Our Company Blog

The Dangers of Creosote

If you have a fireplace, you likely know that creosote can be a hazard to your home and family. You probably also have your fireplace swept by a certified chimney sweep each year to remove any creosote buildup from your chimney, and perhaps you even burn the occasional creosote sweeping log to help maintain your chimney. But how much do you know about creosote, how it forms, the dangers it poses and how you can keep it at bay? We’ve put together some basic information on creosote so you can better protect your home and family.

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What is creosote?

As smoke from your fireplace makes its way to the top of your chimney, it cools. As the smoke cools, it causes condensation of the chemicals and water vapor created when wood burns. The substance left sticking to your walls is creosote. All forms of creosote — whether black or brown, sticky or shiny, hard or tar like — can be found sticking to the insides of most chimneys.

Why is creosote dangerous?

As little as a quarter inch of creosote buildup on the walls of your chimney can be dangerous, putting your home at risk of a chimney fire. Highly combustible, creosote can burst into flames if it is touched by a stray spark from your fireplace, or if chimney temperatures exceed 1,000 degrees. If creosote builds up enough in your chimney, it also can prevent the gases created by the fireplace from exiting your home, which can force dangerous carbon monoxide back into your home.

How can I avoid the dangers of creosote?

Using the right wood in your fireplace can slow the buildup of creosote in your chimney. Only burn dry hardwoods that have been seasoned for a minimum of six months. When wood is improperly seasoned and contains moisture, it produces more water vapor when burned and burns at a cooler temperature, which causes the formation of creosote. Make sure that your fire is large enough for your fireplace. If your logs are too small, the fire won’t burn hot enough for your chimney. Your flue also should be fully opened when you’re burning a fire, as a partially closed flue will cause smoke to remain in your flue longer, encouraging creosote buildup.

Of course, the best way to keep your home safe from a creosote fire is to have your chimney swept and inspected each year by a certified chimney sweep. Your chimney sweep will make sure that your chimney is entirely creosote free. During the sweep’s inspection, he also will make sure your chimney does not show any signs of damage from a past creosote fire, which can weaken your chimney and put your home at danger for a future fire.

If you’re overdue for a chimney sweeping and inspection, don’t wait! Putting off your chimney sweeping puts your home and family in danger of a creosote-caused chimney fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. Call the certified sweeps at Billy Sweet to have your chimney ready for the fire-burning season.

Proper Ash Disposal

Everyone knows ash to be the most obvious build up that a fire produces, the result of burning wood. But at what point does the ash need to be disposed of? Probably more often than a person would think. Protect yourself and help your plants with these instructions for the correct way to dispose of ash.
According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) it is actually a good thing to keep about an inch of ash beneath the grate of your fireplace to insulate hot coals and produce more heat during the winter season. While it does protect the bottom of the firebox and help the coals produce extra heat, too much of it can not only take precious space away from warmth-producing coals, it can be downright dangerous. Even ash that appears to be fully cool can fall onto nearby carpet or rugs and potentially start a fire.

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The best way to dispose of excess ash is to wait at least a day after a fire was lit in the firebox before handing it. If that isn’t possible, wearing protective gloves when handling the bucket and shovel will minimize your risk of being burned. Gently scoop the ash from the firebox and place it in the bucket, leaving any hot coals and a thin layer of ash remaining. This will make your next fire easier to start. Carefully place the bucket in an area clear of any flammable material and away from kids or animals that may be tempted to play in the soft-looking pile. If possible, place a lid on top of the bucket to starve the hot ashes of oxygen, making them cool quicker. Sand will provide a similar reaction, but a lid is more easily accessible for most.

After three days, dispose of the ash in a paper or plastic garden bag. Sprinkling ash in your garden can be beneficial in small quantities, but don’t go crazy. Ash is very alkaline, so too much will change the pH of the soil, and kills your plants.

Besides just trashing your leftover ashes, there are several other alternatives to make use of them. Use your cool ashes to gently exfoliate the glass doors of your fireplace and remove that unattractive residue. If your pet gets into something smelly, rubbing ash on their coat will neutralize any gross odor. In the winter, pouring ash on your driveway and sidewalks melts ice and isn’t as harmful to the soil and concrete as salt is.

We want to ensure that everyone is safe and cozy this fall, and removing the ash from your firebox regularly is a key factor in ensuring that. When we come to sweep and inspect your chimney we will check the firebox to make sure it is in top working order. Give us a call to schedule!

