Posted by & filed under Chimney Sweeping

You and half a dozen loved ones regularly gather around the fireplace most Sunday nights in winter months, sharing a huge bowl of popcorn and cups of frothy hot cocoa. It’s your time to catch up on the happenings of the past week. You all cherish these get-togethers. They’re like cocktail parties, but minus the cocktails and the schmoozing.

Someone mentions a house fire in another part of town that started in the chimney.

An alarm goes off in your head. You’ve just remembered something you forgot: calling your chimney sweep to inspect the chimney. As often as you use this fireplace, you know that putting off this call any longer is … well, unsafe. Who knows what might be lurking there?

More than likely, a creosote buildup

Why is it so dangerous?

Your chimney sweep will tell you that creosote is highly flammable – dangerous – in any of its stages (from sooty and flaky to shiny and glazed) when left alone to build up on the interior walls of your chimney. You wish there was some magic potion that could prevent it from forming at all, but there is no such potion. Creosote is a natural byproduct of wood burning, no matter what kind of wood you use.

You can’t
prevent creosote, but these three tips can slow its formation:

  1. Put a hold on get-togethers. Until you get a clean bill of health from your chimney sweep, stop using the fireplace!
  2. Ventilation. Open the doors to your fireplace frequently. You want air to help move the burn up and out of the chimney.
  3. Seasoned wood. Is that a stack of seasoned wood in your garage? Use only seasoned wood, no matter whether you burn hardwoods like oak or soft woods like pine. You may already know this, but unseasoned wood holds moisture. Moisture is the enemy of fireplaces. It causes smoke, and as the smoke travels up the chimney, it deposits condensation on the walls… and becomes creosote.

It takes from six months to a year (maybe two) for green wood to become seasoned. If you bought unseasoned wood, did you first stack it where it had access to air flow to help it dry? If you bought seasoned wood, did you stack it where it’s away from the elements?

But, now, you want to be absolutely certain that the wood is ready to use.

That’s easy. Look to see if the bark has fallen off (moisture holds it on). Look at the color of the wood. Is it gray, or yellowish? Pick up a log. Is it lightweight? If you answered with three with “yes” then your firewood is seasoned, and it will burn well — and safer — in your fireplace.

Your checklist

You’re ready to plan your next Sunday evening family get-together when…

  • your chimney sweep inspects the chimney (makes any necessary repairs) and gives you the okay to use it again
  • you’ve ordered a small supply of seasoned wood to finish out this winter season
  • if you want to season your own wood next year, you’ve ordered a quarter- or half-cord to start the process now
  • you’ll open the fireplace doors throughout the evening
  • you’ve bought more popcorn and hot cocoa!

Last but not least, we encourage you to contact us with any questions or service needs you may have.

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