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1434 Sag Harbor Turnpike
Sag Harbor, NY, 11963

(631) 725-0636

For fireplaces in the Hamptons, we're the Hamptons' - Long Island's East End - Hearth Specialists! Sag Harbor Fireplace offers quality service for your chimney, fireplace, and wood stove and an outstanding selection of hearth products. The most recognized and trusted name in the hearth industry for the Hamptons, Long Island, New York.

Frequently Asked Questions

How To Light A Fire

Diane Hewett

Check The draft

If the flow in the chimney is reversed or stagnant, you may find you have a room full of smoke before the draft begins to move in the right direction. You can check this by wetting your finger and holding it up to the damper. The cool side will tell you from which direction the air is moving. Another way would be to strike a match and extinguish it directly in front of the fireplace and watch where the smoke goes. If it flows into the fireplace, you have the draft. If it goes any place but into the fireplace, you have little or no draft.
To create a draft, roll a cone of newspaper and light the big end, holding it so the flames reach just below the damper. Do not let them rise above the damper. This could set off a chimney fire. If you find you are constantly having to do this, you might consider having a hair dryer nearby. A hair dryer can also used to heat up the flue, creating a draft. The advantage to this is that it creates heat, and is totally smokeless. You can keep it going as long as you need. When you are sure you have a daft, you can light a fire.
If you still have a problem getting a draft going, try opening a nearby window. Also check to see that all competing vents( other fireplaces, bathroom and kitchen fans, etc. ) are off. Consult your chimney professionals for assistance with chronic draft problems.
Prepare The Ashes
You should always have 1” to 2” bed of ash under your fire. Always be certain there is 1” to 2” between the ashes and the fire grate. Taper the ashes from about 3” at the back to ½” at the front. This funnels air up into fire.

Lay The Fire

You need three things to lay a fire.

  1. Tinder Most people use wadded up newspaper. It’s better to roll the paper into a cone and place it pointing to he back of the fireplace. This produces a hotter quicker fire, with less smoke initially. Other forms of tinder would be hemlock, birch bark, cedar twigs, or dry pine needles.
  2. Kindling Consists of twigs, branches, and small splits of wood anywhere from1/4” to 1” in thickness. This is the most important ingredient to build a good fire and usually the most overlooked. Most people try to start their fire with only the tinder and wood and then wonder why they spend the next hour trying to get it going. Keep a good supply of kindling on hand.
  3. Fuel These instructions will be limited to laying the fire when wood is used as fuel. Although there are many ways to lay a fire, the method below seems to work the best with the least amount of effort. The trick to successfully laying any fire is an adequate amount of kindling. Three logs are the perfect amount for starting a fire. Any less and you will have difficulty in maintaining a blaze: any more is simply too much and can be hazardous.

Z Method
Place tinder on ashes under the grate. Place about 1” of kindling on the bottom of the grate. Now place a medium to large log at the rear, not quite touching the wall. Arrange a second log no larger than half the size of the first log

at the front of the grate. Fill the space between these two with additional kindling. Finally, place a split log diagonally across the top of the two forming a “Z” with the three logs. One match to the tinder should produce a roaring fire. When the second and third logs begin to produce coals, add more wood.

Putting It Out 

Okay, so you’ve successfully started the fire, enjoyed the good company and conversation around it, and are ready to call it quits for the evening. Rather than let the fire burn itself out, stand the unburned logs on the end in the back corner of the fireplace. They will rapidly extinguish themselves leaving you several well seasoned pieces to start your next fire.

Buying A New Stove or Fireplace

Diane Hewett

Buying a new stove or fireplace? 

Like most people, you want a warm, comfortable home… a place where family and friends gather… Or, perhaps a refuge, providing solitude and protection.
Your dining room might look socially correct when the table is set; and your family room might have the newest furniture, but are these rooms actually warm and inviting?
With hundreds of different fireplaces and stove products available today, there’s no reason why every room in your home shouldn’t exude comfort and warmth.
Hearth products have changed dramatically in the last decade. There are now clean-burning and energy efficient wood stoves, fireplaces, and fireplace inserts that produce far less emissions and creosote. High tech pellet stoves and pellet inserts create a wood fire without hassle; and gas stoves, inserts and logs can be instantly ignited with the flick of a switch.
There are many styling options to suit your taste. You can choose a traditional black, steel wood stove: or, a sleek ultra-contemporary unit. There are also brightly-colored enamel freestanding stoves. Or what about a stove with a waterfall?
Purchasing a new stove of fireplace insert is a serious decision. It’s not just about price. If you want to add an insert or a log set-to an existing fireplace; or update your old inefficient wood stove, would your new product be compatible with everything else in your house? And, what do you do about periodic cleaning or checkups on your stove or insert?
Who can you trust to help you with these decisions?

