The Cozy Flame's Blog

Creosote: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Creosote has always been described to be deadly and poisonous. Yes, creosote inside the chimney can be a very bad thing, but then again, like all bad things, creosote has its good side and there are many benefits it can give to other things. The Cozy Flame Hearth Shop would like to share what we know about creosote and how we can prevent it from harming our health and our property.

A natural byproduct of burning, creosote can appear flaky or tar-like.

A natural byproduct of burning, creosote can appear flaky or tar-like.

Brief History

Creosote comes from the Greek words kreas meaning meat and soter meaning preservation because it was traditionally used for that purpose. It is the result of generally burning combustible materials. It is also the result of the distillation of tar which is relatively heavier when compared to water. Where there is smoke, creosote is just around the corner because the smoke triggers creosote formation.

Creosote for Other Purposes

Creosote can be beneficial to people as well. There are two main types of creosote: wood-tar and coal-tar creosote.  Coal-tar creosote is used for preserving wood because it has preservative properties, but it is too toxic to use on other things. Wood-tar on the other hand is used for meat preservation and for medical purposes also. In hospitals, it is used as an anesthetic or a laxative. This is because of its antiseptic properties. However, creosote is not limited to these things only. Other types include water-gas-tar creosote and oil-tar creosote.

Creosote in Chimneys

In chimneys, creosote lingers in walls. At first it’s still called soot, but once it starts to thicken and it will start to have charcoal black colors, then that is already considered to be creosote. You will not know it’s already there unless you actually check the inside of your chimney. It can start rooftop fires in an instant because creosote is highly flammable. When there is already too much, layer after layer, it will now become glazed creosote.

The Best Solution

This process, however, cannot be avoided unless you never use your fireplace anymore which now defeats the purpose. But you can easily lessen the buildup with regular cleaning. The best way to prevent creosote formation from worsening is to have your chimneys cleaned by our licensed professional chimney sweeps. They are highly capable of taking care of your chimney once creosote starts to form. We are licensed by the CSIA and the NFI and have been offering the best of our human resources and services for over sixteen years to the beautiful people of Milford, Connecticut.

 

Help! My Fireplace is Smoky!

If the chimney starts to produce a large amount of smoke when there is a fire burning, there is a good chance that there is a problem. In some cases, it may be an issue that is very easy to fix and in others it may be a more complicated situation. Whatever the reason ends up being, it is important never to ignore excessive amounts of smoke. It could be an indicator that there is a dangerous situation on the horizon. It is definitely time for an inspection.

It could be nothing. Or, it could be a sign of something very serious that could endanger your health, your home and your family.

It could be nothing. Or, it could be a sign of something very serious that could endanger your health, your home and your family.

The first thing that all homeowners with chimneys should keep in mind is that some smoke is perfectly normal during a fire. There will always be smoke, to some degree, when there is a fire burning. However, if the smoke is particularly dark or heavy, it may be a sign of a problem. Anytime someone is not sure whether or not the smoke is normal, it is best to be on the safe side and assume that there might be an unseen issue.

If it seems like the amount of smoke is dangerous, the first step is to check and make sure that the damper is open. The damper is a piece inside of the flue that opens up to let smoke out during a fire and closes to protect the chimney when it is not in use. It must be opened manually before each use of the fireplace. It is very common to forget this important step and, in many cases, simply opening up the damper solves the problem.

Another reason that a chimney and fireplace may produce too much smoke is if there is an excessive buildup of creosote. Creosote is the substance that is left in the chimney after treated materials have been burned to make a fire. There are many dangers to creosote, including a variety of health problems. One of the most dangerous effects of the substance, however, is that it is extremely flammable and can cause a great amount of smoke to come from the chimney during a fire.

In the most severe cases, a smoking chimney is a sign that a chimney fire has ignited. Chimney fires are extremely dangerous because they can quickly spread throughout the home and even onto the roof. There are many ways for a chimney to start, from embers left behind in the fireplace to a clogged chimney that cannot dispel combustible gasses. It is important to know the signs of a chimney fire so that they can be identified as quickly as possible.

If the chimney starts to produce too much smoke, it is best to treat it like a serious situation until the cause has been determined. Call a professional chimney inspector to take a good look and determine what might be causing the issue. Until this is done, it is important not to use the chimney or the fireplace for any reason. It may be that the chimney simply needs a good cleaning to get it back in working order.

Anytime there is a fire in the fireplace, some smoke is going to come from the chimney. However, if the smoke has a bad smell, is terribly heavy, or just seems to be coming in too large quantities, there may be a problem. It is important to suspend use of the chimney and fireplace until someone can determine and fix the cause of the problem. It may be an easy fix but it could also be the sign of a serious problem.

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