Regular cleaning and maintenance of your chimney help keep your home and family safe because they help prevent dangerous creosote buildup. If you have a wood burning fireplace, insert, or stove, you will likely encounter creosote in your chimney. The key is to keep it from building up.

Here is everything that you need to know about creosote and how to prevent buildup in your chimney system.

What Is Creosote Buildup?

Any time a fireplace is used, creosote is one of the components (aside from the ash) that is deposited in the chimney lining and flue. Creosote is highly flammable and can potentially become hazardous when using a fireplace.

Generally speaking, there are three types of creosote found in chimneys. Each type of creosote is described as being in a “stage” or “degree.”

Stage 1

The first degree or stage of creosote is like flaky soot that can be effectively removed from the chimney with a chimney brush. This develops when there is relatively good combustion of the wood or high flue gas temperatures.

Stage 2

Creosote in the second stage is generally described as having shiny, black flakes. The flakes contain hardened tar that is not as easily brushed away but is still fairly removable.

Stage 3

Third-stage creosote buildup is the worst and is something to be avoided. At this stage, it is extremely difficult to clean because it can get very thick as it hardens. A smoldering fire can easily ignite the creosote, which is very hazardous for your chimney.

What Causes It?

Creosote is a black residue that sticks to the inner walls of your chimney. In some cases, it looks flaky and sticky, like tar that hardened to the surface. Here are a few conditions that cause creosote buildup:

  • Cool flue temperatures
  • Restricted air flow
  • Wet or unseasoned firewood
  • An oversized flue

How Can I Minimize Creosote?

For the most part, it is best to take care of creosote sooner rather than later. Just a few simple changes can greatly minimize the development of creosote in your chimney.

One way to reduce creosote is to avoid burning slow and smoldering fires. The combustion of its by-products can go up the flue and add to the collection of creosote inside. In addition, it typically takes between six months to one year for cut wood to establish low moisture content. Therefore, do not burn newly cut, unseasoned firewood.

Can I Prevent Creosote Buildup?

One of the best ways to control creosote buildup is to maintain your fire with dry, well-seasoned wood. Additionally, if you burn hot fires at proper temperatures and maintain a flue temperature that exceeds 250 degrees Fahrenheit, this will allow you to prevent creosote condensation.

Is Creosote Buildup Toxic?

Creosote isn’t good for your health, therefore, it is wise to minimize the amount of buildup that occurs. Exposure to creosote could potentially have a wide range of effects on your health. While some effects are simply irritating on your eyes and skin, other effects can have severe, long-term results.

Stay Safe By Scheduling a Chimney Sweep

A dirty chimney with excessive creosote buildup is more likely to cause a chimney fire, but professional chimney sweeping can help identify and prevent chimney problems before they occur.

Contact the Chimney Expert for a free estimate. We offer a wide range of chimney services throughout the Milwaukee area.