What is Creosote, and Why Should You Have Your Chimney Cleaned?

Call for your annual service or chimney sweepYou’ve probably heard about chimney fires and how important it is to have your chimney cleaned and checked regularly, but why? You may look into your wood stove and think it looks pretty good – but your chimney could be a hazard waiting to burst into flames the next time you light a fire.

What is Creosote:

Creosote is a product of incomplete combustion: deposits of unburned tar vapors from wood smoke that are very flammable. It can be hard or sticky, with a tar-like consistency, crusty and thick, or flaky in texture. Often very difficult to remove from chimneys, creosote deposits are one of the most common and serious fire hazards, regardless of the chimney type (metal, masonry, insulated metal, etc.).

How can you prevent creosote buildup?

Creosote build-upWhether you use soft woods or hard woods, and no matter how you burn your firewood, particulate matter and gasses are released into the air and through the chimney. There is no avoiding this, but that doesn’t mean you have to have a creosote build-up. Creosote is formed when wood is incompletely burned, and is an indication of a poor wood stove design, improper use, or poor installation. Here are some tips to keep your chimney creosote-free:

  • Operate your wood stove at the right temperature
    A moderately active fire is best. If you damper the stove way down, you will have a smoky fire that emits lots of unburned vapors that can condense inside the chimney flue or pipe. While your fire is burning, go outside and take a look at the flue. If there’s lots of smoke, you are burning too cool. Creosote represents unburned fuel, so if you’re trying to conserve firewood by burning cooler, it doesn’t really save the firewood and can be harmful to your chimney. You’ll actually get more heat from the same amount of wood burned hotter, and you’ll also be doing the environment a favor!
  • Use the right fuel
    Season your firewood. All firewood contains water in some degree. The water contained in the wood turns to steam, which can cool the chimney so the gases condense and creosote is formed. The drier your firewood, the less steam it emits, thus reducing the chance of creosote.
  • Make sure your flue is the right size and is properly installed
    If your flue is improperly sized or incorrectly installed, it may not be drawing the combustible products to the outdoors quickly enough. This increases the time the smoke stays in the venting system, allowing it to condense and form creosote in the flue.
  • Learn how to properly operate your stove
    It is important to know what type of stove you have and to operate it properly. Refer to your operator’s manual, or contact us for a service call. Our staff can check for creosote build up, leaks, or improper installation, and give you step-by-step instructions on how to properly operate your stove.
    If you continue to have creosote build-up or other problems, you may wish to consider a new EPA-certified stove, designed to burn cleanly at a much lower burn rate.

Why should you have your chimney cleaned?

The best way to make sure your stove is in top working condition and there is no creosote build up is to schedule an annual inspection. It only takes about an hour for Sierra Hearth & Home National Fireplace Institute (NFI) Certified Specialists to thoroughly inspect and clean your system, so you can heat your home worry-free. We will also provide you with a safety report for insurance purposes if necessary.

Click HERE for CSIA Homeowner Resources and information on what our chimney sweep will do when they come to your home.

What if you notice creosote build-up?

If you look into your chimney and see signs of creosote build up, or if your stove or chimney are smoking from various leak points, close the air supply and let the fire cool down. Do not burn any more fires. Schedule a cleaning and inspection immediately. Any creosote build-up can cause a deadly chimney fire.

What if your chimney catches fire?

Chimney fireLet’s hope you are reading this as a preventative measure, and you are keeping your stove and chimney cleaned and inspected so you never have a fire.

A creosote chimney fire burns very hot, sounds like roaring thunder, and can burn a building to the ground very quickly. If you suspect a creosote fire, immediately get everyone out of the building and call the fire department. If it is possible to safely close down the air supply to the chimney, it may help, but your first priority is to getting everyone to a safe place.

Sierra Hearth & Home’s Chimney Sweeps are  National Fireplace Institute (NFI) Certified.

CALL US NOW to schedule your inspection!


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Unleash Your Backyard Gourmet!

Family shot of Big Green Egg

Sierra Hearth & Home is an authorized dealer for The Big Green Egg

September and October offer some of the best outdoor weather of the year. Why not get a Big Green Egg and amaze your friends and family with your culinary expertise?

The Big Green Egg is a GRILL, an OVEN, and a SMOKER, all in one! It is known for producing amazing culinary results for novice and experts alike! Stop by Sierra Hearth & Home in Jackson to check out The Big Green Egg…The Ultimate Cooking Experience! We are located at 619-B South Hwy 49 in the Motherlode Plaza. map. We are an authorized dealer for The Big Green Egg and accessories.

So go ahead…Unleash Your Backyard Gourmet and show ’em what you’ve got!

More about The Big Green Egg

The Big Green Egg - Unleash Your Backyard Gourmet!


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El Niño is Coming…Capture and Reuse Your Rain Water!

It has been a tough few years with little rain, but weather reports are calling for El Niño this winter. Did you know that 1 inch of rainfall on a 2,000 square foot residential roof generates 1,250 gallons of water that can be reused? Capture and reuse your precious rain water for summer watering and your garden will be lush and beautiful.

