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Creosote Buildup

Creosote Buildup

In the olden times the chimney sweep would come by the house once in a while to remove the buildup of creosote. In those times, people considered it to be simply dark and disgusting soot. The following article takes you through a small journey of the chimney and buildup of creosote, and also its risks and removal.
Scholasticus K
If you burn wood in your fireplace then you must be seeing the chimney sweep a lot. Though, the modern heaters and electronic fireplaces have decreased the prominence of traditional wood burning chimneys and fireplaces, there are quite a few that are still used today. Signs of such a buildup are easy to point out as you will find a good amount of black soot inside the chimney. This soot is basically known as creosote and is one of the most common chimney problem.

What is Creosote Buildup

In the chimney, buildup of creosote is caused as a result of smoke, which is scientifically referred to as the flue gas. The process of buildup is slow and goes like this...
  1. When you start the fire in the fireplace, the process is basically burning of wood. It is usually termed as primary combustion. In primary combustion, a very low-level of flame and a lot of smoke are observed. Primary combustion basically occurs due to a low-level of heat and moisture that is already there in the air and also in large quantities in the wood. In simple words, the wood is not dry enough to go up in flames.
  2. The smoke or rather the flue gas goes into an upward direction towards the outlet of the chimney. Due to the atmosphere and climatic conditions, the temperature at the exit of the chimney is relatively low and the air is considerably humid. The lukewarm flue gas condenses into black particles and on the inner surfaces of the chimney. This condensation is a carbon based condensation and is principally made up of almost pure and combustible carbon particles. Many of these condensed particles are unburnt or partially burnt carbon particles.
There are three basic levels or rather concentrations of such creosote and it usually differs as per the different climatic conditions such as humidity and cold, the volume of flue gas and also the length of time when it has accumulated. These concentrations go on building up with the passage of time and levels of dangers are progressive.
  1. The least concentrated and least dangerous is the carbon particles that appear like soot or powdery black colored dust.
  2. The second level of buildup is the porous crunchy soot that has the flaky appearance like that of small pieces of pure coal. These particles are capable of catching fire, and thus arises the need to prevent buildup.
  3. The third level of concentration is tar like and dripping build up of creosote. This is the most dangerous form of creosote and one must never light a fire underneath it as the chimney might blow up like a volcano, causing serious damage to the life and property.
Thus, the question that remains is why wait for a third stage build, when it is easier to prevent buildup of creosote, with simple and easy measures.

How to Reduce Buildup of Creosote

There are some really easy and logical measures to prevent such a build up.
  • The simplest of such measures is using thoroughly dry wood in combination with coal. The coal ignites quickly and heats up the entire chimney and the log of wood that you are using. Such combustion is well heated and a less amount of flue gas is released.
  • The second measure that you can initiate is have a good draft of air in the room. Healthy movement of air will burn the carbon content of wood which will convert it into pure carbon dioxide. The draft of air will provide sufficient oxygen to the entire process, thereby eliminating the risk of accumulation of carbon dioxide in the room.
  • The third measure that you can take up is chimney cleaning and creosote removal from the roof top with the help of a good sweep. Such a sweeping will prevent even the primary buildup. After scraping off the creosote, you can also use it along with wood as it is also good fuel, that helps in full combustion.
Preventing a buildup, is an absolutely necessity if you have a chimney. Preventing buildup of creosote will not only reduce the dangers of combustion, but will also help in prevention of emission of smoke and carbon monoxide.