Total Chimney Care's Blog

What Is Creosote Anyway?

If you own a fireplace, you’ve probably heard your chimney company refer to creosote a number of times. It’s clear that this substance is bad for your chimney and that it needs to be regularly removed, but many find themselves unaware of what it actually is – what it looks like, how it forms, the damage it does, etc. At Total Chimney Care, we feel that our customers should be informed and educated on it all when it comes to their fireplace, which is why we’re here to tell you a little bit more about creosote and why it’s a threat to your system.

Read below to get the facts and, if you are still experiencing questions, please contact our team to learn more. We’re always here to help!

creosote

What It Looks Like

Creosote can take on a few different forms, depending on how your fires burn and how long it has been in your chimney. If you only burn well-seasoned wood, keep your fires nice and hot, and regularly invest in chimney sweepings, then the creosote that accumulates in your chimney should remain light, flaky, and easy to remove. In these cases, your sweep should be able to use basic tools and techniques to clear your chimney and ensure it stays safer for regular use.

Other times, creosote will take on a more sticky or tar-like texture. In these cases, removal is a bit more challenging, but can still be tackled with ordinary equipment and products. No matter which of the two forms your creosote takes, it is always highly flammable, which means removal is a must!

Finally, there’s stage three, or glazed, creosote. This type is hard, glossy, and shiny, and it needs to be approached a bit differently, otherwise, your structure may experience damage. It will take the application of special chemical treatments to get the texture back to a more workable state, after which your sweep can more easily get rid of it.

The Dangers Of Chimney Fires

Like we said, creosote is highly flammable. This may not seem like a big deal since heat and smoke are already flowing through your chimney on a regular basis, but the truth is that these events can cause a lot of damage. You see, your masonry and chimney liner are both strong and sturdy, but they simply aren’t built to withstand the intense temperatures that accompany direct contact with actual flames.

Should one occur, you’ll be looking at a lot of time-consuming and expensive repair and reconstruction work. You also face a serious risk of smoke, carbon monoxide, and flames entering your home. Decay and deterioration create clear pathways for these substances to escape into your living space, and your liner will face significant damage, as well. All in all, your family will be facing serious danger should you light fires after a chimney fire has occurred.

Now, some chimney fires are loud, obvious events, but most of the time they occur slowly and quietly, meaning many homeowners continue using their fireplace without realizing they are at risk by doing so. Because of this, doing everything possible to avoid them is essential. Along with this, be sure to invest in annual inspections, especially before the start of your burning season. This way, your sweep will be able to detect any issues well ahead of time, and you can have them resolved before lighting any fires.

Avoiding Build-Up

If you use your fireplace at all, then at some point you will require chimney sweeping services. There is, unfortunately, no way to avoid the formation of creosote altogether, and investing in regular maintenance is simply a part of owning a fireplace. That being said, there are things you can do to slow the rate at which it accumulates. Keep in mind the following tips:

  • Only burn dry, well-seasoned wood in your fireplace. No trash, wet logs, or outside debris should be thrown into the fire.
  • Keep your fires burning hot. The cooler they are, the smokier they’ll be, and you’ll notice higher creosote deposits in the end.
  • Ensure the damper is open wide enough so that your fires get plenty of oxygen. This will also guarantee better airflow, which prevents build-up from occurring.
  • Invest in regular care from a CSIA certified chimney sweep.
  • Never burn artificial logs.

Our Team Of Experts Can Remove Your Creosote In No Time

If your annual inspection revealed excess creosote in your flue, then the time to have it removed is now. Like we said, avoiding sweeping services can put your home and family at serious risk, and it’s not worth taking any chances when it comes to the safety and wellbeing of loved ones. Ensure your holiday season is the best one yet by relying on our team of experts from start to finish. We would be happy to help you out every step of the way!

Our crew has been serving the area for well over 20 years now, and our long list of positive reviews speak for themselves. There is simply no one better to trust, and our team is dedicated to staying informed, educated, and up-to-date on it all. Ready to work with the best? Snowy weather is arriving soon, so reach out today. We’re ready to take your call!

Benefits Of Regular Cleanings & Inspections

One thing that the CSIA, as well as countless reputable chimney companies, promote is the importance of annual chimney inspections. These, along with regular cleanings and sweepings, can make an enormous impact on the safety and efficiency of your appliance and, here at Total Chimney Care, we can help you out with it all. We’ve been in business for over twenty years now, so there isn’t a lot we haven’t seen! Give us a call today to get your inspection on the books.

man with bucket on ladder looking into chimney

Spotting Excess Creosote

There are lots of benefits of investing in regular inspections, and spotting creosote is one of them. Creosote is extremely harmful to your chimney, and its flammable nature could easily cause a chimney fire to occur. Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent it from forming, but by hiring a sweep to regularly clear things out, you can reduce your risk of experiencing problems significantly.