Talk to a professional

The best place to go for information about stoves and inserts is a stove and fireplace shop. It’s their business!
From selection to installation- and even after the sale is complete, the fireplace and stove specialist is committed to customer satisfaction.

Choosing the right product
How can you be sure which stove or fireplace insert meets your criteria? A professional stove and fireplace specialist will take you through a checklist to tailor your selection to your individual needs.

What fuel is best for you?
Today there are stoves and fireplace inserts that burn wood, wood pellets, natural gas, propane, coal or oil.

Should you purchase a standalone stove – or a fireplace insert?
That depends on many other factors such as: whether you are using your hearth product as a primary heat source in your home: or, as a space heater: or, purely for ambiance.

Will the stove or fireplace insert you choose be compatible with venting, air circulation and other products in your home?
Your professional fireplace and stove specialist is well versed in the applicable codes in your area to be sure the product you choose will work with the construction of your home.

What size stove of fireplace insert is best for you?
The right product for the area in which it is used is important for your family’s safety and the production of your home.

Will the product you choose look right in your home?
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder but you still need choices to find the right style and color for your décor.

Installation: Also our specialty
When installing a hearth product in your home, safety is a paramount concern. A professional stove and fireplace specialist utilizes nationally certified installers trained by leading manufacturers in the country. These knowledgeable installers know that an improperly installed stove can result in fire or even carbon monoxide poisoning. Whereas a properly installed stove or fireplace insert can mean many years of warmth and enjoyment for you, your family and guest.

The sale doesn’t stop here 
A professional stove and fireplace specialist offers a wide range of services including inspections and maintenance. That means the answers to your questions and solutions to your problems are just a phone call away.

Wood Stove Owners Manual

Diane Hewett

Woodstoves have changed considerably over the years. Remember the old ornate potbelly stove with all the silver trim and intricate detailing? Maybe it was the center of attention in the local feed store, lumber yard, or maybe it was Grandpa and Granma’s pride and joy.

Unfortunately, that beautiful looking piece of machinery was a belching, polluting monster. In its time, it was an engineering marvel. But it probably pumped out about 30-60 grams per hour (gph) of particulate emissions (pollution), depending on how it was operated.

Pollution and its detrimental effect on the environment has become a big concern. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken steps to regulate wood burning. They wanted cleaner, more efficient stoves. The wood heat industry met the challenge. They are now producing woodstoves that put out less than 4 to 7.5 grams per hour. Today’s woodstoves are much safer because of design, practical sizing, and system approach techniques. 

Many stove now offer a technology that allows an almost complete burn which means a cleaner chimney, cleaner air, and more heat for your money. Not only have woodstoves become energy efficient, attractive appliances, but burning can actually be good for the environment.

Wood is a renewable fuel. When a tree grows, it absorbs carbon dioxide from the air and stores it in the wood as carbon. Carbon make up about half the weight of the wood. When the wood is burned, carbon dioxide is released again to the atmosphere. But the same amount of carbon dioxide would be released if the tree died and decomposed on the forest floor without the
Heat value of the wood if it had been burned.

So with the harvesting of dead trees and the replanting of new trees, we can have a perpetual source of fuel, provided that we continue to care for our forest and help our environment.

Purchasing A Woodstove

Consider this: Wood prices are stable and are unaffected by foreign dictators, freak accidents and national economic trends. 

Wood is an abundant renewable resource which can be obtained locally. Burning wood reduces our dependence on foreign oil and helps alleviate our national trade deficit.

When shopping for a woodstove:

  1. Figure the square footage of the area you want to heat and talk with a stove dealer about a stove that will heat that area.
  2. Note the space configuration of the area to be heated. Is it fairly open? Or are there several walls and doorways? If the area isn’t relatively open, you may need to purchase some fans to help circulate the heated air.
  3. If there is an existing chimney, ask a professional chimney sweep if it is appropriately sized for the stove you are considering.
  4. If there is no existing chimney, ask your sweep how the installation of a pre-fab chimney will affect the structure of your home? Or will it change the character of your home?
  5. Will the heat output be satisfactory for you?
  6. Will the firebox accommodate the size of logs you will use?

