Creosote Buildup - eliminate it

Creosote buildup can cause chimney fires, so it’s something to guard against. There are two basic approaches that I would suggest. The first is to prevent buildup, and the second is to remove creosote that naturally occurs, no matter how well you’ve tried to prevent it.



Let’s take a general look at both approaches.

Preventing a buildup of creosote means you need to do certain things and avoid others. It’s really easy to do with a little practice. Here is a list of things you should do:

Burn hot and clean fires – this keeps stack temperatures elevated, which in turn reduces the tendency of creosote to deposit on the inner tiles of the chimney or steel walls of the stovepipe. Hot fires are promoted by:

  • dry wood that burns well
  • hard wood with high heat value
  • adequate air intake for full combustion
Provide an insulated stovepipe – this keeps the walls of the stovepipe from being so much cooler than the hot exhaust gases that pass through. Cooler exhaust pipe walls promote condensation of creosote. This isn't a problem near the stove because it doesn’t stay cool there for long, but it becomes a problem when you get a little farther away from the stove, and especially near the top of the stovepipe where it exhausts. The farthest point from the stove will always be considerably cooler and that’s where you’re most likely to have creosote buildup. To provide an insulated stovepipe, you can do the following:
  • use a multi-walled insulated stovepipe
  • run a stovepipe inside a sealed chimney

Here's what you should avoid to prevent or minimize creosote buildup inside your flue:

  • low temperature fires
  • smoldering fires
  • wet wood
  • treated wood




Removing creosote is required to eliminate its continued buildup, as burning wood will always produce some creosote inside your flue. I’ve seen creosote buildup inside of a large iron stove that didn’t have adequate air intake to provide for complete combustion, but this is rare. Generally, the only place that requires removal is inside the stovepipe or flue, and that requires using a chimney brush.

Generally, I clean my stovepipes by standing on the roof or chimney top and using a wire brush. It’s also possible, and sometimes necessary, to take the stovepipe down and clean it while on the ground.

Chimney flues generally require a rectangular brush, whereas stovepipes usually require a round shaped brush. I try to keep all of my stovepipes in the six-inch size so one brush fits them all.

Most flues are so long that several screw-on extension rods are necessary to allow the rods to be inserted all the way down to the stove or clean out, and still provide a bit of a handle on the other end of the rod. To eliminate creosote from the flue will numerous back and forth (or up and down) motions of the brush to make certain that all loose creosote has been removed.

To promote removal, I leave the stove door cracked open. This creates a natural updraft that sends dust, loosened particles and other debris rising up the flue and out of the stovepipe. It allows me to determine when my brushing action is effective, and when it’s providing little or no return for my efforts.



Done with Creosote Buildup, take me back to Heating with Wood

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