Chimney fires cause serious damage, and they will make you more prone to experience house fires and gas leaks. Play it safe by calling on our team today!

Addressing Masonry Damage

If your brickwork and mortar is cracked, crumbling, or broken down, then investing in repair work as soon as possible is the right route to take, and an inspection will reveal any problems in a hurry. Open pathways throughout your structure give smoke, flames, and carbon monoxide ample opportunity to escape into your home, and they will keep your fireplace from functioning as efficiently as possible. The longer you put off necessary services, the worse things will get, so make the call today and get our team on the job!

Removing Obstructions

As your chimney goes through months of disuse throughout the spring and summer months, animals, nesting materials, and other outside debris could easily enter and clog things up. Having these items removed before lighting any fires is vital, as obstructions could send smoke and other harmful fumes back into your living space. Our team can remove any build-up, then ensure you have a chimney cap installed to prevent these issues from occurring again down the line.

Preventative Maintenance

As you may have realized by now, preventative maintenance is key when it comes to keeping your structure stronger for the long haul. An inspection can reveal weak points in your set-up, allowing us the opportunity to recommend effective measures to keep you better protected down the line. For example, your chimney cap may be broken or your flashing may be missing – both of these scenarios will trigger leaks and water damage.

Whether you need new parts installed, waterproofing services completed, your crown repaired, or something else, our team can get the job done.

Book Now & Beat The Rush

Fall weather is finally upon us, and soon the holidays will be here in full swing. Ensure you are all set and ready to enjoy the festivities by counting on us for all of your chimney-related services. Our busy season is just about here, so call today to set up your appointment early and guarantee a time slot that works well for your schedule. We’d love to work with you soon!

By Steve Sobczak on September 22nd, 2019 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment

Avoid Late-Season Chimney Fires

The fire-burning season is largely over, but check your chimney before you light one last fire for the season. While you might worry about chimney fires when your fireplace is in full force for the season, you actually run the biggest risk for chimney fires late in the season. Here’s why late-season chimney fires are fairly common.

Why Chimney Fires are More Common in the Late Season

The saying goes that clean chimneys don’t catch fire. After a season’s worth of house-warming fires, your chimney isn’t clean anymore. Every time you burn a fire, the smoke from the fire cools as it travels up the chimney. This forms condensation on the walls of the chimney. That condensation hardens into creosote. Creosote is a highly flammable substance. If creosote has built up on your chimney thicker than 1/8 of an inch, it can ignite due to extreme heat from your fireplace or from a stray ember that makes its way up your chimney. You can check the level of creosote in your chimney by reaching inside and scraping off a small piece of creosote. If the depth of your scratch or the thickness of the piece of creosote is greater than 1/8 of an inch, call your chimney sweep.

How to Prevent Late-Season Chimney Fires

The key to preventing late-season chimney fires, or any chimney fire, is to keep your chimney clean. Most homeowners clean their chimney once per year in the fall. If you use your chimney heavily throughout the winter months, you might consider having a mid- or late-season chimney sweeping. This ensures that the creosote within your chimney hasn’t built up to potentially dangerous levels. A late-season chimney sweeping is especially wise if you tend to burn fires into the spring if temperatures warrant the additional heat.

You also can work throughout the winter to minimize the amount of creosote that builds up within your chimney. The hotter your fire burns, the less creosote will build up in your chimney with each fire. A hot fire needs dry wood and plenty of oxygen. Only burn hardwoods that have been allowed to dry for at least six months. In addition, always operate your fireplace with the fireplace doors and damper completely open, unless you have heavy-duty fireplace doors that are designed to be closed when the fireplace is in use.

Call Total Chimney Care to Help You Prevent a Late-Season Chimney Fire!

If you’ve been burning fires in your fireplace all season long, call Total Chimney Care to clean your chimney before you light another fire! A late-season chimney sweeping will help you to prevent a late-season chimney fire, and it will help prepare your chimney for the start of the next fire-burning season.

By Steve Sobczak on May 14th, 2018 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

Reduce Fire Hazards in Your Home

Fireplaces and chimneys result in more than 22,000 home fires, on average, each year, according to statistics from the Chimney Safety Institute of America. More often than not, a dirty chimney is to blame for a chimney fire. To avoid becoming another statistic, and to reduce the fire hazard in your home, have your chimney swept and inspected before you use your fireplace this fall.

