Whether you have a fireplace, wood stove, hot water tank, gas furnace, or oil furnace that utilizes the chimney, they all require maintenance, cleaning and repair as needed.
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Try to imagine your chimney as being the lungs of your house. If your chimney is obstructed or blocked up with a bird's nest, raccoon nest, or brick, your chimney will not be able to breathe which will result in carbon monoxide being released into your home.
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The byproduct of wood is creosote, so even with normal cleaning and maintenance of the chimney, there is still the potential for a chimney fire to occur. However, the predominant factor is the intensity of the chimney fire and obviously a clean chimney will most certainly burn with less intensity than a chimney that has not been cleaned at all.
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The main objective when burning wood is to get as close to complete combustion as possible. Avoid burning pine, wet, or green wood because this will cause incomplete combustion which will allow tar droplets to form onto the interior walls of the flue and a substantial creosote build up. If the creosote is ignited, it can burn to a temperature of 2100 degrees Fahrenheit, and with much intensity.