What Degree of Creosote is in Your Chimney?

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A chimney inspection can find out if any dangerous creosote lies within your chimney walls.

A buildup of creosote is the main reason that it’s important to have your chimney cleaned and inspected annually, but did you know that there are three degrees or stages of creosote?   Tar, soot, and creosote are all byproducts of wood burning, and “creosote” is what the mix of the three components is usually called.  What’s needed to properly clean your chimney depends upon what level of creosote there is on the flue lining.  Creosote in all of its forms is dangerous because it can cause chimney fires.

First Degree

Creosote which contains a high percentage of soot is the first degree of the substance.  This type of creosote is easier to remove from your chimney than the other kinds.  All that is needed to remove first degree creosote is a chimney brush.

The way to end up with the easiest creosote to clean is to burn seasoned wood in an environment in which there is plenty of air, so that the flue is warmed by the fire’s heat.  If a house is sealed too tightly, there may be a restriction in the air supply in the fireplace, which can cause more smoke to enter the home and can keep the chimney flue from getting properly heated.

Second Degree

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Creosote is a highly flammable tar-like substance that can easily start a chimney fire if it is not removed.

Creosote in the second stage is a bit more complicated to remove than first degree creosote.  The second degree variety is a buildup of hard, shiny black flakes, which contain hardened tar.  This type is best removed using a rotary loop.  This piece of equipment is a stainless steel cable attached to a hub which has metal rods that are turned by a special type of powerful drill, and it works effectively.

Second degree creosote is the type that is formed in the above-mentioned scenario, when there is restriction to the amount of incoming air.  It’s not unusual for people to get this type of creosote if they have glass doors on their fireplace or wood stove.

Third Degree

Third degree creosote is a tough problem to deal with, and it’s not unusual for people to replace their flue liners in order to be rid of it.  This kind of creosote looks like tar running down the inside of your chimney.  It’s a highly concentrated fuel which hardens and can form a thick layer, when recoated repeatedly.

The cause of third degree creosote is burning wood when the flue isn’t warmed and temperatures in the flue are too low.  Deposits of third degree creosote are also the result of incomplete combustion.

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To avoid creosote buildup, always use safe burning practices, such as only burning seasoned wood.

To avoid having to deal with third degree creosote, avoid burning unseasoned firewood and make sure there is enough air for combustion to occur in the fireplace.  Another cause of this problematic type of creosote is attaching an appliance to an oversized flue.  There are restrictions on the size a flue should be for a wood burning appliance.  It’s best to hire a professional to install fireplace inserts and wood stoves, to make sure everything operates properly.

Third degree creosote easily catches fire, which is dangerous.  Chimney fires can lead to house fires.  But if this kind of creosote does burn, it’s easier to remove, since it takes on a different form.

It’s very difficult to remove third degree creosote.  A rotary head with chains can typically get the job done and is a safe method but any cracked tiles which already existed may show up as a result of the chains and the procedure is often blamed.

There are chemicals which do a fair job of removing third degree creosote.

A chimney inspection can help determine if any creosote build up is in your chimney. Whatever type of creosote is in your chimney, let our professional chimney sweeps eliminate this safety hazard from your home.

Northeastern Chimney, Inc.
formerly Nayaug Chimney Services, LLC
37 Cody Street, West Hartford, CT 06110
Phone: 860-233-5770

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