Is the creosote in my chimney a health hazard?

Is the creosote in my chimney a health hazard? If you are asking yourself this question, it’s important to understand just what creosote is. Creosote gasses when you burn wood in your fireplace. The wood releases unburned gasses. These gasses condensate on the walls lining your chimney forming a glaze substance called creosote. It can take several forms, crusty and flaky,tar-like, sticky or shiny and hardened.

The purpose of your chimney is not only to add architecture interest, but it also carries dangerous flue gasses from your fireplace out of your home. When it is allowed to accumulate in the chimney, it can potentially become a source of a chimney fire. You can minimize the build up by burning small, very intense fires using dry well-seasoned wood, but whenever you burn wood, creosote can’t be avoided.

Certain conditions encourage the build up of creosote. Unseasoned wood and restricted air supply can cause build up. With the build up of creosote deposits, a chimney fire can occur by the extreme heat in your fireplace. For a fire to happen, the temperatures of the fireplace must reach 1000 degrees. Now this temperature may sound crazy, but a report in Home & Hearth Magazine stated “Creosote build-up, by itself or in combination with other factors, was involved in 92% of chimney fires reported in a study commissioned by the Wood Heating Alliance. A build-up of as little as 1/8 to 1/4 inch of creosote is sufficient to create a fire hazard.”

Fire isn’t the only byproduct of creosote. There are also health problems associated with creosote. Simply touching it can lead to rash and irritation on the skin. Inhalation is also toxic if it is allowed to enter your home.
It is important to remember that every chimney requires cleaning to remove the build up of creosote. It is important to hire a professional to do this job. Chimney Sweeps of America has provided chimney sweeps for Denver, Boulder, and the Front Range since 1982. CSIA certifies all of our crews. They use the proper techniques and brushes to quickly and thoroughly remove any build up you may have.

Along with cleaning, a proper inspection is also necessary to ensure there are no cracks in the fireplace liner from the winter’s freeze and thaw cycles. An inspection will also tell you how well your chimney is venting the gasses outside your home.

Enjoying your fireplace is a favorite winter activity. Like most people you probably aren’t thinking about your chimney. However, just like anything else in your home, your fireplace needs maintenance to function properly, and Chimney Sweeps of America will help you do just that.

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