5 Important Reasons to Get Your Chimney Swept Before the Fall

Summertime is here, and homeowners are switching on the A/C, spending time outdoors and searching for ways to fight the heat. It’s no surprise that the state of your fireplace is probably the last thing on your mind; after all, you won’t be utilizing it again for at least a few months.

Once September rolls around, however, the temperatures can drop sharply, leading homeowners to consider utilizing their fireplaces for warmth and relaxation.
Unfortunately, many homeowners are unaware of the importance of having their chimney swept before starting that first autumn fire.
Check out these important reasons to get your chimney swept before the fall.

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Avoid the Rush

Once fall arrives, chimney sweeps are very busy; their schedules are typically backed up for days or even weeks at a time. Waiting until fall to schedule your sweeping could mean a long delay or having to shop around for another company that can accommodate you.

You can avoid the rush by getting your chimney swept before fall arrives. You won’t have to wait for an opening, and you can head into the colder season knowing your fireplace is ready for use.

Prevent Chimney Fires

Your chimney functions as the avenue through which dangerous flue gases and other fireplace by-products can pass safely out of your home.
These by-products include water vapor, hydrocarbon, wood particles, smoke, and tar fog, among others. As these by-products flow up through your chimney and mingle with the cooler temperatures at the top, condensation occurs, resulting in a tar-like coating on the walls of your chimney known as creosote.
Creosote is highly combustible, and building a fire in your fireplace when it has an excess buildup of creosote on its walls puts you at serious risk for a chimney fire. Getting your chimney swept regularly, and especially after a long summer of not using your fireplace, is the easiest way to get rid of creosote and prevent a chimney fire.

Prevent Unpleasant Odors

One of the main reasons homeowners invest in a fireplace is to add ambiance and luxury to their home; unfortunately, for homeowners who fail to keep their chimney clean, an unpleasant odor may begin seeping from their fireplaces into their homes during the summer months.
The heat and humidity of summer weather can cause reactions in the creosote and by-products of a dirty chimney, causing the emission of a sour, burnt odor that no homeowner wants to experience.
Getting your chimney cleaned during the summer can help minimize the presence of these bad odors and keep your home clean and comfortable.

Prevent Life-Threatening Gases from Accumulating in Your Home

A blocked or malfunctioning chimney is one of the leading causes of the accumulation of carbon monoxide in homes; in fact, carbon monoxide poisoning is responsible for 200 deaths in the United States each year.
It is essential that you get your chimney swept on a regular basis, to ensure that your flue is venting and functioning properly. A regular sweeping will also prevent the accumulation of creosote, acidic water vapors and soot that can cause chimney blockages and thus the dangerous accumulation of noxious, life-threatening gases in your home.

Extend the Life of Your Fireplace

The accumulation of fire by-products in your chimney can cause damage to the structure of your chimney, your home and your fireplace. You’ve made an expensive investment and deserve to enjoy its benefits for years to come.

We Think Portland, Maine is a Special Place

Portland, Maine is such a special place because it is Authentic. The Visit Portland website describes Portland, “With its heady mixture of artistic and outdoor adventures, our region is stylish and sophisticated, yet remains genuine and unpretentious, a place where grey flannel and plaid flannel coexist companionably. And underlying the latest tech, fashion, and culinary scene is a deep sense of continuity” and the entire staff of Billy Sweep Chimney Sweep is in total agreement. We love Portland!

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Portland was originally called Casco during the 1600s and went through several name changes until 1786 when the town was renamed Portland. It was a rail town in the day and an accessible seaport for Canadian exports. The population has grown from approximately 2200 in 1790 to over 66,000 today.

There is so much to see and do in Portland that no one of any age, visitor or resident alike, will ever be bored. Portland’s beautiful island setting offers unique adventures. Whether you are exploring by land or sea in a trolley, ferry, vintage fire truck, or schooner you will find the area breathtaking. Lighthouse tours, art tours, food and beverage tours, and historical tours offer days of fun, education, and entertainment. Portland is a cyclist’s dream. You can even explore Portland aboard a vintage lobster boat. Did someone say lobster? Seafood doesn’t get any fresher and delicious than that which is caught in Casco Bay! You can catch your own during a chartered excursion or enjoy your seafood prepared by the world renowned chefs throughout the area. Besides first class food, Portland’s breweries and wineries have been drawing residents and visitors to taste local beer, wine, and there is even a local distillery of vodka in nearby Freeport.

What goes best with food? Entertainment, and Portland offers a variety of venues including Port City Music Hall, One Longfellow Square, and Portland Ovations. Kids love Funtown Splashtown U.S.A..

