Creosote & Chimney Fires: Everything You Need to Know

Owning a fireplace is a dream for many, which is likely why fireplaces are on so many people’s home-buying wish lists! And despite gas systems being mess-free and convenient to use, there are lots of homeowners who still prefer the classic ambiance of a wood-burning fireplace over any other options on the market.

We get it – it’s hard to beat the sounds and smells of crackling firewood, and it creates an aesthetic that is simply impossible to replicate.

That said, with these wood-burning systems comes responsibility, and if they aren’t properly maintained, you’ll experience a lot of inconvenient and potentially dangerous situations.

One threat we’d like to elaborate on is the risk of chimney fires. Learn more about the causes and signs of chimney fires (and how to avoid them) by reading below, then call on us for all of your chimney and fireplace needs. All Seasons Chimney has got your back!

The Dangers of Creosote

Now, the biggest cause of chimney fires is excess creosote accumulation throughout your flue.Creosote & Chimney Fires - Poughkeepsie NY - All Seasons Chimney

What is creosote? Creosote is black or brown substance that forms from the byproducts of burning wood. As these water vapors, gases, unburned wood particles, and other assorted minerals make their way to the top of your flue, they’ll cool down, which causes condensation to form. This results in sticky residue (creosote) clinging to your chimney’s interior walls.

Creosote comes in a few different forms. It can be light and flaky (the easiest to remove), tar-like and sticky, or glazed and glossy. One thing all forms have in common is flammability, which means that if you have enough of it (and your internal flue temps are high enough), you’ll be more at risk of experiencing a chimney fire.

Some wonder if it’s possible to avoid creosote from forming altogether. Unfortunately, as long as you’re burning wood, at least some creosote will form in your flue. The good news is that you can slow the rate at which it accumulates by maintaining good draft and airflow, keeping your chimney warm (a top-sealing damper is great for this), and using only properly seasoned wood in your fires.

Signs of a Chimney Fire

Now, it probably goes without saying that using your fireplace after a chimney fire is a big no-no. But at least, you’ll know for sure that you’ve had a chimney fire, right? They’re surely loud, obvious events?

Unfortunately, no. Some are noisy and explosive, but the majority are actually slow-moving and occur quietly without the homeowner even knowing something is amiss.

This is an unsettling thought, as one could continue using their system, totally unaware they’re facing a lot of risks (like house fires or carbon monoxide exposure) by doing so.

Because of this, we encourage our customers to note these common signs that a chimney fire has occurred:

  • You have puffy, honey-combed creosote in your flue.
  • Your chimney cap, damper, tv antennae, and other metal components on or near your chimney are warped and discolored.
  • You notice smoke escaping through your mortar joints when operating your fireplace.
  • Your flue tiles are cracked or missing big chunks.
  • You notice creosote flakes on your roof or even on the ground outside of your chimney.
  • Your roofing materials show signs of damage.
  • There are cracks and gaps in your exterior masonry.

Avoiding Chimney Fires

chimney house fire

Getting repairs done as soon as possible after a chimney fire is a must, but the best route would be to avoid them from ever occurring in the first place. The best way to avoid a chimney fire is to schedule regular chimney maintenance. This starts with annual inspections, which give your sweep the opportunity to check for creosote, clogs, and any other issues that may hinder performance or safety.

Next, don’t wait to schedule necessary chimney sweepings! If your chimney tech says you have dangerous levels of creosote present, using your fireplace will put your home and family at great risk. Get your sweeping booked right away, and don’t light any fires until it’s completed.

And be sure you’re only hiring the best for the job. Here at All Seasons we have 25 years of experience serving Poughkeepsie and its surrounding areas, we’re fully insured, we’re CSIA-certified, and we have an A+ rating with the BBB. If you want the job done right, we’re the team to trust!

Reach Out Today With Your Chimney Concerns

Whether you’re concerned about creosote levels, think you may have experienced a chimney fire, want to schedule a sweeping, or have any other chimney or fireplace-related concerns, please reach out today to get in touch with our team. We’d love to help you out through it all!