What is Creosote?

How does it get in the chimney and why is it dangerous?

When you burn wood in your fireplace or wood burning stove, it creates pollutants- often in the form of gases and small particles. The gases are expelled from the burning wood with the smoke. When the gases cool to a temperature that is below 250˚ F, they will begin to liquefy, combine and condense. When they combine and condense they create what is commonly referred to as creosote- a foul smelling corrosive that is extremely combustible.

Creosote tends to invade virtually any space that it passes through-namely your chimney. It can take many forms. It can become a liquid, it can become a hard coating, or it can be a fluffy type of substance. When creosote is in the form of a liquid, it runs down piping and chimneys, often even leaking out of any openings. As a hard coating creosote covers the insides of chimneys and pipes. When creosote is in the form of a fluffy type of substance, it can fill pipes and cause blockage.

Creosote is the main reason that chimneys need to be periodically inspected and cleaned. Creosote build-up is extremely dangerous because it is the main cause of most chimney fires. There are a number of ways that you can help prevent the build-up of creosote in your pipes and chimney.

• Stoves should be installed with short pipes that boast as few bends as possible.
• A flexible, extending chimney brush can help remove excess creosote buildup between your annual inspection and thorough cleanout.
• Maintain a temperature of more than 250˚ F throughout the entire chimney.
• Remember that less smoke equals less creosote.
• Use only “seasoned” wood.
• Properly lined and insulated chimneys can significantly reduce the amount of creosote buildup you experience.
• Have your chimney professionally cleaned and inspected annually- or more often with heavy usage.