You may have never heard of creosote before, but if you own a wood burning fireplace, you’ve surely seen it. Found on the inside of chimneys and fireplaces, creosote is a highly flammable material and a dangerous health hazard. From the fireplace experts at Igne Ferro, here’s everything you need to know about creosote:

What Is Creosote?

Creosote consists of a mass of carbon produced from burning fossil fuels, wood, or tar. It’s commonly found in wood burning fireplaces, where flames and embers reach high temperatures in an enclosed space. Creosote coats the walls in a thick, dark, and highly flammable substance, and is a serious fire hazard. For this reason, your fireplace should be cleaned and maintained regularly.

Creosote can form in three degrees:

First Degree. This type of creosote consists mainly of soot, and can be swept away with a chimney brush. This soft and lightweight substance is produced by burning seasoned wood in a well-ventilated area.

Second Degree. Creosote in the second degree is slightly more difficult to clean, and contains hardened tar and shiny black flakes. This type of creosote is commonly formed in areas with restrictions on the amount of incoming air, like fireplaces with glass doors. It is easiest to remove with a rotary loop tool.

Third Degree. Third degree creosote, which looks like a dark, dripping glaze, is the most dangerous and difficult to remove. It’s caused by burning unseasoned firewood, and burning wood when flue temperatures are low. This type of creosote is highly concentrated fuel, which forms a thick layer that often requires a professional removal service.

Why Is Creosote Bad?

Your chimney and fireplace should undergo annual inspection to ensure there is no dangerous creosote buildup. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Creosote buildup insulates the chimney and fireplace, hindering chimney performance and making it difficult for exhaust gases to rise.
  • Creosote, especially in the third degree, can ignite and lead chimney fires. These can be extremely difficult to put out, and can easily spread to the rest of your home.
  • Creosote is toxic and can have adverse effects on the human body, including red and irritated skin, rashes, burning sensations, and swelling.

How Can I Prevent Creosote Buildup?

The production of creosote is inevitable in wood burning fireplaces. Although it can’t be completely prevented, homeowners can minimize the buildup by burning seasoned firewood, allowing proper ventilation, and burning fires that are hot and small.

The hearth is an important part of the home, and should be maintained and cleaned regularly to stay healthy. At Igne Ferro, we are committed to providing customers with top-notch fireplace designs, repairs, and maintenance. Get in touch with us today to start designing your dream fireplace!