Be sure to consider these and any other related factors when purchasing your woodstove and you’ll be satisfied with your choice.

Installation Of Woodstoves

Here are several factors which may affect the location of your woodstove installation:

  1. Features on your woodstove that might affect loading the woodstove and ash removal.
  2. Location of the stove so as not to interfere with the central heating thermostat.
  3. Possible modifications of the structure of the home or other modifications to accommodate installation.
  4. Possible difficulties in maintaining the stove and venting system. Consult your chimney sweep to determine the best location.

The Venting System

In order for a woodstove to function efficiently and safely, the stove must be installed correctly. The best guide to installing your stove is your stoves owners manual. You can also look for help from your local building code authority and your chimney sweep.

The Chimney

The chimney should be either a factory built, class A chimney or a properly constructed masonry chimney. If a factory built, class A chimney is used, it should be tested and listed by a recognized testing laboratory such as Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL).

If a masonry chimney is used, it should be properly constructed and built to code. Ask your sweep to inspect the chimney before your stove is installed. He will look for old “tin plate” hole covers, damaged or cracked flue tile, in addition to other unsafe situations. Many sweeps hae a video camera system to get a close up look at the inside of your flue.

The Stovepipe

The stovepipe should be in sound condition. Your sweep will clean and inspect it thoroughly for thin spots and deterioration.

There are many different types of stovepipe. There’s a heavy 22 gauge pipe that has welded seams. This is heavy duty and will last for quite some time. Threr is also a more economical, 24 gauge pipe available. Beware of lighter gauges of pipe. It is not heavy enough to pass code and you’ll have to replace it more often.

Water & Your Masonry Chimney

Diane Hewett

There are approximately 40 million masonry chimneys in North America and the most common problem with these structures is water penetration. Water causes over 1 billion dollars in damage annually in the form staining, loss of insulation value, freeze thaw damage, deterioration, and ultimately structural damage. All masonry chimney construction materials will suffer accelerated deterioration as a result of prolonged contact with water. Masonry materials deteriorate quickly when exposed to the freeze / thaw process, in which moisture that has penetrated the materials periodically freezes and expands causing undue stress. 

Water penetration can caue interior and exterior damage to your home and masonry chimney including:

  • Rusted damper assemblies
  • Deteriorated metal or masonry firebox assemblies
  • Rusted fireplace accessories and glass doors
  • Rotting adjacent wood and ruined wall coverings
  • Water stained walls and ceiling 
  • Deteriorated central heating system
  • Stained chimney exterior
  • Decayed exterior mortar
  • Cracked flue lining system
  • Collapsed hearth support
  • Tilted or collapsed chimney structure

In addition, when water mixes with creosote in a wood burning chimney system, it will generate a highly disagreeable odor that can permeate a home.

Preventing water damage

Chimney caps are probably the most inexpensive preventive measure that a homeowner can employ to prevent water penetration and damage to the chimney. Chimneys have one or more large openings (flues) at the top that can collect rainwater and funnel it directly to the chimney interior.

Repair or replace a damaged chimney crown

The chimney crown is the top element of a masonry chimney. It covers and seals the top of the chimney from the flue liners to the chimney edge. Most masonry chimneys are built with an inadequate crown constructed from common mortar mix. This mortar is not designed for and will not withstand years of weather abuse without cracking, chipping ofr deteriorating – situations that allow water to penetrate the chimney. In fact most sand and mortar crowns crack almost immediately after installation because of shrinkage.

Repair deteriorated mortar joints:

Deteriorated mortar joints are entry spots for water. Proper mortar joints have no gaps or missing mortar and struck, or shaped, in a way that directs water out of joint. A common repair for improper or deteriorated mortar joints is called rejointing or tuckpointing. In this process, the existing morta joint is repacked with new mortar compound. The joint is then struck to form a concave surface that will direct water out of the joint. A good repointing job, using proper materials, will give the chimney a much longer life span, and often will enhance its appearance.

