Pine Causes Creosote?

by Jack
(New Mexico)

I've just moved into a new (older) home with a great fireplace that draws and burns well. The previous owner left a large pile of seasoned pine logs (maybe a cord worth). In reading up on firewood, I noticed a general caution against using too much pine due to its high sap content causing creosote buildup in the chimney. While the pine is clearly seasoned, I've noticed that the bark, which is quite thick on some logs, is literally oozing sap when logs are lit - in many cases its streaming off the log...(which gets some fairly curious lava flow looking fire streams going)

...to get to the question - would removing the bark from the logs decrease the sap content when burning - that is, on seasoned pine is most of the sap in the bark or the actual wood? Most of the bark on these logs can be removed by hand - simply pulled off. Since its a big supply of wood and should be used, I was just wondering if this might reduce the creosote build up factor.

follow-up - I had the chimney professionally cleaned a few weeks ago - using these pine logs - regardless of the sap/bark factor - is a once a year cleaning enough to forestall any creosote/chimney fire dangers ..or should it be more frequent... weighing use of the fireplace - roughly 3-4s fires (3-4 logs per fire) a week from november - april. I can sort of gauge the buildup at the top and bottom of the chimney, but its a big, tall chimney and I can't get clear views of the middle.

Thanks

Jack

Answer

Jack,

Excellent questions. First of all, pine does not cause creosote build-up. It's a common misconception that I hear all the time. What causes excessive creosote build-up is wet wood and inefficient burning fires. There are some areas in the world where pine is the most common firewood species. Trust me, as long as pine is seasoned properly, it won't give you any creosote problems.

I am a little concerned that your are seeing sap "streaming" out of the logs when burning them. That is an indication that the wood isn't properly seasoned.

There is no need to worry about the bark. But if it's easy to remove, you may want to because it will lessen the amount of debris that you bring in the house.

In terms of chimney cleanings, there is no exact schedule to follow because every situation is unique. It can vary based upon your chimney, wood stove/fireplace, how you operate it, and if your wood is properly seasoned.

The Chimney Institute of America recommends this:

"...open masonry fireplaces should be cleaned at 1/8" of sooty buildup, and sooner if there is any glaze present in the system. Factory-built fireplaces should be cleaned when any appreciable buildup occurs. This is considered to be enough fuel buildup to cause a chimney fire capable of damaging the chimney or spreading to the home."

Also, The National Fire Protection Association Standard 211 says that your chimney and fireplace should be inspected once per year. Then, after the inspection a cleaning should be done if necessary.

I hope this helps!

-Firewood Matt


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Sep 25, 2011
Creosote
by: Forester Bob

Dudes....creosote build-up in a chimney is caused by a flue temperature that is too cool. If you can keep your flue temp over 300 or 350 degrees F., you should avoid most creosote buildup. I recommend you get a flue thermometer, and put a damper on your stove pipe. Adjust your air intake and your damper so that your flue temp stays above 350. Regardless of the type of wood your are burning, this rule holds true, and you will find that if you burn wood that is not properly seasoned, you will have a difficult time keeping your flue temp up there, even if you are burning wide open. This is because when there is too much moisture in the wood, much of the energy (btu's) available in the wood is used up to evaporate the excess water. Wood will not reach the combustion temperature unless all the moisture is evaporated. This takes a considerable amount of energy that escapes as steam and is not available to you in the form of heat. Lots of people claim they can burn green wood in their stoves and they do, but they don't realize they have to cut lots more wood to get the same amount of energy. As far as chimney cleaning.....I have burned wood for 40 years, and have had my share of chimney fires. I inspect and generally clean my chimney once a month. This may not be necessary, but when I get a "chimney fire night", ie. 20 below zero with a 20 mph wind, I sleep much better. Don't be an amateur if you are burning wood.....do it right and be safe.

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