History buffs love spending time at the various museums and historical sites in Portland. The Maine Historical Society is located in Portland, as is the Maine Narrow Guage Railroad Company & Museum and the Museum at Portland Head Light which is the oldest lighthouse in Maine, The Portland Observatory Museum is a national historic landmark and is the only signal tower in America. Portland is especially proud of its new Science Center that is “illuminating minds”.

“Uptown” is known as the “artsy” side of Portland, while “Old Port” is known for its entertainment, clubs, and the beer gardens. Sports lovers will want to catch a game when the Portland Pirates (the AHL affiliate of the Florida Panthers), Maine Red Claws (the NBA affiliate of the Boston Celtics) or the Portland Sea Dogs (the AA affiliate of the Boston Red Sox) are playing at home.
When winter comes to Portland, it’s time to get cozy and warm in this picturesque town. There is cross country skiing in the local parks, and Deering Oaks Park offers ocean side skiing and skating adventures. As you can imagine, art and artists are prolific in Portland. Well-known artists such as Homer, Marin, and Jamie Wyeth have strong ties to Portland. To learn more about their inspiration and careers, as well as view beautiful works of art, be sure to devote some time to spend along the Maine Art Museum Trail.

There is beauty and and art to most everything in life and Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep knows Portland is a very special place and we are proud to serve its residents.

We Love Serving The North Shore

North Shore, Massachusetts encompasses the area between Boston and New Hampshire. The area is beautiful and coastal. Describing the North Shore must include a special and rich culture in addition to stunning and diverse geography. That’s why the entire staff of Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep loves serving the North Shore.

Here is a list of the cities and towns included in the North Shore area:

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  • Amesbury
  • Beverly
  • Boxford
  • Danvers
  • Essex
  • Georgetown
  • Gloucester
  • Groveland
  • Hamilton
  • Haverhill
  • Ipswich
  • Lynn
  • Lynnfield
  • Manchester
  • Marblehead
  • Merrimac
  • Middleton
  • Nahant
  • Newbury
  • Newburyport
  • Peabody
  • Rockport
  • Rowley
  • Salem
  • Salisbury
  • Saugus
  • Swampscott
  • Topsfield
  • Wenham
  • West Newbury

Geographically, the region has a rocky coastline, marshes, wetlands, beaches, and harbors perfect for recreation, wildlife, and inter-coastal commerce.
One of the best known cities in the North Shore region is Salem, well known for the tragic Salem Witch trials of 1962. The Salem Witch Museum provides an insight to that unique time in our history. The Peabody Essex Museum includes the Ying Yu Tang house which was originally located in southeastern China and depicts the life of the many generations of the Huang family who lived in the home for over 200 years. Gloucester, a fishing town, was venerated in “The Perfect Storm” by Sebastian Junger. Newburyport is the quintessential coastal town with a boardwalk, red-brick downtown, and active commercial wharf. The North Shore area includes activities such as whale watching and harbor cruises, beaches and lighthouses, theatre and restaurants, contemporary and historic architecture. And yet, there is so much more.

Sports fans of the North Shore breathe black and gold in honor of their beloved Bruins. Babies in the North Shore towns (or to parents who once lived in North Shore) are mysteriously born with a Red Sox logo tattooed on their chest. We’re kidding, but the dedication and spirit of Red Sox fans is undeniable. And no matter what happens, The New England Patriots will never lose favor with their devoted fans in North Shore even when the rest of country is badmouthing the team.

Patriotism is also abundant in the area. North Shore is the birthplace of the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard. The Atlantic Ocean fosters international commerce as well as provides the freshest and finest seafood in America, which diners enjoy along with their favorite craft beer. Local breweries are abundant. Donut aficionados say the only donut worth eating comes from Dunkin Donuts. If you are lost and ask for directions, if you are told “it’s just past the Dunkin Donuts”, you better ask someone else. Dunkin Donuts is so popular in North Shore you will find one on practically every street.

Residents of North Shore speak with a unique Revere accent. The surest way to unintentionally insult a resident of the North Shore is to remark on their “Boston” accent. It’s not Boston; the speech pattern is a local dialect exclusive to the North Shore.
Ultimately, it’s the people who make the North Shore so special, it’s always been about the people and always will be. Past and present residents of North Shore are strong, determined, loyal, full of community spirit, enterprising, generous, and fun loving. The people of North Shore have learned from the mistakes of their ancestors and work diligently to secure a prosperous and praiseworthy future for generations to come.

“We love serving the North Shore”, is the mantra of the team of Billy Sweet Chimney Service and are proud to bring our chimney services to its residents.