Watch Out for Creosote!

The Different Stages of Creosote Buildup in a Chimney

Until they own a home with a chimney, many people have no idea what creosote is. Creosote is actually a combination of chemicals that are left behind after treated woods and coals are burned in the fireplace. There are three different stages of creosote buildup and each has different consequences. One of the top priorities of a chimney sweep during your annual cleaning and inspection is to eliminate creosote buildup.

There are a few reasons that creosote cannot be allowed to accumulate inside of the chimney. One is that the substance is extremely flammable and will increase the risk of a dangerous chimney fire. In addition, there are health risks associated with creosote. It can irritate the eyes or skin if someone comes into contact with it and it also causes respiratory issues after prolonged exposure.

Creosote buildup is a fire danger, but it can also cause respiratory problems.

Creosote buildup is a fire danger, but it can also cause respiratory problems.

In the first stage, creosote is fairly easy to remove because it is flaky and dusty. At this stage, it can usually just be brushed out of the chimney with a brush. However, in this stage, it is very easy for the creosote to catch a stray spark and start a chimney fire. Just because it can be removed easily does not mean that it is not still a serious problem.

If the creosote problem is not taken care of in the first stage, it will quickly move on to the next stage. At this point, the creosote becomes crunchy and tar like and is much more difficult to remove. Once it reaches the second stage, a simple brushing will not do it. It will be necessary for someone to get into the chimney and scrape the creosote from the walls.

Once the homeowner has let their creosote problem advance, it becomes particularly dangerous. In the third stage, creosote becomes glazed and can be extremely difficult to remove. At this point, it behaves like candle wax and will actually melt and spread throughout the chimney during a fire. Once it reaches this stage, the entire family is at risk as a result of the creosote.

As soon as there is a suspicion that creosote is building up in the chimney, it is a good idea to call a chimney sweep. A chimney sweep will have the training and tools necessary to clean up the creosote properly. If an inexperienced homeowner tries to do it on their own, they may not fix the problem entirely. Worse, they could expose themselves and their families to the creosote, putting them all at serious risk.

Creosote buildup is a serious issue and should not be taken lightly by homeowners. If their family is exposed to the substance, they may become injured or ill. Additionally, the creosote can start a chimney fire that will spread throughout the home.  It is important to remember that these risks exist even in the early stages and to have a chimney sweep clean the creosote as quickly as possible.