Tell Me About Creosote Removal

If you’ve had a wood-burning fireplace or stove for a while, you’re likely well acquainted with those stubborn soot-y deposits that build up in your chimney system: creosote. When New Buck Chimney Sweep technicians show up to sweep your chimney every year, creosote is a big part of why we’re there. Creosote is highly combustible, so its presence undermines the level of fire safety in your chimney. Beyond that, it’s dirty and smelly and can lessen the system’s draft performance, too.

Creosote is a natural byproduct of burning, but when it builds up inside your chimney, it becomes hazardous.

Creosote is a natural byproduct of burning, but when it builds up inside your chimney, it becomes hazardous.

As chimney technicians, creosote removal is an important part of what we do — regular maintenance helps our clients enjoy their heating appliance at the highest levels of performance and safety possible, and that, overall, is our goal at New Buck Chimney Sweeps. But keeping creosote at bay has its complexities — depending on the state of your chimney, our approach may be standard, or a lot more involved.

Different Creosote Forms, Different Creosote Removal Processes

All creosote deposits are not created equal. In its initial, earliest form, creosote deposits are what we call Stage 1 Creosote — creosote that’s a flaky, fluffier and more velvety consistency and can be adequately brushed, swept and vacuumed from the flue walls and other areas in the system by a chimney professional.

Stage 2 creosote is thicker, crunchier and more of a porous consistency, and if you’re having your chimney swept once a year and using smart burning practices — burning thoroughly dried/seasoned cordwood, having regular inspections to make sure you don’t have leaks or other issues — Stage 1 and Stage 2 will be what you’re most used to seeing. With the proper tools and extra attention, Stage 2 creosote can be swept by chimney technicians without the use of chemicals, too.

It’s when we reach Stage 3 or “glazed” creosote that the removal process gets far more difficult. Stage 3 creosote starts as a tar-like substance, then dries into a hard, shiny glaze that’s extremely combustible and can’t be removed with traditional sweeping methods. It’s so tough that, if you used enough power to get it to crack or crumble, you’d almost certainly damage the chimney structure itself.

Several different issues can lead to the development of Stage 3 creosote, including an improperly sized flue, improper use of the flue damper and/or regular use of firewood that hasn’t been properly seasoned. Any of those can create a situation where layers of creosote don’t completely dry before a new layer develops, trapping moisture and leading to a sticky, goo-like state and then that hard, tenacious glaze.

To remove glazed creosote, it first has to be treated with chemicals that can break the glaze down enough to allow technicians to remove it with traditional sweeping methods. It’s an involved process that generally takes several visits to totally complete, but it’s important for glazed creosote removal to be done properly — left untreated, glazed creosote can seriously increase the chances of a chimney fire, even a home fire.

Do you have more questions about the different types of creosote and their removal? New Buck Chimney Sweeps techs are always glad to help — just give us a call!