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How to Reduce the Buildup of Creosote in Your Chimney

One of the biggest safety issues with chimneys today is the buildup of creosote, which is responsible for the majority of reported chimney fires each year. Fortunately, there are ways to combat this problem and keep your chimney cleaner and safer.

Ye Olde Brit Chimney Sweep of San Bernardino, CA, would like to share some tips on creating less creosote when you use your wood-burning fireplace.

hazardous creosote accumulation in Palm Springs CAHow creosote forms

Creosote forms when smoke condenses in a chimney flue. The amount of smoke and the length of time the smoke is in the flue affect how much creosote is formed.

To reduce creosote formation, you want to produce less smoke with your fires and allow the smoke you do produce to move up and out of the chimney as quickly as possible.

Creating less smoke from fires

Here are five tips for creating less smoke.

  1. Use dry (seasoned) firewood

Damp wood creates a lot of smoke. A good rule of thumb is to give logs at least six months to dry out before burning them.

  1. Use hardwoods

Maple, oak, walnut and elm are examples of hardwoods that produce less smoke than softwoods like pine, redwood, juniper and spruce.

  1. Maintain a draft

Wood that burns sluggishly makes more smoke, so ensure that there’s a sufficient amount of air to produce a good draft in the fireplace. You might need to crack a nearby window and turn off kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans. (Also, make sure the fireplace damper is fully open when starting a fire.)

  1. Use nothing but wood in its natural state

Never use painted wood, pressed board, cardboard, packing materials, pieces of furniture or anything other than cut logs from trees. And never use accelerants like lighter fluid and kerosene. All these items can add huge amounts of smoke to your chimney.

  1. Warm the flue

Cold air sitting in the flue is heavier than warm, smoky air and can slow down drafting. Try holding a rolled, lit newspaper up past the damper for a minute or so to warm the flue before starting a fire.

Consider the inside of the flue and the smoke chamber

A flue liner that’s damaged and has jagged edges will trap smoke and add to the creosote buildup. A chimney video inspection will tell you the condition of your chimney liner.

Outside debris, such as leaves, twigs and the nests of small animals, will also cause more creosote to build up in the flue. Having a proper chimney cap or flue cover installed will keep junk out of the chimney.

A straight up-and-down flue pipe will draft faster and more efficiently than one that’s angled. Based on your home’s structure, an angled flue may be necessary. If this is the case, it’s especially important to schedule regular chimney inspections and chimney sweeping.

The smoke chamber just above the fireplace damper can have rough areas that trap smoke and hold on to creosote. Smoke chamber parging is a process that smooths out the chamber’s surfaces.

Chimney cleaning of dangerous soot in your chimney in Covina CA

A final consideration about the flue is its size. It should have been built in the correct size to draft the fireplace it was connected to, but this doesn’t always happen. A flue that’s the wrong size will impede drafting and can lead to excess creosote buildup.

Cleaning your chimney

Chimney sweeping with specialized tools is the right way to remove creosote from your chimney. You can prevent a lot of it, but only a trained chimney technician can remove it safely and correctly.

If it’s time to have your chimney swept or inspected, the experts at Ye Olde Brit Chimney Sweep are standing by to help. Reach us in the San Bernardino, CA, area at (909) 880-2120, or get in touch with our handy contact form.

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