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Chimney Sweeps and the Dangers of Creosote Build Up

(April 14, 2013)

Chimney Sweeps and the Dangers of Creosote Build Up…


Most people have the image of Dick Van Dyke in their mind at the mention of Chimney Sweeps, [Guardian] yet their profession has seldom been a lucky one. Their work, often performed by children, was extremely dangerous and often fatal. In recent times, the industry has also been hit hard by the introduction of numerous Clean Air Acts which insist on the use of smokeless fuels in built up areas.

Today, “we are now known as chimney sweep technicians because there is so much more to it. There’s been a huge increase in wood-burning stoves. They are very fashionable at the moment and a new generation of people want them, “says Martin Cain, President of National Association of Chimney Sweeps (NACS).  “Also, with the rise in energy costs, people are concerned about gas and electricity. We can replace gas and electric fires with wood-burning stoves.”

If you have a wood-burning stove it is very important that you get your chimney swept at least once per year but preferably more regularly.  It will greatly reduce the risk of chimney fires and keep you and your family safe. One of the main reasons to get your chimney swept is creosote build-up.

So, how does creosote affect my wood-burning stove?  When wood is burnt flue gases (made up of vaporised carbon and steam) solidify in your chimney, creating creosote.  Due to its flammable and corrosive nature it is important you have it swept from your chimney regularly.

What is the main cause of creosote build up?  Well, the most common reason is when there is a poor upward draught in your chimney (this usually draws the gases up your chimney).  If it is not sufficient, you will get a build up of creosote.  Another common cause is using green unseasoned wood.  You must ensure that wood burnt has been seasoned (dried for more than 1 year) before burning, this will cut down on creosote build up.  You can buy seasoned wood from our online store.

What are the dangers of creosote….?  Well, the main danger is a chimney fire which can be extremely devastating, not only to your personal property but could result in fatalities.  If there is a large amount of creosote in the chimney flue, a spark or extreme heat from the fire could ignite it.

The best case scenario is that your wood-burning or multi-fuel stove will be less efficient, costing you more money.

So, what is the best way to avoid creosote build up?  Well, most modern stoves have a baffle and secondary air system which were designed to maximise the volume of gas burned inside the firebox and minimise the gas released into the flue.  But the best way to combat this is to use seasoned, dry wood and have your chimney swept on a regular basis.

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