Repair or replace flashing

Flashing is the seal between the roofing material and the chimney. Flashing prevents rainwater or snow melt from running down the chimney into living spaces where it can stain or damage ceiling and walls or wall paneling or cause rot in rafters, joist or other structural elements. In many cases, the flashing is a singled L shaped sheet of metal that is attached to side of the chimney and the roof. The most effective flashing is made up of two elements, the flashing and the counter flashing. The flashing or base flashing – an L- shaped element extending up the chimney side and out onto the roof – is attached to the roof and sealed The counter flashing, which overlaps the base flashing, is imbedded and sealed in the chimney’s masonry joints. This two element flashing allows both the roof and the chimney to expand or contract at their rates without breaking the waterproof seal. 

Waterproofing your chimney

Most masonry materials are porous and will absorb large amounts of water. Common brick is like a sponge, absorbing water and wicking moisture to the chimney interior. Defective mortar joints or the use of improper mortar or brick can greatly increase the tendency to absorb and convey water to the interior of the masonry chimney structure.
Several products have been developed specifically for use as waterproofing agents on masonry chimneys. These formulas are vapor permeable, which means that they allow the chimney to breathe out, but not in. Therefore, water that has penetrated the chimney is is allowed to escape, while the waterproofing agent prevents water from entering from outside. These products usually have a 5 to 10 year guarantee. Paint should never be used as a waterproofing agent because it will trap moisture inside the chimney.

Chimney caps

Chimney caps help eliminate moisture from entering your chimney. Moisture entering your chimney erodes masonry and mortar joints and will cause damper and firebox rust- out that leads to expensive repairs. Chimney caps also prevent birds and animals from entering your chimney and nesting or entering your home. Caps protect against airborne embers and sparks thus reducing the risk of house fire, caused by airborne embers and sparks. Chimney caps also prevent leaves and debris from entering the chimney. Leaves and other debris can cause flue blockage, which in turn can lead to fire, smoke damage, and even carbon monoxide poisoning.

Buying Firewood

Diane Hewett

Units Of Measurements

This is a unit 8 feet long by 4 feet high by 4 feet deep, or 128 cubic feet. Because of the irregular shape of logs, the average cord contains only about 80 cubic feet. The way the wood is stacked largely determines how much wood you actually receive. There is an old New England rule for stacking that pretty well sums it up: “If you’re selling, stack it so a cat can run through. If your buying stack it so it can’t.”

Face Cord/Run/Rick 
This is a unit 8 feet long by 4 feet high and any depth. It’s important to specify “full cord” if that is what you intend to buy. If you don’t, you may end up with an abbreviated version.

This is obviously a pretty vague unit measurement. What size truck? The average cord of seasoned hardwood weighs about two tons. If it is delivered in a half to pickup, you’re not getting a full cord.

By The Pound
A pound of wood, regardless of it type is a pound of wood. The only difference in types of wood is density. An oak log weighs considerably more than the same size pine log. This means there is more fuel packed into the oak log, and it is worth more. When buying by any other unit of measurement, you may pay more per pound for softwoods. If hardwood is available in your area, it’s a good idea to specify hardwood when ordering.

Placing The Order

It is best to buy from someone who has been recommended to you. The second choice is to buy from a full time, established wood dealer. While the number is increasing, there are very few around. The advantage to buying from dealers is that you are buying from a businessman who has a reputation to protect if he wants to stay in business.

Be Specific
When ordering, ask questions:
Is it hardwood or softwood?
100% hardwood?
What type of wood?
How much per cord?
A full cord?
Is it seasoned? How long?
To what lengths is it cut? Is it split?

Specify full cord if that’s how much you want. If you have a choice between hardwood or softwood, specify hardwood. If you don’t have a choice, you can always go somewhere else. Specify dry, seasoned wood. Tell tem you want it stacked, but be aware that many will charge you extra to do so.

When It Arrives
It is important to be there when the wood arrives and be firm about getting what you pay for. Check the wood as it is unloaded . Then measure it to make sure that what is delivered is what you paid for. Check for dryness by looking for check marks. These are cracks that radiate outward from the center of the whole log would be. The larger the better. Green wood may appear dry, but without pronounced check marks, you can be assured it is not. Another method of testing is to bang two pieces together. Dry wood will give a dull thud. If you ordered hardwood, don’t accept pine, cedar, or other softwoods. If you do, you are paying filet mignon prices for hamburger.

