Soot inside of a home often goes unnoticed until it gets bad enough that dealing with it is far from simple. A stained wall is perhaps discovered when a painting is moved. Then, when further signs of soot are investigated, it usually turns out that furniture, carpeting, and drapes have all become stained. Ductwork can play a part in worsening the problem, since it can quickly transport soot throughout the home. Soot that is embedded into your filter or air intake or stains around registers provides evidence that the ductwork is spreading soot. If you notice a buildup of soot near your furnace, it’s a clear sign that you should have the system inspected. But is the cause the fireplace, the chimney, or something else?
Causes of Soot-Stained Interiors
Venting systems such as chimneys are designed to remove fumes and soot from your home, and well-designed venting systems do the job well. But things can go wrong when venting systems are not cleaned and maintained. There are actually numerous potential causes of soot problems, and the following are the leading causes:
- When a fireplace or wood stove is not cleaned regularly or otherwise properly maintained, the venting system may not be able to carry out all of the fumes, smoke, and particulates.
- The venting components such as the chimney liner, chimney, and connector pipes are most often the source of soot in your home. Carbon is a natural byproduct of burning any fuel.
- Soot can become a problem if the venting system contains offsets, is undersized, or is oversized. When appliances such as wood stoves are connected to the chimney flue, it’s essential that the fittings and the flue lining are the appropriate size, according to manufacturer’s instructions.
- Obstructions in the venting can cause soot problems. Common obstructions include birds’ nests, animals, leaves, and other debris.
- If the furnace is updated, the venting system may also need a change; if they aren’t a good fit, soot and various hazards could be the result.
- It may require a professional chimney sweep to identify this problem, but sometimes an excess of soot occurs because the venting system or house design is flawed.
- Burning candles can cause costly damage to your home before you figure out where the soot stains are coming from. Imported candles which contain lead wicks and/or petroleum byproducts are the worst. These issues together with scents added to the candles equal a lot of soot.
Tips for Cleaning Soot Stains
Commercial and professional cleaning products are available which are designed to remove soot from walls and other furnishings. In extreme cases, a professional cleaning team may be needed, along with repainting the walls and replacing furniture and carpeting.
Tips for Reducing Soot
The following tips apply to reducing candle soot:
- To promote even burning candles and less soot, most candle manufacturers recommend that consumer keep wicks trimmed to ¼ inch.
- Blowing out a candle produces smoke and soot, which is why flames of a candle should be extinguished with a candle snuffer or by putting the lid on a jar candle.
- It is best to use soy and beeswax candles because they burn cleaner, have less chemical additives, and are renewable resources. They are more expensive to purchase, but they burn longer and burn cleaner than paraffin wax candles.
- Another safe and clean-burning choice is to use non-cored candle wicks made with natural plant fibers.
Other tips for addressing soot problems follow:
- Have venting systems and heating appliances cleaned and serviced. Chimneys should be cleaned and inspected at least annually.
- Have a chimney professional check the design of the venting system.
Insurance and Soot Problems
Homeowners’ insurance policies sometimes cover soot damage, but an investigation into the cause of the soot is typically involved on large claims. A policy may commonly cover soot damage in a sudden kitchen flare-up, but it may not cover soot caused by the burning of candles. A chemical analysis of the soot is typically conducted to help determine the source of the soot, whether from candle wax or a vented fireplace.
Contact our chimney professionals to have your venting system cleaned and inspected. We can also help if you are trying to determine the source of a soot problem.
Northeastern Chimney, Inc.
formerly Nayaug Chimney Services, LLC
37 Cody Street, West Hartford, CT 06110