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Learn About The Three Stages Of Creosote Buildup

Fireplace — Duct in Carolina

As you enjoy the warm glow and gentle crackle of the fire inside your fireplace, your chimney is slowly being coated with the byproducts of that fire. Creosote buildup is something that comes with the territory, but too much of it not only makes chimney cleaning and repairs more expensive, but it can also pose a serious fire hazard to your home.

Nevertheless, many homeowners are often unaware of the dangers of creosote buildup until it's too late. For this reason, it's important to have your chimney inspected and cleaned on a regular basis. The following offers an in-depth primer on the three stages of creosote buildup, how it affects your chimney and what to do at each stage.

Early-Stage Buildup
Each stage of creosote buildup has a unique look, along with unique properties that make it easier or harder to clean up. Early-stage creosote buildup largely contains soot with small amounts of creosote. To the average onlooker, early-stage creosote buildup appears 

flaky and dusty. This relatively light buildup occurs as long as you're using properly seasoned firewood that burns cleanly and efficiently.

Since there aren't any hardened deposits to deal with, early-stage creosote buildup is usually the easiest and least expensive type of buildup for professionals to clean up. In most cases, the cleanup process is as simple as giving the entire chimney a thorough sweeping with a chimney brush.

In a worst-case scenario, early-stage creosote buildup could lead to a slow-burning chimney fire - an event that's often difficult for homeowners to spot until it's too late. Fortunately, regularly scheduled removal of early-stage creosote buildup can help prevent this from happening.

Mid-Stage Buildup

It can be hard to tell when mid-stage creosote buildup occurs, but the outward signs of it are relatively easy to spot. Instead of coating your chimney with dry, flaky soot, you'll see shiny, hardened flakes mainly comprised of creosote. In some cases, mid-stage creosote buildup can also appear highly porous and rock-like.

Mid-stage creosote buildup usually occurs when there's not enough air directed into the chimney for proper combustion. Fireplaces with glass doors and wood-burning stoves are most vulnerable to mid-stage creosote buildup. Other situations that severely restrict incoming airflow can also lead to this type of buildup.

Unlike early-stage creosote buildup, mid-stage buildup often requires tools that are a bit tougher than the average chimney brush. For this reason, it's best to leave this job in the hands of a professional chimney sweep that has the right tools and the expertise to quickly and safely deal with mid-stage creosote buildup.

Late- Stage Buildup

There are plenty of good reasons why you should avoid late-stage creosote buildup at all costs. For starters, it can be extremely difficult and time-consuming to remove. This type of buildup starts out as a pool of liquid tar that drips down the inside of the chimney. As it cools down, the tar hardens into a waxy layer of creosote. 

Secondly, late-stage creosote buildup is also extremely dangerous. Heavy creosote buildup can provide more than enough fuel to easily sustain a chimney fire. If you do nothing about the creosote buildup, that chimney fire can easily expand to the rest of your home. Chimney fires caused by late-stage creosote buildup can also damage flue tiles and other portions of the chimney.

Late stage creosote buildup can be caused by a number of factors, from burning unseasoned wood to poor combustion air flow and improperly set air controls on wood-burning stoves. An oversized flue can also lead to eventual late stage creosote buildup.

Like mid-stage creosote buildup, you're better off letting the professionals handle this type of severe buildup. The experts at Carolina Ductmasters have a broad range of tools and techniques to deal with all types of creosote buildup. Contact us today if you need to rid your chimney of creosote.