How to Avoid Creosote Build-Up in Wood Stoves


If you have ever been in a house when the creosote in the chimney from your wood stove built up to the point that it caught fire, you know how frightening a chimney fire can be. Today's wood stoves are built to be much more efficient than some of the older models. They can be very technically efficient with catalytic starters and thermostats to simple designs with good engineering for maximum heat output. You need to understand how to prevent creosote buildup any time you use a chimney.

  • Hire a chimney cleaner to come out every year and give your chimney a good cleaning. For a few hundred dollars you save the life of your chimney and keep a good air flow through the chimney. You would be surprised at how much buildup there can be within just a year, and any creosote given off by green or wet wood will stick right to it. He will also tell you if your chimney flue is the right size for the wood stove.

  • Light a fast hot fire every morning to warm up your chimney so that any moisture in the smoke does not condense on the surfaces of the chimney flue. Use plenty of paper and dry kindling so that the fire warms the chimney quickly to over 220 degrees so that any water will stay a gas in the form of steam until it gets out of the chimney.

  • Burn dry wood. Even if wood has been cut for some time, it won't completely dry until it has been split, and then it takes about three months to dry. The kind of wood is not so critical as the water content of the wood. Many people claim pine is bad to burn but that is only because the sap has a high water content. Once the water is removed, it will burn hot and fast without a problem of creosote buildup.

  • Keep your ash level under control. A nice bed of ash is good to insulate the coals, but too much will hinder the air flow for the firebox in your wood stove. Air flow is critical for providing oxygen for the burning process. An efficient fire should have very little smoke emanating from the chimney, so keep the ashes 2-to-3 inches deep.

  • Keep your chimney flue open wide while you are burning in your wood stove. Remember, the point is to keep the chimney hot while the fire is burning. Control the air flow with the controls in the front of the fire to slow down the rate of burning. If you see yellowish tinged smoke coming out of your chimney, you know the fire is not hot enough, and a lot of nasty emissions are being dumped into the air.

Tips & Warnings

  • Stack your wood in the wood stove so the air can circulate Always have a smoke detector installed when using a wood stove Keep a 10-pound fire extinguisher handy
  • Older chimneys might have to have a liner installed to keep the stone work in the chimney from cracking apart

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