Dirty Chimneys Spark Fires

Every time you burn a fire in your fireplace, creosote builds up within the chimney. As smoke travels up the chimney and cools, condensation forms on the walls of your chimney flue and then hardens into creosote. Creosote is a flammable substance, which means that if a burning ember makes its way into your chimney. If the temperature within the chimney suddenly spikes, the creosote can ignite and start a chimney fire. The longer creosote remains within the chimney, the more it builds up. Creosote can even boil and bubble, forming a layer several inches thick that can ignite or prevent smoke and carbon monoxide from exiting your chimney.

Your annual chimney sweeping removes creosote from your chimney flue before it can pose a danger. To lower your risk of a chimney fire, the National Fire Protection Association calls for having your chimney swept and inspected at least once per year, between fire-burning seasons. If you burn an excessive amount of wood each season — think four cords or more — you should have your chimney swept more often.

Why Your Chimney Inspection Matters

Your annual chimney sweeping isn’t just about removing hazardous creosote from your chimney flue. It should also include an inspection. Your annual inspection spots any problems in your chimney or fireplace that could pose a fire hazard. Cracks or weaknesses in the chimney liner can let the heat, smoke, and fire from your chimney to access the wooden structure of your home, which can lead to a fire. Your inspection also will spot any signs of a previous chimney fire. Often, an initial chimney fire smolders and goes undetected. It does, however, damage the chimney, opening the door for a second, more severe chimney fire that can spread to the rest of your home.

If you have gas logs or a gas fireplace insert, your chimney sweeping and inspection is still important to prevent a house fire! The sweeping removes corrosive soot from the chimney and dust or debris from the burners and blowers in your fireplace. The inspection verifies that the chimney is in good condition and that all working components of the fireplace or logs are operating properly and safe for use.

Schedule Your Chimney Maintenace Now!

If you haven’t had your chimney swept and inspected yet this fall, don’t wait any longer! You should not light your fireplace for the season before the entire system has been swept and inspected. Doing so puts your home and your family at risk of a dangerous house fire! Reduce your risk of a chimney fire by calling Total Chimney Care to schedule your annual chimney sweeping and inspection today.

By Steve Sobczak on November 15th, 2017 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment

Stinky Fireplace?

Annoying Fireplace and Chimney Odor

Summer means warm weather and lots of outdoor fun. However, it also means that many of our customers begin to have a foul-smelling fireplace. Why? Because when your fireplace is out of use, all the accumulation from last winter can begin to cause odors.

There can be many reasons for a smelly fireplace. Regardless of the cause, call us and let us schedule a cleaning and inspection.

There can be many reasons for a smelly fireplace. Regardless of the cause, call us and let us schedule a cleaning and inspection.

To answer their questions and to provide useful information for the future use and reference of other homeowners, here are a few information regarding chimney odors:

What are fireplace and chimney odors?

Some of you may not be able to distinguish the smell right away. Chimney or fireplace odors, sometimes also referred to as smoke odors, basically have a characteristic campfire-like smell, but it’s not only limited to that kind of smell. The distinct smell may also vary depending on the severity of the problem in your chimney and on the cause and actual source of the smell.

What causes these odors?

One source of these odors stem from creosote deposits. Put simply, creosote is a chemical byproduct from the process of burning wood. And since the chimney is a place where wood burning is normal, you should expect creosote to be part of the package.

So basically, these creosote deposits stick in your chimney walls and in your flue. During rainy and humid weathers, or even when we turn the air conditioner on, it promotes the accumulation of moisture inside your chimney. Moisture mixed with the creosote deposits produces a musky odor that would intensify depending on the level of creosote accumulation in your chimney and on the moisture content in the room.

Another cause could be attributed to chimney molds that grow due to the damp environment of your chimney when water or moisture gets inside. It could also be because of blockages caused not only by creosote, but also by debris, animals, and other natural elements.

How can we remedy this predicament?

Since creosote formation is unavoidable as much as the weather is beyond our control, there is only one possible solution to our problems – prevention. How can we prevent this? It’s easy. We just need to look for a chimney professional certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America and schedule regular inspections and sweeping. We also have the option to have a chimney cap installed so that nothing can go inside. Not only are we able to keep our chimneys clean and odor-free, we are also well updated when it comes to our chimney’s current status. So whenever there are damages, we can have them fixed before the situation goes out of hand.