When a wood fire burns, it releases unburned gases. These unburned gases tend to condensate on the chimney liner or flue tile and form a tarry or glazed substance called creosote. Creosote can become dangerous if it is allowed to accumulate in the chimney where it becomes a fuel source for a potential chimney fire. A chimney fire can occur when the built-up creosote is ignited by extreme heat from the fireplace.
The March 1990 Home & Hearth Magazine puts this all in good perspective. Creosote build-up, by itself or in combination with other factors, was involved in 92% of chimney fires reported in a study commissioned by the Wood Heating Alliance. A build-up of as little as 1/8 to ¼ inch of creosote is sufficient to create a fire hazard.
The build-up of creosote can be minimized by burning small hot fires and using dry, well seasoned wood, but realistically the formation of creosote from burning wood cannot be avoided. This means every chimney requires a manual cleaning to remove creosote build-up. Cleaning a chimney on your own is a dirty job and is also somewhat difficult to do. The proper brushes and techniques should be used to insure that the sides of the chimney are swept clean of creosote buildup. It is also important to properly inspect the chimney at every cleaning to insure that there are no structural defects such as cracks or missing mortar joints in the chimney flue that could lead to eventual safety problems. It is highly recommended to hire a certified professional chimney sweep to do your dirty work. The frequency for cleanings can vary based on the amount of use that the fireplace receives but it is not recommended to be longer than a year between cleanings.
Many of us enjoy a real wood burning fireplace. Using your fireplace can be an enjoyable, relaxing experience. Alot of us enjoy stoking the fire and tending to the needs of the fire. It can also give satisfaction by reducing heating bills and using a renewable fuel source. Just make sure the maintenance program for your home includes periodic chimney sweeps to reduce the possibilities of a chimney fire.
Making Creosote Oil
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