeowners who know the ins and outs of their fireplace systems may be confused as to what creosote is and what it is dangerous. Below is a brief explanation of what causes creosote to form, why it is dangerous, and how to minimize or prevent it from forming in your chimney.

What is creosote?The Dangers of Creosote - Westhampton Beach Long Island NY - Guaranteed Chimney Service

Creosote is naturally during a fire as a result of the combustion process. Because of this, all fuel sources can create creosote; wood fires may be the biggest creosote producers, but coal, natural gas, and propane fires can also create creosote.

Why is creosote dangerous?

Although creosote builds up in your flue along with ash and soot, it is not nearly as harmless. Creosote is extremely flammable; because of this, accidental creosote ignition is the primary cause of chimney fire. In the United States alone there are more than 25,000 chimney fires each year, many of which could have been prevented with proper chimney maintenance.

In addition to causing chimney fires, creosote can also damage your flue liner. While small amounts of creosote can be easily removed by a chimney sweep, Stage 3 or glazed creosote can damage the flue liner to the point of needing to be replaced. Likewise, excessive creosote buildup can also cause severe chimney odors that permeate your entire home long after you’ve stopped using the fireplace for the season.

How can I prevent creosote buildup?

Because creosote is a naturally occurring byproduct of fuel burning fires, it is impossible to completely prevent creosote from forming in your chimney. However, there are a number of ways that homeowners can minimize the amount of creosote their fires produce.

  • Burn the right firewood. Indoor fires should only be built using seasoned hardwoods. The high moisture content in freshly cut wood can lead to excessive creosote production.


  • Don’t let the fire smolder. While it is best to let a fire extinguish naturally, it is not recommended to let fires burn at low levels or low temperatures for long periods of time. This is especially important for wood stove users; while technology like a flue pipe thermometer may seem like a good way to control your home’s temperature, burning the fire too low can cause creosote buildup in the flue.


  • Resize the flue. If you have gotten a new fireplace insert, changed fuel sources, or otherwise altered your home’s original fireplace you may need to have the flue resized. A flue that is too large or too small can draw in excessive amounts of cold, outside air; this blast of cold air can cause the creosote to cool prematurely on the flue walls.


Sweeping your chimney is about more than making sure it is clean; removing dangerous creosote is one of the most important tasks a chimney sweep has. Contact Guaranteed Chimney Service today to schedule an appointment so you can be sure your chimney is free from dangerous creosote.