Storing Your Wood 

Wood should be split as soon as possible. Un-split wood will take considerably longer to season. Wood should be stored off the ground. Ask your chimney professional about a log rack. If it is possible, store wood in the sun. Wood stored in shade takes longer to season and can decay. Cover the pile with plastic on rainy days . Occasional light rains won’t hurt, but continuous or heavy rains can slow down the seasoning process considerably. Don’t store wood in the house or stacked up against the house or garage. Cut wood attracks all kinds of varmints and undersirables.

Smoke Problem Trouble Shooting Guide

Diane Hewett

Here are some of the most common causes of smoke problems. Simply find the symptom that most fits your situation. If you don’t know the exact conditions which are leading to your problem, just follow through each diagnosis until you solve the problem. It is possible, and even probable, that your fireplace is suffering from more than one problem. Many times, where a single problem is not sufficient to cause back-puffing, several combined will. If this is the case, each problem will have to be tracked down and cured separately. Should none of these work, do not let the pack-puffing continue!

Contact a chimney professional for further assistance in diagnosing the problem and prescribing the cure.

Problem: Constant Smoking

Solution A:

Is your damper open? If it is and the smoking continues, open a nearby window as close to the fireplace as possible. If the smoking lessens or stops when the window is opened the problem may be inadequate air supply.

Homes today are designed or modified to be as airtight as possible. The flow of air up the chimney can not exceed the flow of air into the house. All air removed from the room must be replaced by fresh outside air. This air normally enters the home through small cracks and imperfections in doors, windows, and walls.

Experiment until you have found the smallest effective window opening that eliminates the problem. You can either leave the window open to that degree while the fire is burning, or install a fresh air duct. A fresh air duct will eliminate the mixing of could outside air with the warm room air. If you install a duct, be certain it has the same cross-sectional area opening as the open window setting found to be effective. Also be sure to add valve or close off to allow for sealing of the duct when not in use.

Solution B:

Extinguish the fire and look for interior obstructions. A chimney may be clogged by a squirrel or bird nest. Soot and creosote can plug or restrict the air flow. If the chimney is older, the problem may be structural failure. Fallen bricks, mortar, or metal may be obstructing the flue.
All obstructions must be removed. A blocked chimney is a fire hazard and should never be used until completely cleaned and inspected. Chimneys blocked as a result of structural failure should be condemned and rebuilt or relined with a chimney relining system.

Solution C: 

If you have a wood stove and your chimney cap has a screen, there is a chance the screen is clogged with creosote. Clean it with a scrapper and steel wire brush. Also, check your wood burning habits and the condition of the wood. If this doesn’t seem to be the problem, consult a chimney professional. There could be a problem with your installation.

Problem: Erratic Smoking:

Solution A: 

What is the weather like outside? If the outside temperature is fairly close to the inside temperature and there is a high pressure cell in your area, you probably don’t have enough air pressure in the house to maintain a draft. The solution here is to wait for the weather to change.

Solution B:

Check for the existence of competing vents. Kitchen and bathroom fans, or chimneys for other stoves or fireplaces may overpower the chimney by drawing the air they need in through the chimney when you’re wanting the smoke to go out. To solve this, make sure each vent has adequate airflow.
If the house is two or more stories, hot air rising and escaping from the top story (due to an open window, poor insulation, major leaks, etc.) can reduce the air pressure of the ground floor and pull air in from the outside, even back down the chimney.

Problem: Erratic Smoking With Hard To Light Fires

Soultion A:

Check your wood. Excess moisture in the wood can be one problem. Dense wood, which is hard to light, can cause an initially cool fire which can result in poor draft and excessive smoke.

Solution B:

On wood stoves, check your damper opening or draft setting. An opening that is either too large or too small can result in incomplete combustion. Experiment until you find the smallest effective settings.

While experimenting, don’t make drastic changes. The key is consistency and moderation in making your adjustments. Make small adjustments spaced well apart. This gives the fire time to adapt to the new setting before you make any further adjustments.

Solution C:

Check to see if the draft is actually passing through the fire. Move a smoldering stick of lit match around the firebox opening of the fireplace, or around the outside of the wood stove. Deflections in the smoke will indicate air being sucked toward the fire.

In fireplaces, the draft should funnel inward and upward and be strongest near the floor. Fresh air should surround and be drawn into the fire, forming a narrow, fast moving column of air near the damper. If you find that the draft is missing the fire, wait until everything has cooled off and then adjust the height of the grate.

