Our Company Blog
Part of enjoying a fire is contending with the mess that comes with it. Wood fires naturally produce ash, soot, creosote, smoke, and more. The chimney system works constantly to vent these harmful byproducts from the home. However, over time the chimney can become coated with soot and creosote. When soot and creosote are left to build up in the chimney flue, it can lower efficiency. This causes increased fire risks and health concerns. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) routine chimney sweeps and annual chimney inspections in order to maintain the highest levels of chimney safety and efficiency.
Soot Versus Creosote
Soot is a powdery substance that is easily removed by standard tools during a chimney sweep. Creosote is black or brown like soot, but appears crusty or flaky. It is made up of tar and melts as it heats up. It appears drippy and sticky, then it cools into a hard and shiny mass. Creosote is highly flammable and becomes more so as it heats and cools repeatedly. As creosote continues to buildup in the flue, and transforms into this hard mass, it only worsens, resulting in a flue fire.
When creosote has been left in the chimney flue long enough to buildup and become shiny and hard it is called glazed, or level three creosote. Level three is considered highly flammable and dangerous. If you have a level three buildup your chimney will not pass a CSIA chimney inspection and failing to keep your chimney working properly will shorten its life.
Creosote in the chimney can restrict airflow, causing even more creosote to build up in the chimney flue. When airflow slows down in the chimney, the draft doesn’t pull the vapors and smoke up and out of the chimney properly. As the airflow slows, the soot, creosote, and sparks stall in the chimney along with the air. The sparks can easily ignite the creosote on the flue walls.
If your chimney expert recommends glazed creosote removal, this is a serious problem that should be addressed. Glazed creosote removal is more complicated than a standard chimney sweep in which a technician cleans away soot and creosote with brushes and a vacuum system. Glazed creosote can’t be brushed away, however, Pristine Sweeps specializes in its removal. All of our certified chimney sweeps are trained in the use of specially-formulated chemical cleaning products designed to remove glazed creosote. These products create a reaction that changes the texture of the creosote for easier removal. During your chimney appointment the glazed creosote becomes flaky and easier to remove with chimney sweeping tools.
It is important to hire a professional to remove dangerous creosote from your chimney in order to keep your family safe and warm. This type of service takes more time and money than a standard chimney sweep and can be completely avoided. Creosote is a natural byproduct of your fire, but it doesn’t have to be a problem. Some conditions encourage a creosote buildup including restricted air supply, improper fuel, and cool chimney temperatures.
To find out more about creosote and chimney fires click here or call Pristine Sweeps at 206-574-8414.
While you’re organizing your Spring Cleaning to-do list, you should remember your chimney along with all your other home maintenance. Your chimney has been working for you all winter long, maybe daily, and it needs some attention.
What You Can Do
First, you should clean the surfaces of the hearth and close off the chimney when you’re finished with it for the season. By closing the damper you can save yourself in air conditioning costs this summer. You can also prevent foul odors from soot and humidity from entering your home while you wait for your appointment. As soon as you are able you should schedule an appointment with a professional chimney sweep company.
Choosing the Right Chimney Sweep Company
The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommend annual maintenance including regular chimney sweeps and annual chimney inspections. Scheduling your inspection in the spring means that you can catch any winter damage before it is made worse by water penetration and summer humidity. While looking for a chimney sweep company to assess and clean your chimney system, look for one who is familiar with the area’s climate, common chimney damages, repairs, and local regulations.
Make Necessary Repairs Now
Your chimney expert may find chimney damages or possible problems that can be dealth with right away. Schedule your chimney repairs now so that spring showers aren’t able to worsen the damage. Also, making repairs now means that your chimney will be ready to use when cool weather comes in the fall. A common mistake homeowners make is putting off routine maintenance and repairs until fall. This is often called the “fall rush” because it’s the period at the start of burn season when chimney sweeps are busy getting chimneys ready for winter. During this time it can be difficult to get the appointment time you need and you may even be forced to use a chimney sweep you aren’t happy with in order to get the work completed. It’s best to plan ahead.
Closing Out Your Chimney for the Off-Season
If you have already had your chimney inspection for the year, you can still have your chimney swept before closing it out for the summer. Many homeowners schedule a chimney sweep in the spring because a dirty chimney can become stinky when temperatures warm up. Soot and creosote can become pungent when it mingles with moisture. Even if your chimney doesn’t have a leak, the natural humidity of summer will permeate the whole chimney system and create these odors. Once your chimney is swept you can close the damper to save on utilities. If you have a top-sealing damper you can close off your chimney system with an air-tight seal from the top, preventing water penetration, drafts, and animal intrusion.
When you’re ready to close out your chimney for the spring, a chimney expert from Pristine Sweeps can help you remember every step. It’s always our goal for our customers to be safe and comfortable year-round. Call Pristine Sweeps at 206-574-8414 and schedule your appointment today.