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Chimney fires are no joke. Each year there are approximately 25,000 chimney fires in the United States. These fires cause over $100 million in property damages and can lead to injury and even death. A fast-burning chimney fire can quickly cause your chimney liner to expand and crack, exposing and igniting combustibles in your home. This can happen in an instant so it’s important to know what causes these fires, how to prevent them, and what you should do if you have one.
With over 17 years of experience providing the great Houston area the highest quality chimney, fire place, and dryer vent services, Lords Chimney has a wealth of chimney wisdom to share with you.
The most common cause of a chimney fire is creosote accumulation in an unclean chimney. When you have a fire in your fireplace, you are causing a chemical reaction. It is this reaction that turns wood to ash and sends byproducts up the chimney. Two of those things that result from these byproducts are soot and creosote. When you see black and sometimes even greasy-looking spots on the masonry in your fireplace, you are looking at soot and creosote.
Soot needs to be cleaned, but the real danger lies in the creosote. Creosote is a black or brown substance that can be flaky or sticky, tar-like or shiny – and the more you burn, the more creosote can build up. If it is regularly removed, creosote comes off easily. If it is allowed to build up, creosote can harden and glaze, becoming an ever bigger danger to the chimney owner.
Creosote is extremely combustible. It will ignite at 451 degrees. Many fireplace fires will burn at 450 degrees which means that it doesn’t take much to turn that creosote into a burning chimney fire that threatens your chimney, house, and life. Because it is a natural byproduct of burning, creosote is going to accumulate over time, but there are ways to slow its accumulation and drastically lower the risk of fire in your chimney.
What can you do to slow down creosote accumulations?
The easiest way to slow the buildup of creosote is to make sure the fuel of your fire burns efficiently. This means that properly dried and seasoned firewood is your best choice when creating that cozy fire. Moisture in your firewood creates an inability to burn completely leaving wasteful byproducts traveling up your chimney and sticking to the walls.
Freshly chopped firewood will usually have around 50% moisture content. It is heavy and sometimes you will even be able to see some green coloring in the wood itself. The firewood you burn should have a moisture content of no more than 25%.
Before burning, do a quick visual and audible inspection of your wood. It should be light in color and light in weight with no visible green coloring. When you knock two pieces together you should hear a clear clunk rather than a low, dull, thud. These visual and audible cues can let you know whether you are going to be quickly adding to your creosote buildup or efficiently burning the safest fuel.
Your chimney should have a liner on the inside walls that is made to protect the chimney from creosote buildup. Liners improve the airflow and efficiency of your fireplace which means a safer home for you. Make sure your liner is inspected every year.
Our team at Lords Chimney are experts at sizing, installing, and caring for chimney liners. A simple phone call to one of our experts at Lords Chimney is the best way to make sure your liner is doing everything it’s meant to do.
Make sure you are taking care to keep that chimney damper open along with any doors that might be on the front of your fireplace. Your chimney was likely installed with a specific airflow in mind. Check the operator’s manual and make sure you’re using your fireplace how it was built to be used.
The best way to make sure your chimney is safe is by having a chimney technician from Lords Chimney sweep and inspect it. Our experts are certified, equipped, and trained to get rid of that creosote and leave your chimney clean and ready to use. We are happiest when you are safe and happy. There is simply no better way to keep that creosote at bay.
While creosote is the most common instigator of chimney fires it is important to keep an eye out for things in your chimney that just shouldn’t be there. Because it is dry, warm, and protected from wind, an unprotected chimney can quickly collect blowing debris and become home to unwanted animals.
The easiest way to avoid debris and animal homes clogging up your chimney is to make sure that you have a properly fitting chimney cap installed. A chimney cap is great at keeping out unwanted creatures, leaves, sticks, and other rooftop invaders. It also allows air to continue to flow properly. As your go-to chimney experts, Lords Chimney is ready to install the perfect cap protection for your chimney.
Lords Chimney is certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), and we have established a reputation in our community for providing the most professional chimney services you can find. Your safety is important to us. Call or book online today to schedule an appointment with one of our chimney technicians and get your chimney clean and healthy.
If you’ve ever noticed any gummy-looking black stuff in your chimney, chances are it’s creosote. This dark residue is a byproduct of burning wood and it sticks to the inner walls of chimneys. It can be either flaky, shiny, or sticky.
And since creosote forms through burning wood, it is naturally prone to catching on fire. As such, the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) highlights its high combustibility as a primary safety concern.
Yes! Creosote is a combustible byproduct that can easily catch fire. And once it ignites, it can quickly spread through the chimney, causing the liner to break down and the masonry to crumble and crack. This means any future fires you light will be more prone to escape the chimney walls and enter your home.
Creosote can also accumulate until it clogs the flue. This blocks the free flow of gases and smoke causing problems with drafting and airflow to develop. This hinders efficiency levels, and it puts you more at risk of being exposed to hazardous fumes, like smoke from your fires or even carbon monoxide – a deadly and extremely hard-to-detect gas.
Considering the health and safety hazards that creosote poses, regular chimney sweepings become a critical obligation. Professional chimney sweeps have the right equipment to assess any chimney’s condition and address creosote buildup before it becomes a problem.
While creosote isn’t unavoidable, there are ways to effectively reduce accumulation in your flue:
Most chimney fires move slowly and don’t produce a lot of noise, which means you may have had one without noticing. The CSIA identifies the following signs that your chimney could have survived fire before:
If you do notice that a chimney fire is currently occurring, exit the home immediately and get in touch with your local fire department as soon as possible. In addition, as you are leaving your home, the CSIA suggests closing the door behind you if you can. The goal is to prevent any more air from feeding the flames until the fire department arrives.
Even if you believe that your chimney is functioning correctly, there could be hazards hiding away, ready to cause issues. Scheduling a chimney inspection is one way to gain peace of mind, during which we can determine if you need a sweeping.
Creosote is a dangerous byproduct that you might fail to notice immediately. This material is combustible and can cause health and fire hazards in your home. To effectively avoid this issue, we suggest getting in touch with one of our CSIA certified chimney sweeping experts to inspect and clean your chimney. Schedule an inspection today!