Solution D:

Analyze your start up procedure. Pay special attention to loading patterns and kindling use.

Problem: Smoking Occurs In Light Breezes:

Solution A:

Measure your flue’s dimensions when the fire is out. For wood stoves, be certain the flue size matches the vent lip to which the stovepipe attaches, or matches the flue size recommended by the manufacturer.

In a fireplace, the rule of thumb is that the opening of the fireplace should be no larger than ten times the flue area. The area of a rectangular flue can be determined by multiplying the lengths of any two adjacent sides. For instance, a flue tile with an inside dimension of 6” x 11” has an area of 66 square inches. To find the area of a round flue, begin by measuring the diameter and dividing it by two. This gives you the radius. Multiply the radius by itself, and then take that answer and multiply it by 3.14. This gives you the area of a circle. 

To determine the firebox opening, multiply its height by its width. Now divide this by 10. This should give the minimum flue opening.

For wood stoves, there are a couple of options for a too small opening. One is to rebuild the chimney, by replacing the too small flue with the proper size flue liner. The other is to have a prefab system installed for the woodstove. For fireplaces, the remedy is to reduce the fireplace opening. This can be done by asking your chimney professional to install glass doors, install a product to lower the fireplace opening, or lower the lintel.

Solution B:

Measure the effective height of your chimney. This include only the part of the chimney that starts above the point where the wood burner enters the chimney.
Requirements for proper height vary considerably. Factors which affect proper height are climate, surrounding landscape, prevailing winds, altitude, etc. Any chimney with an effective height of less than ten feet will generally cause problems. Also make certain the top of the chimney is at least two feet higher than the highest point within ten feet of the chimney.

Problem: Smoking Occurs In Heavy Winds


Check for obstructions that might form a downdraft. Roof lines, trees, hills, or nearby structures can all cause downdraft problems. When the wind blows over and down around them, the downdraft simply blows down the flue, sending the smoke into the house. A chimney cap will reduce the effect of these near vertical blasts of wind.

Problem: Smoking Occurs When Glass Doors Or Stove Doors Are Opened:


This is most often cured by simply opening the doors very slowly, allowing the airflow to adjust in the firebox. Opening the draft control several minutes prior to opening the doors will raise the temperature and eliminate a lot of the smoke, reducing chances of back puffing when the door is opened.

Problem: Smoking Occurs When Household Doors Are Opened


A household door opened or closed too rapidly can result in a change in your home’s air pressure, causing the draft to briefly stop or even reverse. This is more often a problem with fireplaces than wood stoves. A temporary solution would be to use hydraulic door closers. A permanent solution is to provide your fire with its own independent air supply. 
Another problem can result from inward opening doors fanning the air, resulting in momentary back puffing. A high backed chair of screen placed between the door and wood burner may cure the problem.

How to Minimize Creosote

Diane Hewett

Burn Only Seasoned Hardwoods

Dry Hardwoods reduce the generation of creosote because of their high burning temperatures and low smoke density.

Don’t Allow The Fire To Smolder Overnight

When you are finished with the fire, separate the unburned pieces from the coals. Stand unburned logs on end at the back of the fireplace.

Don’t Burn Trash In Your Fireplace

Burning trash in your fireplace can dirty your chimney fast and send large embers up the flue. This can create a dangerous situation. If there is a creosote build up a large ember will likely set the creosote on fire. One of the other things that can happen is that large embers could ignite the roof or surrounding combustibles.

Check For Buildup Periodically

An inspection should be done at least once a year by a chimney professional to make sure everything is in good working condition. In fact, an annual inspection is required by NFPA211 Standard. In addition to this, you need to conduct periodic inspections to check for buildup. You could do this by opening the damper and looking into the smoke chamber with a flashlight. Take a screwdriver, fireplace poker, or other handy tool and scratch through the build up to the masonry. If the build up is more than1/4”, a cleaning is due. If the chimney is a factory built metal type, it should be cleaned after 1/8” buildup. The smoke chamber is often here the chimney fire starts, then it works its way up to the top of chimney.

What is Creosote?

Diane Hewett

Nothing ever burns completely. Wood smoke is a combination of unburned gases and fog of unburned tar like liquids. When these gases come in contact with a cool surface, they will condense and form a nasty dark brown or black substance which has an unpleasant acrid odor. This is creosote.

