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What Is Creosote?

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The majority of homeowners understand the importance of having their chimney swept every year; however, many do not understand why it needs to be done. While a chimney sweeping does remove any buildup of ash and soot in the fireplace, it also removes one other major, potentially dangerous byproduct of combustion – creosote.

What Is Creosote - Westhampton NY - Guaranteed Chimney


What is creosote?

Creosote is a naturally-occurring byproduct of all fuel burning fires. While it is produced in highest concentrations by wood burning fires, creosote is also created by heating appliances burning coal, natural gas, and propane.

It is important to have your chimney swept to remove creosote every year – if not more based on fireplace use – because of how flammable creosote is. A buildup of creosote in the flue can be easily ignited by any sparks or embers that travel up the chimney. The leading cause of chimney fires, which cost homeowners millions of dollars in damages every year, is creosote ignition.

Creosote buildup in the flue is also a major cause of chimney odors. During warm weather, excessive creosote can cause a strong odor throughout your home; this kind of chimney odor is especially bad when the weather is humid as well. Creosote-caused odors are also often made worse by chimney drafting issues.

Stages of creosote

As a fuel burns, creosote accumulates in the flue and fireplace as a sticky liquid. It then hardens and dries into three forms: stage one, stage two, or stage three creosote.

  • Stage one: Stage one creosote has a soft, velvety texture. This makes it difficult to distinguish between creosote and soot accumulation.
  •  Stage two: Stage two creosote is the most common and easiest form to recognize. Stage two creosote forms a thin, crunchy layer that can easily be removed by a chimney sweep’s brush.
  • Stage three: Stage three creosote, also known as glazed creosote, is the result of long-term creosote accumulation in a flue that is not regularly swept. Glazed creosote is extremely hard to remove as it hardens into a thick, sticky, dark layer that often has a shiny or glassy sheen.

Preventing creosote

While creosote is the result of all fuel burning fires, there are a number of ways homeowners can minimize creosote buildup in their chimneys

  • Avoid burning green or freshly cut firewood. The higher moisture content creates more creosote as it burns.
  • Do not burn fires at low temperatures. Smoldering fires do not have enough hot air to push the byproducts of combustion up the chimney, causing creosote to accumulate faster.
  • Have the flue resized when a new fireplace is installed. Chimneys are not one size fits all; the size of the flue depends on the specific fireplace or stove. If a flue is too large or too small, the byproducts of combustion will not be able to vent and draft correctly.

    Keep your chimney in good condition and your family safe by having your chimney swept to remove creosote every year. Contact Guaranteed Chimney Service today to schedule your next chimney sweep appointment!