What is Creosote?
Creosote is actually just one of the components in the stuff (aside from the ash) that’s left over when wood is burned. The whole mix of tar and creosote and soot is commonly called creosote. The term is almost exclusively used when talking about burning wood. If discussing soot resulting from burning oil, or even gas, this is just soot and it’s just called soot. Though the black residue in the chimney from burning wood is called creosote, it is in fact mostly tar.
There are, generally speaking, three types of creosote are found in chimneys and they are usually called ‘stages’ or ‘degrees.’ All three forms are all combustible and should be removed.
Of the estimated 25,000 chimney related fires in the US, creosote is the culprit. Creosote is a highly flammable byproduct produced from burning wood. As smoke exits your chimney it carries particles with it that cling to the walls of your chimney, cool and then harden into various forms of creosote.
Anytime a fireplace is used, creosote is deposited in the chimney lining or flue. Since creosote is highly flammable and probably creates the biggest potential hazard when using a fireplace, it’s wise to try and minimize the amount of buildup that occurs. Failure to remove creosote from the flue can result in a deadly chimney fire, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
The NFPA was established in 1896, and the mission of this nonprofit organization, in part, is to cut down on the worldwide burden of fire. Across the globe, the NFPA is the leading advocate of fire prevention and is an authoritative source which develops consensus codes to reduce the possibility of fires. Among their recommendations backed by careful research is to have chimneys inspected annually for the purpose of determining whether creosote buildup has reached dangerous levels.
First Degree Creosote Buildup
First degree creosote has a high percentage of soot and can be removed from a chimney effectively with a chimney brush. First degree creosote develops when there is a relatively good combustion of the wood and/or relatively high flue gas temperatures.
This describes an open fireplace. The burning wood had lots of air for the combustion process and the heat flies up the chimney. These are best conditions for a chimney.
Second Degree Creosote Buildup
Second degree creosote is a bit trickier. This creosote buildup is generally in shiny black flakes. Imagine dry, hard tar corn flakes, and in greater volume than first degree creosote. It’s not as easy to brush away, but still fairly removable. It would be difficult to describe all the situations where 2nd degree creosote develops, but suffice to say it will occur where the incoming air is restricted.
Third Degree Creosote Buildup
Third degree creosote buildup is the worst of them all. This occurs when the flue temperatures are low and/or combustion is incomplete. This is common when any of, or a combination of, these conditions exist:
- On wood stoves with the air controls turned way down
- Un-insulated chimneys (or any other reason the chimney is cold)
- When using unseasoned wood
- If the flue is oversized for the appliance
- When the house is tight and can’t draw sufficient combustion air
Third degree creosote looks like tar coating or running down the inside of the chimney. It is extremely concentrated fuel. It can get very thick as it hardens and is recoated over and over. An inch thick would be unusual, but it’s not unheard of.
And worse yet is third degree creosote that fills up “chimney fire fluff.” If creosote buildup catches fire in a chimney, maybe it burns away completely but more often it does not. More frequently the creosote partly boils, partly burns and leaves a dried out light-weight “sponge,” often more than 2” thick which is actually very easy to remove. But if it is not removed, new third degree creosote fills that sponge you can have well in excess of 100 pounds of creosote in a chimney.
The first chimney fire may not have damaged the house, but that next chimney fire will be fiercer than the first and exceptionally dangerous. The really tough part is that third degree creosote, in any form, is very hard to remove.
Signs of Creosote? When Your Chimney Should Be Cleaned
It’s recommended that a minimum of once per year your Chimney should be cleaned by a certified Chimney Professionals. Patriot Chimneys advises our customers how use their Chimneys more than the average consumer that theirs be cleaned prior to the start of the Winter Months and also midway through the expected cold months. In Texas we know that the weather changes drastically so always feel free to discus with our Team of Chimney experts if you’re in need of additional cleanings.
Here are some of the most common signs your Chimney needs to be cleaned by a Chimney Sweep Technician:
- Hard time starting or maintaining fires
- Smelling a strong odor from Fireplace or Chimney
- Noticing Greasy Black Soot or Creosote
- Building up of smoke while burning wood
- Having a damper or flue in bad working condition
- Hearing Animals or Birds inside the walls
If you have noticed any of these signs please do not use your Chimney or Fireplace until it’s been properly cleaned an inspected by an expert Chimney technician at Patriot Chimneys.
Patriot Chimneys is a 100% Veteran owned & operated Business proudly serving the Dallas/Fort Worth & North Texas area. Our certified Chimney professionals are dedicated to providing the highest quality Chimney Cleaning, Chimney Repair and Fireplace Repair Services at reasonable prices to provide your family with peace of mind in the colder months.
Our goal is to surpass your expectations of the Chimney industry by providing superior customer service from our team of Chimney experts. We build trust by keeping in contact with clients until they become truly satisfied Patriot Customers.
At Patriot Chimneys we make our customers a priority by not only our paramount attention to detail, but also by providing a safe and respectable work environment inside your home. Before our team of Chimney Technicians begin any work we educate our customers on the entire process to ensure their are no inconveniences or hidden fees encountered for our customers.
Patriot Chimneys takes great pride in being a locally owned and operated business with a foundation built on providing superior service for not only our local customers but the entire North Texas community we proudly serve. If you are in need of Chimney Cleaning, Chimney Repair, Custom Chimney Caps, Firebox Installation, Dryer Vent Cleaning or Dryer Vent Repair we invite you to contact us now or call (817) 689-5840 and let Patriot Chimneys be your locally trusted Chimney Experts!