Creosote starts as a liquid which results from condensation of the flue gases. Creosote comes in a range of forms: sooty, ash like deposits: dry, flaky deposits; sticky, tacky deposits resembling tar; or hard shinny deposits. Creosote collects inside the flue passage, in offsets and in termination parts of your chimney. These deposits reduce the flow of gases through the chimney system which may result in a weak draft or smoke spillage into the room.

Creosote is highly flammable. When it’s allowed to build up, the result could be a chimney fire. No matter what kind of chimney you have, such overheating is dangerous to the chimney structure and the surrounding building. Veteran wood burners know the importance of keeping their chimneys clean. However, many newcomers to heating with wood may be unaware of the potential harm and hazard of creosote buildup.

Three Factors That Influence Creosote Deposits

Smoke density: High smoke density increases the rate of creosote formation. Smoke density can be reduced by increasing the flow of air, and by using smaller pieces of wood or adding less wood more often. Hotter fires will also lessen the smoke density by causing more complete combustion of the wood and gases. 

Temperature of the condensing surface: The cooler the surface, the more creosote will condense. One can relate this to water vapor condensing on the outside of a glass of cold water on a humid day, except its in reverse. Condensation occurs on the inside of a chimney, especially when the outside cold air makes the surface of the inner chimney relatively cool. Keeping stack temperatures high will reduce this problem.

Residence time: The longer the smoke stays in your chimney, the more likely it is to condense on the surface.

The Necessity Of A Properly Lined Oil Burner Flue

Diane Hewett

A chimney sweep should service your furnace flue after each heating season. When he removes the connector pipe and opens the cleanout door, he can find one or more of the following:

  • Small particles of the chimney liner that have fallen to the base of the chimney
  • No chimney lining
  • A cracked or broken flue tile
  • A wet chimney

These are just some of the problems that can cause poor chimney performance. Most of them can be corrected by relining your chimney.

Old Appliances

The long term effects on the clay tile flue liners venting ol fired appliances can be gradual deterioration of the liner due to acidic nature of the chimney residue. This process can occur over many years. The liner walls can soften and flake off material opening holes through the liner walls. If this happens, the flue must be relined.

New Appliances

New high efficiency oil fired appliances require smaller flue sizes than older units. Where an old unit may require an eight inch flue, the replacement unit’s installation instructions may call for a five inch flue. This is a 60% reduction in flue size. Couple that with lower glass temperatures of new units and the flue size becomes much more critical to the proper operation of the present day oil fired appliance.
In cold, oversized masonry chimneys, the less hot flue gases of modern appliances quickly expand and cool even more.

Draft is drastically reduced because it depends upon the buoyancy of the hot flue gases. The cooler the gases become, the slower they move up the flue and the more the draft is reduced. This will reduce an appliance’s efficiency and increase fuel consumption. The longer the flue gasses remain in the flue, the greater the risk of leakage into the home.

Water Vapor, a normal by product of combustion, condenses on the cool internal surfaces of oversized flues. This problem is worse in exterior chimneys and cold climates. The resulting moisture can be absorbed by the chimney and transferred through the walls. It may cause paint to peel, and wallpaper and plaster to fall. In winter, wet chimneys experience numerous freeze/thaw cycles causing bricks and clay tile liners to spall or flake, mortar joints to erode, and water leakage at te bottom of the chimney.

Dangerous Carbon Monoxide gases can be forced into your home through open mortar joints, cracked flue liners and flues blocked by debris.

Deterioration Of The Flue Liner can occur when venting oil fired appliances. Chemical compounds such as sulfur residues from oil chlorides from the laundry area, when combined with water, form a highly aggressive acids, capable of causing considerable damage to flue tiles in masonry chimneys.

How Can These Problems Be Solved? 

Retrofitting a chimney with a UL Listed, properly sized and properly installed chimney lining system is the most important and easiest way to prevent these problems.

A properly sized chimney lining system will insure correct draft by preventing the flue gases from expanding and cooling more than they should. Properly sizing a chimney liner will greatly reduce condensation within the venting system. The hot and buoyant flue gases will remain hot, exit the flue quicker, cool less and be much less likely to condense on the chimney or liner walls.

By using a watertight flue liner any condensation that might form is contained within the liner, thereby avoiding further damage to the chimney from freeze/thaw cycles and corrosion from the highly acidic condensate. 

