Home » Blog » Fireplace Soot Build-Up: A Hazard to Health and Home

Fireplace Soot Build-Up: A Hazard to Health and Home


    Photo of a Fire Place

    There’s nothing like a fireplace to provide a warm and cozy atmosphere in your home during the chilly Chicagoland winters. But it can also create dangers for your family.

    The soot and creosote that build up inside wood-burning fireplaces and chimneys over time can pose significant risks to both your health and the structural integrity of your home.

    So let’s discuss the adverse effects of soot and creosote on your family and your home and what you can do to alleviate those risks.

    Health Hazards

    1. Respiratory Problems: Soot is made up of tiny particles full of toxic chemicals, acids, and dust. These are very easily inhaled, which, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), can lead to coughing and may aggravate respiratory diseases like asthma, bronchitis, and even chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
    2. Cardiovascular Effects: Even more severe issues such as coronary heart disease can develop after prolonged exposure. Soot particles are so small that they can get deep into your lungs and enter your bloodstream, increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and strokes.
    3. Cancer Risk: Soot contains high levels of toxic compounds such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Some of these are known carcinogens. Extended exposure to them may increase your risk of developing many types of cancer, including lung cancer. The number of PAHs from fireplace soot isn’t usually as high as from tobacco smoke or heavy pollution, but high enough to be concerning.
    4. Allergies and Irritation: At the least, soot and creosote can trigger allergies and cause irritation in your eyes, nose, and throat. These can decrease your quality of life, especially for those with these sensitivities.

    Structural Damage

    1. Chimney Blockages: When soot and creosote aren’t regularly cleaned out, they can get thick enough to obstruct the chimney flue in your Chicagoland home, restricting airflow. This can force harmful carbon monoxide gas to back up into your home, poisoning the air. Additionally, this problem may result in poor combustion, which then leads to more soot, etc., etc.
    2. Creosote Build-Up: Creosote differs from soot as it’s made up mostly of tars produced due to the incomplete combustion of wood. It sticks to the surface of the flue, forming layers of flammable deposits. Creosote is extremely flammable and becomes more difficult to remove as it becomes thicker.
    3. Masonry Deterioration: The acids in soot can corrode the bricks and mortar that make up your fireplace and chimney. This eventually weakens the structure, leading to expensive repairs or even a dangerous collapse.

    Preventing and Controlling Soot Build-Up

    1. Regular Maintenance: Schedule a yearly chimney inspection and cleaning by a professional chimney sweep. They’ll remove soot, creosote, and any other potential blockages like bird nests, so you can be sure your fireplace works safely and efficiently.
    1. Burn the Right Wood: Dry, well-seasoned hardwoods produce less soot than green or softwoods. Wet wood creates more smoke and creosote, contributing to soot accumulation. Steer clear of using treated or painted wood, as either can release toxic fumes when burned.
    1. Increase Ventilation: To lower indoor air pollution, open your windows when using the fireplace or install an air filtration system.
    2. Burn Hot Fires: These burn cleaner and generate less soot than a smoldering fire. Smaller, dry logs will help provide a steady airflow to achieve a cleaner burn.
    3. Put in a Catalytic Converter: These aren’t just for cars. By adding one to your fireplace, you can help reduce the release of harmful substances and have cleaner, hotter fires.
    4. Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors: These are essential for the early detection of poisonous gasses and any problems that could cause soot build-up or chimney fires.

    By taking these safety measures, you can relax and enjoy the comfort of a warm fire without compromising your health or the structural integrity of your home.

    When Your Home is Damaged by a Chimney Fire

    If your Chicagoland home has been damaged by a chimney fire or any other kind of fire, you need expert fire damage restoration services that will restore the original look and integrity of your home. ServiceMaster By Simons provides soot cleanup, smoke odor removal, fire damage restoration, and fire damage cleanup services. We make this process as painless as possible as we clean and restore your property so it feels like your home again.


    Choose a Trustworthy Company

    ServiceMaster By Simons is a reputable disaster restoration company you can rely on. We’ve been in business for many years and take great pride in serving the expansive Chicago metropolitan area and its surrounding suburbs. Our company stands as the preferred choice in Chicagoland for both commercial and residential disaster restoration services. Our expertise includes Fire Damage Restoration, Water Damage Restoration, Mold Remediation, and Smoke Odor Removal. With a team of highly skilled professionals who are certified by the IICRC, we’re equipped to handle insurance claims of any size. Call 773-376-1110 or contact us online.


    • Nasutsa Mabwa

      Nasutsa Mabwa is President of ServiceMaster by Simons, a MBE/WBE City of Chicago and State of Illinois certified firm. She is a 2020 Daily Herald Business Ledger C-Suite awardee, a member of Crain’s Chicago Business 40 under 40 and a 2018 ServiceMaster(c) Achiever Award recipient. She is a Civic Federation Board Member, an Advisory Board Member for as President Elect on the Executive Committee for the Evanston Chamber of Commerce. She is IICRC certified for WRT & FSRT.

      About ServiceMaster Restoration By Simons
      Restoration By Simons is an MBE/WBE certified firm and family-run company serving both Cook and Lake County, Illinois. Recently, the company was awarded a variety of honors, including the SB100 Best of Small Business Award Winner 2021, Bronze Stevie® Award in the Female Entrepreneur of the Year category in the 18th annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business, recipient of the 2020 Better Business Bureau's Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics, and the recipient of the 2020 Skokie Business of the Year Award, Honorable Mention Category. Restoration By Simons provides disaster restoration services including water and flood damage restoration, fire and smoke damage restoration, mold remediation, to residential and commercial customers in both Cook and Lake County IL.

      LinkedIn Profile
      Forbes Profile

      View all posts