Creosote: One of My Least Favorite By-Products


It was much too early for me to be awake, but I was heading out to stoke the outdoor wood boiler (that heats the water that runs through my floors and the water heater) anyway, because I like to keep the temperature inside my home above freezing. When I opened the boiler door, out billowed a cloud of smoke. Since none of that smoke was coming out of the flue, I figured we had a problem.


I opened the bottom of the flue and found a little creosote had built up inside.


Feeling like a negligent boiler owner, I scraped out the creosote. It truly is one of my least favorite by-products. The cold temperatures had given it the consistency of tar mixed with honey, and once it gets on something, it stays. Just ask my winter coat…or my hallway floor. Once I’d gotten the bottom area cleaned, smoke poured through the opening instead of going out the top, telling me that there was a blockage in the flue.


I got out my handy-dandy brush-on-a-stick, the one I use a couple times a year to clean the flue, and managed to get it about halfway up the pipe. The good news was that I found the blockage. The bad news was that I didn’t get it cleared out, not even when I reduced my flue brush to something that looked like a dead spider. Sometimes, when it’s not thick and sticky, creosote can harden into a rock-like consistency, too.


Using the opposite end of the rod (the pointy side), I cleared the flue enough for smoke to escape. I stomped to the house, intending to grab my keys and head to the hardware store, but then I got a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I might have screamed a little…it was very chimney-sweep-esque. After a shower, I went to the hardware store, got a couple of creosote-destroying logs and a new cleaning brush.

That didn’t work so well. Now the plan is to wait until the snow drifts melt enough to pull my truck up to the boiler, put the six-foot ladder on the topper, and see if I can clear it from above. If not, Plan C is to call a chimney sweep.