Creosote is the last thing on our mind when we are enjoying a warm, toasty fire. However, if we don’t put our thoughts to keeping our chimney and wood stove clean, our negligence could in all probability lead to serious consequences. Make no mistake about it, dirty chimneys can cause fires as well as damage property and injure people.
Chimneys are designed to safely expel the residue that develops from burning wood. Condensation occurs as these substances exit from the fireplace through the chimney. A sticky residue forms on the inside of the chimney walls which is called the creosote is formed. The blackish or brownish substance is sometimes flaky and crusty or shiny and sticky, and will certainly build up over time, increasing the danger waiting to strike if left un-cleaned. We recently added an excellent article on how chimneys work.
Without a proper chimney cleaning, the odds for a chimney fire go up. Chimney fires can make an explosive sound and be visible enough to be witnessed by neighbors and people nearby. Sometimes chimney fires don’t get enough air to be as visible or noisy. Temperatures inside the chimney can rise very high, creating similar damage.
Whatever the form of creosote it is, it can develop in large quantities inside the chimney. If the residue catches fire inside the chimney, it will cause a destructive fire that can result in damage.
Taking proper care for your chimney can prevent Creosote chimney fires.
Restriction of air inside the chimney, unseasoned wood and abnormal temperatures inside can enhance the occurrence of creosote.
Here are some ways you can prevent the buildup of creosote:
- Always use seasoned dry wood
- Build small fires
- Never put cardboard boxes, wrapping paper or Christmas trees inside the fire as it can increase sparks
- Install thermometers in wood stoves to monitor its temperature
- Get your chimney properly inspected and cleaned regularly
- Always remember that a clean fire won’t catch fire. Have your chimney annually inspected by a certified chimney cleaner.
- Burn a Creosote log occasionally.
A certified chimney cleaner can inspect, as well as clean and make necessary repairs in your chimney.
Signs that a chimney fire has occurred:
Be aware that sometimes fires in chimneys can occur without you noticing. look for signs that a chimney fire may have occurred at one time by doing the following:
- Puffy creosote or built up of it in large quantities
- Cracked or collapsed tiles in the chimney flue
- Discolored rain cap
- Pieces of creosote found on the floor of chimney
- A damaged roof
- Cracks in the exterior of the masonry
- Smoke escaping through the masonry
What to do in case you have a chimney fire?
The first thing to do in case a chimney fire erupts is to get everyone including pets out of the house. Call the fire department from a safe distance and don’t try to extinguish the fire yourself. Your family’s well being is your main priority!
From outside, you can use a garden hose to spray the outside of your home especially the roof area so the fire doesn’t spread to the roof. Do not spray water on the chimney itself. Always remember that your safety is most important. Homes can be replaced, but humans cannot.
Most people moving into rental properties have no idea the problems which can occur with creosote build up.
Most landlords don’t seem to care enough to mention the maintenance of the fireplace or wood stove when renting their properties. Basically telling you to burn carefully?
Carpets are cleaned, but what about the chimney?
Years ago, renting a place – we did all the wrong things, and I mean ALL the wrong things! We were never told, nor had any idea of the possible consequences of burning anything in an uncleaned fireplace.
We burned everything from papers to boxes, to old broken wood from furniture.
At the time there was no resource like the internet, and I certainly did’t think about going to the library. Heck, I didn’t even know their was a possible issue.
Over our time living there (2 years), I never bought wood once! I had no clue about seasoned or green wood, or where to buy it. I didn’t even think I needed to buy wood at all. What for? We kept receiving flyers almost daily! Wrap them in a tight ball, and away we went. I just didn’t know better.
I am sickened today at my own ignorance.
Knowing what I know now, I am just thankful that nothing happened!
Anyone renting a property with a fireplace, please take the time to educate yourself on Creosote and the dangers within your chimney.