Cleaning Creosote

Askthechimneysweep:

Hello, I had a question for you regarding my chimney. What should I do about cleaning creosote in my chimney? If I look up the chimney I can see creosote build up and that worries me. Is there anything I can do to remove this creosote myself without having to pay for a professional chimney sweep cleaning? My husband and I are really looking to save some money.

Thank you,

Theresa J., MI

Theresa,

Thanks for your question! People actually wonder this a lot. You are very right in assuming that the fireplace should not be burned. Creosote buildup is a major concern for us in the chimney industry. Built up creosote can cause chimney fires or will fuel a chimney fire and cause it to last longer and burn stronger. If a fire sparks in the chimney’s flue, creosote is likely to catch, and puffy creosote will act as fuel for for the fire. Another danger of having creosote buildup in your chimney is that it can cover a vertical crack in the flue tile or a missing mortar joint which are signs that a chimney fire has already occurred.

When it comes to cleaning creosote out of your chimney, your best bet is going to be having a chimney professional come out to sweep the chimney. A chimney professional who completes a video inspection of the chimney’s flue after sweeping it is worth the money because he can actually look in the chimney’s flue to make sure that there are no physical problems after removing all of the pesky creosote that builds up over time. NFPA 211 recommends that chimneys be swept yearly or after you burn through a cord of wood.

Creosote sweeping logs are an option available to you in between having your chimney professionally serviced. As stated on the package, these logs should not replace a chimney professional servicing your chimney, but is great for use before a chimney professional comes to service the chimney. Creosote sweeping logs prevent new creosote from building up and treats existing creosote to make it easier to remove all creosote, even glazed creosote when the professional comes out.

Some folks will invest in their own chimney sweeping brushes. This one time investment allows them to clean their chimney’s flue yearly without having to call out a pro. If you wish to sweep your own chimney, more power to you. I would still absolutely recommend having a professional come out to evaluate the integrity of the flue system every year. Not all creosote is easily removable. Glazed creosote can ignite when the temperature in the flue system reaches a certain level and the creosote coats the walls of flue system. Usually glazed creosote is found in the flue after a chimney fire.

There are so many variables when it comes to creosote in your chimney and chimney sweeping. As I said before there is a lot of money to be saved in purchasing your own chimney sweeping equipment or burning a creosote removal log prior to your professional coming out, but  having a professional coming out yearly to inspect your chimney is invaluable. When it comes down to it you can never be sure what exactly is happening in your flue system without a video inspection of the chimney’s inner walls. Glazed creosote and excessively tall chimneys prevent problems for people who want to save money and sweep their own chimneys. At the end of the day I would honestly recommend doing some shopping when hiring a chimney professional and having him come out to inspect the chimney yearly, even if you do want to sweep it yourself, but in my opinion it is not worth the cost or effort.

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2 comments on “Cleaning Creosote

  1. Bob Egan on said:

    We have had a wood furnace in the cellar for the past 30 years. Recently we had to have the outside chimney rebuilt. This time we included an out side clean out. Problem is now we have a constant liquid creosote running down our cellar wall when we start the furnace. There are a few places in the out side of the chimney that is leaking this stuff as well. Any ideas would be helpfull in solving this problem. Thank you very much. Bob

  2. chimneyadmin on said:

    Let’s start with the clean-out door first. As long as the door closes tight, I would not think it has anything to do with the leaking issue. Next I will assume that the interior of the clay flue tile are sized properly. if the pipe on the back of the add-on unit is 6″ or 8″ round, I would recommend a properly sized 6″ or 8″ stainless steel, insulated liner to be installed with a clean out tee with a clean out cap on the bottom of the tee connection. Most manufactures and building codes as well, prevent any “increase” or “decrease” in the square inches that are being vented from the back of the unit to the top. Next if your using terra-cotta flue tiles, I would consult with the manufactures as to the proper size tile for their unit. if you have a cap on top, I would temporarily remove the screen as it might be choking the unit down. Also, try adjusting the damper into more of an open position to get the flue gas up out of the chimney. A word of caution in doing any of these options is that a chimney fire may occur if the creosote is building up and you may experience a needless chimney fire. Evaluate the interior of the chimney for creosote buildup, and have it swept if need be.
    Burn Safe and Warm

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