A UL Listed stainless steel flue liner or a UL Listed, cast in place chimney lining system designed to vent the flue gases of oil fired appliances should be installed.

A Final Point Concerning Equipment Performance And Efficiency

A new chimney lining system for your oil fired appliance can improve its performance and increase the life of your chimney. Increased oil burner efficiency means less oil is required to heat your home. This reduces your phone bill.

Oil Burner Flues

Diane Hewett

The by product of incomplete combustion of fuel oil is carbon and sulfur- commonly called oil soot. Oil soot accumulates on the walls and base of the chimney. The accumulation of these soot deposits can fall to the base of a chimney, or directly into the top of the oil fired appliance. This fallen soot build up may restrict the flow of flue gases which consist mostly of nitrogen, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and water vapor. The combustion process also produces carbon monoxide( a tasteless, odorless, poisonous gas). Carbon monoxide may spill back into the house instead of going up the chimney if appliances are not adequately cleaned.

A common misconception is that the oil service company takes care of the chimney. The reality is they don’t. Additionally, many oil burner service techicians may tell the homeowner that the system is okay without even inspecting the entire chimney.

Chimney interiors when not properly maintained, will decay and breakdown. Regular maintenance always pays off in the long run. As stated earlier soot is comprised of carbon, sulfur. This sulfur when mixed with rain water or moisture from the flue gases is absorbed into the flue tiles and starts a deteriorating process called flaking of spalling. As the flue tiles flak, pieces of tile fall to base of chimney and can eventually block the flue gases from exiting the chimney.

The national Fire Protection Association (NFPA 211) states that chimneys shall be “inspected annually and cleaned and repaired if needed”.

Educational Information - Why heat with wood and wood heat safety -

Fireplace Safety

Diane Hewett

  • Keep the chimney clean.
  • Be sure your chimney is in good condition- have it inspected annually by a chimney professional.
  • Don’t use charcoal lighter fluid or kerosene to start the fire - use only commercially approved fire starters.
  • Be sure the damper is open before starting the fire.
  • Don’t burn trash in the fireplace.
  • Use a fire screen.
  • Seasoned wood is safer than green wood - hardwoods are safer than softwoods.
  • Never leave small children alone in a room with a fire.

How Often Should I Have My Fireplace Cleaned?

Diane Hewett

The answer is at least once a year.

More frequent cleanings may be needed based upon:

1. How often you use the fireplace or wood stove.

2. How your fireplace and chimney are constructed.

3. How you manage your fire.

4. What type of wood do you burn.

5. How well seasoned the wood is.

6. How often you let the fire smolder itself out

7. What the weather is like.

Chimney Odors

Diane Hewett

That sour, sickly odor you have is the odor of creosote. The odor is almost always oresent in the chimney, but is usually carried up and away by the draft. Unfortunately, when warm weather comes, the draft is sometimes insufficient to carry the odors away and can even reverse itself, carrying the odor into the room. Warm weather may coincide with the rainy season, and high humidity further aggravates the problem by increasing the strength of the odor. Here are some steps to take to help eliminate the odor:

  1. Have your chimney cleaned by a professional. Often this will eliminate the problem. However, sometimes this will not take care of it. If you have clay flue tiles, creosote has probably soaked into the tiles for years and a Complete cleaning cannot coax the soaked-in creosote out of the flue.
  2. Ask your chimney professional to install a chimney cap. Having a chimney cap will help keep the rain out of your chimney. This will help in preserving your chimney and eliminating odors. But cap or no cap, humidity can still get in the chimney.
  3. Ask your chimney professional to install a top sealing damper. These dampers are designed to be closed when not in use. They help seal out rain animals, etc., and help sealin heating and air conditioning. This will help with utility bills. A top sealing damper will keep out rain, but it also cuts off the airflow, so be sure to also use a chimney deodorant.
  4. There are several good deodorants on the market that can eliminate the problem. There are deodorants that sit back behind the damper and help absorb the odor through a raised wick. And there are sprays that can be used in the firebox and smoke chamber to eliminate odors.
  5. One last culprit that may be causing your chimney to have an odor is badly deteriorated masonry. This can cause moisture to seep through to the inside of the chimney, causing a bad odor. In this case, you need to talk to your chimney professional about getting the chimney repaired,