You’ve probably been using your chimney a lot over the holiday season. There’s just something about a crackling fire that makes the holidays that much cozier. But when you use your fireplace a lot, the creosote buildup accumulates quite quickly. Creosote, if left unchecked, can not only be a fire danger but can also cause health problems for your family. If you’ve had your chimney inspected and cleaned over the summer, you’ll be fine to wait until after the holidays. If you use your fireplace a lot over the course of the holidays, you may want to consider a mid-season check.
Not only does the number of times you use your chimney contribute to creosote buildup, but so does the type of wood you use. Additionally, how hot you burn your fire also has an effect. Hot fires are less likely to contribute to creosote buildup than slow burning fires. Softwoods are more likely to cause creosote buildup than hardwoods, such as oak, hickory, and pine. Even more important than the ‘hardness’ of the wood is the seasoning of the wood. Wood that has a high moisture content is going to cause smoke more likely to condense onto the interior of your chimney. It’s a good idea to make sure that your wood has been seasoned for at least six months, but longer is even better.
What Is Creosote?
So, you know that the type of firewood, the heat of the fire, and the moisture content of the wood you’re burning contribute to the amount of creosote that builds up, but what exactly is creosote? Smoke is actually a complex matter, composed of many things. Water vapor, carbon monoxide, methane, acetic acid, sulfur dioxide, and benzene are just a few of the chemicals that make up smoke. When the warm smoke hits the cool interior of your chimney, it condenses and causes a black, shiny substance. It is extremely flammable at even so little a buildup as an eighth of an inch. If a stray spark or ember floats up the chimney and lands on this buildup, you could have a dangerous chimney fire on your hands.
Soot is also a dangerous byproduct of fires that can build up as you use your fireplace. Soot is smoke residue that is left on surfaces, and it can present a health hazard if inhaled. It can also be a skin and eye irritant. It’s important to keep your firebox clean so that you don’t have loose ash floating around, and when you clean soot off of surfaces, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly to get all residue off your skin.
Call for a Midseason Cleaning
If you know you’ve used your fireplace a lot this holiday season, give Chimney Sweep Plus a call to set up a midseason cleaning. This is a great step towards keeping your family safe and healthy this winter.