Sierra Hearth & Home has a complete line of RainXchange™ rainwater harvest systems by Aquascape®, Inc. These beautiful water features filter and store the water underground, while you enjoy the beauty of a waterfall, fountain or permeable patio in your yard. Stop by our store in Jackson to learn more. Sierra Hearth & Home is a Certified Aquascape Contractor. We are located at 619-B South Hwy 49 in the Motherlode Plaza. map

RainXchange system captures and re-uses rainwater.

AquaScape RainXchange system captures and re-uses rainwater.

Click here for more information and a video showing how the RainXchange rainwater harvest system works.



1 inch of rainfall on a 2,000 SF roof = 1,250 gallons of water

  • 1 inch of rainfall on a 2,000 sq. ft. residential roof generates 1,250 gallons of water that can be reused.
  • That same roof in a region receiving 30 inches of annual rainfall generates 41,000 gallons of reusable water.
  • The average US household with a 10,000 square foot lot uses up to 3,000 gallons of water weekly for landscape irrigation.
  • Running a sprinkler for 2 hours can use up to 500 gallons of water.
  • The RainXchange allows you to collect thousands of gallons of water anywhere, even in the desert!
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Get up to $300 for Your Old Wood Stove

Jotul stoveSierra Hearth & Home is proud to announce that it is part of a nationwide effort for cleaner air. Now through August 31st, 2015, during Jøtul North America’s third annual Wood Stove Changeout Program, consumers can bring their current non-EPA-certified stoves to Sierra Hearth & Home, in exchange for a voucher valued at up to $300* toward any current Jøtul wood or gas stove or fireplace insert. For all vouchers that are redeemed at Sierra Hearth & Home, Jøtul will make a donation to Operation BBQ Relief.

Old Stoves can be dropped off at Sierra Hearth & Home, 619-B South Hwy 49, Jackson, California between 8:30 am – 9:30 am Monday – Friday, or may be picked up from your home with a scheduled appointment. Non-EPA stoves that are exchanged during the changeout will be rendered unusable and recycled.

Because EPA-certified wood stoves emit approximately 70 percent less pollution than older conventional stoves, owners who make the change from a non-EPA stove can directly affect local air quality. In addition to being environmentally friendly, EPA-certified stoves can be 50 percent more efficient and burn up to 1/3 less wood than older models.

For more information or to schedule a pick up, call us at 209-223-4007, or stop by our store!

*Credit amount is dependent upon price of stove. Complete details in store.

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Why a Factory-Built Fireplace is a Good Investment

ZC Fireplace factory built install fireplace in Amador County


As a homeowner, if you have a fireplace, you have an amenity that increases the value of your house. This is true whether you have a masonry fireplace or a factory-built fireplace. There are numerous benefits to having a pre-fabricated fireplace in your home, including the fact that a masonry chimney is not a necessity. In an existing home that lacks a chimney, it is especially exciting for many homeowners that they can still enjoy a warm fire in the winter, thanks to the versatility of factory-built fireplaces.

What is a Factory-Built Fireplace?

As the name implies, a factory-built fireplace is constructed / pre-fabricated at a factory and then installed in homes. These fireplaces are extremely well-insulated and have an air blanket built in which keeps the outer wall cool. The amount of clearance needed between these fireplaces and combustible materials is only about one-half inch, which is why they are also known as “zero-clearance fireplaces.”

All-Important ZC Fireplace Installation

A zero-clearance fireplace comes complete with the firebox and the entire chimney system. They can be vented through a masonry chimney, though the flue and connecting pipes must be the size required by the manufacturer. One of the most important aspects of a factory-built fireplace is that it should be installed by a professional, such as a trained chimney technician. The following is more about installation:

The primary reason to go with professional installation of a zero-clearance fireplace is that clearance specifications must be adhered to strictly, and ongoing maintenance is also important.

Professionals are familiar with manufacturer’s instructions and local codes and are able to fulfill all requirements which will ensure safe operation and avoid unwanted surprises about improper installation, in the event of a home inspection. A building permit is a requirement, when installing a zero-clearance fireplace.

More Factory Built Fireplace Basics

A factory-built fireplace typically has a lifespan of 20 to 30 years.

There is a huge selection of styles and designs of factory-built fireplaces. You can find a style to match your home, no matter what kind of décor you have. There are many stunning designs.

Annual inspection of zero-clearance fireplaces is recommended by both the National Fire Protection Association and the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

Safety Tips

Add a fireplace to my home - manufactured prefab fireplace installationFactory-built fireplaces are built to meet strict standards, and they pass rigorous testing standards. The appliances have an excellent safety record, but safe use of the fireplace is essential. The following are important safety tips:

Liquid fire starters such as gasoline, charcoal lighter fluid, lantern fuel, or kerosene should never be used. In addition, these types of products should not be stored anywhere near a fireplace. These appliances are built for the purpose of burning solid fuel only.

The screen on the fireplace should always be closed, to prevent sparks or hot embers from entering the home and possibly causing combustible materials to ignite.

Before lighting a fire, always open the flue damper.

Never overload the fireplace because burning logs could fall out.

Do not burn Christmas trees or a lot of paper in the fireplace because these types of fires are extremely hot and can actually cause joints to separate or metal to warp.

Give yourself something extra special to look forward to on wintry days. Check out our selection of beautiful factory-built fireplaces and have yours installed before the next cold snap.

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