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Is it Possible to Prevent Creosote Buildup in My Chimney?

Professional chimney technicians get this question quite often, and the answer is an easy one: You can, as long as you don’t use your fireplace. Of course, that’s not the answer most people want to hear, so technicians will explain a few things about creosote, chimneys, chimney fires and wood-burning to give the homeowner the strategies to reduce chimney creosote buildup and keep the chimney safe all year long.

creosote buildup in chimney flue, amenia nyCreosote 101

Creosote is a substance that forms inside a chimney when smoke condenses in the flue. It can appear as a sticky, puffy, flakey or solid substance, and every form is flammable.

Over time, creosote builds up inside the flue, potentially causing major problems:

Chimney fires

You can have a full-on, blazing chimney fire, but you also can have smaller fires that start and go out on their own. These “little” fires are particularly dangerous, because they can cause damage to the chimney liner, adjacent home building materials and the chimney masonry without you even knowing about it.

Draft blockages

Chimney flues are designed to be a specific size in order to efficiently vent smoke from the fireplace. A narrowed flue full of creosote will cause smoke to draft sluggishly and back up into your home. Smoke carries with it carbon monoxide, which is known to be potentially fatal when inhaled by people and pets.

Acidic damage

Creosote is highly acidic. Prolonged contact with inner areas of your chimney can lead to deterioration and breakdown. This is very serious, because you usually won’t know about this damage until some major problems begin to present themselves.

Chimney cleaning logs are not a substitute for professional cleaning

Chimney cleaning logs are popular, but do they work? Yes and no. The chemicals in the logs will help to dislodge some surface creosote, but they won’t do anything for long-standing, baked-on buildups.

The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) has stated that cleaning logs are fine to use as supplemental chimney maintenance products, but they are in no way a substitute for professional cleaning performed by a trained chimney sweep.

How to reduce the production of creosote

As noted above, creosote is a smoke byproduct, and you can’t prevent all smoke from entering you flue. But you can decrease the volume by burning only seasoned firewood.

Seasoned wood is dry wood – wood that’s had at least six months to cure after being chopped. Dry wood creates far less smoke than wet, unseasoned logs.

Another tactic is to use hardwoods instead of softwoods in your fireplace. Hardwoods such as elm, walnut, maple and oak are less smoky than fir, juniper, pine and other softwoods.

Finally, burn only proper firewood in your fireplace. Never use pieces of furniture, painted wood, fencing, sheetrock, paneling or other wood products. And never burn magazines, clothing, furniture materials, Christmas trees or any other type of material. These items are not only highly smoky but also dangerous in a fireplace.

fireplace cleaning, wappinger falls nyKeep your chimney clean and safe

Hudson Valley Chimney of Poughkeepsie, NY, is ready to help with all your chimney needs. We provide CSIA-certified chimney sweeping, chimney inspections and all types of chimney repairs and rebuilding. We’re the experts you can count on for the work and advice that will keep your chimney running safely, cleanly and efficiently.

Speak with a local chimney expert today at (845) 471-1071.


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