What Homeowners Should Know About Creosote and Fireplace Safety
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  • What Homeowners Should Know About Creosote and Fireplace Safety

    What Homeowners Should Know About Creosote and Fireplace Safety


    Creosote is a natural byproduct of combustion that builds up little by little in your chimney with every fire you light. Though it poses little threat if kept in-check through regular cleaning, failing to properly maintain your chimney can lead to dangerous, flammable buildup. Here’s what every homeowner needs to know to keep their chimney clear and their homes and families safe:

    Creosote is Odorous and Carcinogenic

    Creosote builds up in three stages. During the first stage it is light and powdery, and, at low levels, is relatively harmless. Stage two is when the powder solidifies into hard flakes, and this is when it can become dangerous. At this point, when damp, the creosote emits a terribly pungent odor that can permeate your entire home. Chunks can also break away from the flue and fall back down into the firebox. This can cause more than stink – these chunks are also carcinogenic. At the third level of buildup, creosote transforms into a tarry substance that can completely overtake your chimney, and even drip back down into your fireplace, only exacerbating the problems.

    Creosote is Flammable

    Creosote buildup is the number one cause of chimney fires according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America. Creosote at every level is flammable, but as the creosote changes forms at later stages, it becomes more and more dangerous. Level one creosote is very difficult to ignite, even with an open flame right beside it. But level three creosote – also known as glaze – ignites very easily, even potentially with normal fireplace use.

    Creosote is an Irritant

    More than just smell bad or cause fires, creosote is also a respiratory irritant. If someone in your family has a respiratory disorder or sensitivity to chemicals, creosote can impact his or her health. It easily irritates airways, especially among those with conditions like asthma or emphysema. It can also irritate the eyes and skin, cause rashes, and make people in your home feel ill or uncomfortable.

    What to Do about Creosote?

    There are a few things that you can do to keep creosote at bay and prevent odors, fires, and potential health issues:

    • Regular cleanings prevent level two and three creosote buildup, which drastically reduces risk. Have your fireplace cleaned once a year or once every 36 fires – whichever comes first.
    • Properly seasoned firewood creates far less combustion gas than wet firewood, so be sure you’re using dry wood that was treated for use in a fireplace.
    • Larger fires that aren’t allowed to smolder are actually better for your chimney than low fires that smolder for a long time. Put fires out promptly and avoid building low fires whenever possible.

    The good news is that regular cleanings are the best way to prevent the problems creosote can cause. Since 1969, Lindemann has been the preeminent chimney sweep contractor Chicagoland homeowners turn to for their chimney and fireplace needs.  Let us be your reliable chimney service team.  Contact us today to schedule your personal service visit – and you’ll rest comfortably this winter and beyond.


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