If you have a fireplace, you’re more than likely thinking of cuddling up in front of it rather than the maintenance involved. But fireplaces and chimneys need to be cleaned regularly to ensure they don’t become a fire hazard. There’s also an unknown danger lurking inside your chimney — creosote.
What is Creosote?
Creosote is the tarry residue left inside your chimney after you burn the wood logs inside. When you burn wood, the gases released mix with other particles in your chimney and settle on the walls leaving the highly flammable substance behind. It is filled with chemicals and is typically brown or black. There are three levels of creosote, all of which require attention before they lead to dangerous situations.
- Level 1: When creosote begins to build, it’s a flaky substance that can be brushed off the chimney walls easily.
- Level 2: As it continues to build, it turns into a thicker deposit, like tar, and needs specialized tools to remove it.
- Level 3: By this stage, it becomes hardened and challenging to remove.
Why is it Dangerous?
Creosote is dangerous for many reasons and can affect your home and your health. Here are the main reasons you don’t want creosote living in your chimney.
- It reduces the airflow inside your chimney. This means there’s less room for the smoky air to escape. According to the EPA, studies show that an estimated 70% of the smoke from chimneys can reenter your home.
- It’s toxic to your health. Lingering creosote can cause several health problems. Here are just a few:
- Eye irritation can occur and cause symptoms such as a burning sensation or even a loss of vision.
- Irritation of the skin can result from coming into contact with the ashes.
- Breathing issues are common with creosote exposure and can lead to more significant respiratory problems the longer you are exposed.
- While the risk is low, studies have shown that creosote is a carcinogenic, and long-term exposure puts you at risk for cancer.
- It’s a fire hazard. Failing to remove creosote buildup can lead to a chimney fire. The EPA states that it’s the leading cause of fireplace and chimney fires and could easily be prevented.
- It builds upon itself. If you don’t have the creosote buildup removed, the problem compounds, adding even more fuel to the fire – literally.
How Can it be Removed?
There are many people out there who think they can do all the household jobs – even the dirty, tough ones – by themselves. Don’t be one of them. Removing creosote requires a trained professional to ensure it’s done safely. This is why you need to call a chimney sweep. They will be able to assess the level of buildup, know what tools to use, and safely handle the removal and disposal of the creosote.
Having a fireplace in your home can be a nice addition, but it needs to get regular checkups every summer in preparation for those colder nights. The solution is to contact a trusted chimney sweep to do the job for you. This is the best way to ensure the ability to safely enjoy your fireplace and prevent a chimney fire or other dangerous side effects of creosote.