Is Your Chimney Smelly or Blocked? Schedule a Chimney Sweeping With English Sweep

A roaring fire in your fireplace on a cool night can create a cozy, inviting atmosphere in your home. But then, all of a sudden, a musty smell shatters the calm. You realize the odor is coming from the fireplace and you wonder – is it an animal? Is it dead leaves? Most importantly – why is this happening and how do I stop it?

Behind the scenes, your chimney quietly accumulates soot, creosote, and debris with each use. This buildup can pose serious risks if it’s not taken care of, making professional chimney cleaning an essential part of home maintenance.

Breathe easy. English Sweep can help. We have ample experience with providing solutions for smelly chimneys and when it comes to eliminating fireplace odors and chimney clogs, we know what to look for and what to do. If you’re a resident in the St. Louis area, call us at 636-225-3340 to schedule an appointment for a chimney sweeping or book online today.

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Chimney Sweeping equipment with limestone hearth and surround wood mantle with TV above.
Tech wearing red logo shirt with safety equipment using brush and vacuum hose to clean limestone chimney-English Sweep Valley Park MO

Why Do I Need to Sweep My Chimney?

A dirty chimney and fireplace is a fire hazard. When you burn wood in your fireplace, it produces a highly flammable substance called creosote. Creosote gathers and coats the interior walls of the chimney over time and, if it ignites, it can cause a dangerous chimney fire. Regular chimney sweeping removes creosote and reduces that risk.

Creosote isn’t the only threat to your safety. An exposed chimney is a huge attraction for wildlife. Birds, squirrels, raccoons, rats, and more are known to invade chimneys, and the materials they use to build their nests are usually flammable – think leaves, twigs, and loose insulation. Their waste can also be dangerous to your health, especially if you have an upper respiratory issue, like asthma.

With an annual chimney cleaning, you can remove leftover debris and your fireplace can perform more efficiently.

How Often Should I Sweep My Chimney?

The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) suggest annual cleanings, even if you don’t use your chimney often. So, as a general rule of thumb, you should plan to have your chimney swept and inspected at least once a year to clear out any buildup. That frequency can change depending on how much you use your fireplace, your fuel source, and what your chimney technician recommends.

If you have a wood-burning fireplace that’s in high demand during the burning season, you may need to schedule sweepings twice a year. Speak with your chimney technician to establish a plan that suits your needs.

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How Can I Tell if My Chimney Needs Sweeping?

It’s not always easy to tell when your chimney needs to be swept, which is why it’s so important to keep up with annual inspections. More often than not, chimney issues fly under the radar. But there are signs of a dirty chimney that you can watch out for.


The fireplace isn’t working well.

If you see a difference in how your fireplace is performing, it could be because there’s a blockage that’s limiting airflow. You might have trouble starting a fire or notice a decrease in heat output.


There’s more smoke than usual.

 When your chimney is blocked, it can’t ventilate properly and smoke will be more prone to back up into the room. Blockages can be caused by creosote buildup, animal nests, and outside debris.


Your chimney is smelly.

 A strong, unpleasant odor when using your fireplace is a sign that creosote or other debris in the chimney is burning. Creosote has a distinct pungent smell that may remind you of a dirty barbecue grill. 


It's been a while since your last cleaning.

If you don’t remember the last time your chimney was cleaned or if it has been over a year, it’s a good idea to schedule a professional chimney inspection and sweeping.

Don’t wait – get scheduled with our team today.

Common Causes of Chimney Odors

There are several reasons why your fireplace, stove, or insert might be stinking up your home, but more often than not, foul odors are caused by a dirty chimney.

If your chimney isn’t capped, it will be easy for leaves, twigs, and other items to blow into it and block things up. And if these things can get in, you can bet water will work its way in too. In the end, all that buildup will get wet, which will then leave you with some pretty nasty smells.

And speaking of uncapped chimneys… Another thing to be wary of is animal entry. You don’t have to stretch your imagination too far to think of all the ways curious critters could stink up your flue if they’re given easy access. The strong walls of your chimney offer a perfect haven for birds, squirrels, raccoons, and other woodland critters – and if they set up camp, you’ll be inhaling some foul odors before you know it.

But one of the biggest things fireplace, stove, and insert owners have to worry about is creosote accumulation. Creosote is a tacky substance that forms in wood-burning systems as fires are burned. It’s known for giving off a strong smokey or tar-like smell, and it can really stink things up, especially in the summer when humidity is high and your air conditioning is cranked up.

Creosote is also known for being highly flammable, upping your chances of experiencing a chimney fire.

Our certified chimney sweep will remove brushable creosote and your chimney stays free of creosote and blockages, so you can stress less about foul odors, clogged flues, and other potential threats.

Do all dirty chimneys smell?

While odors can signal it’s time for a chimney cleaning, not all dirty chimneys smell. So, you shouldn’t rely on an odor to tell you when it’s time to schedule your chimney sweep.

Instead, follow the NFPA guidelines and schedule an annual inspection. That way, you’ll always know when your chimney is due for a cleaning – smell or no smell.

What Can Happen if I Don’t Sweep My Chimney?

When you go camping and set a fire to keep warm, a park ranger will always advise you to put out the fire when you leave camp to go for a hike or before you go to sleep. Why? Fire is dangerous when it’s not managed responsibly and it can wreak havoc in the wrong conditions.

Starting a fire in a dirty chimney would be the same thing as lighting a fire in the woods and walking away. Skipping your yearly chimney cleaning is a risk that you don’t have to – and shouldn’t – take. There are consequences for homeowners who dare to walk on the wild side. If you neglect your chimney, you’re putting your home at risk for the following:


Chimney fire.

 One of the most significant risks associated with not sweeping your chimney is the increased chance of a chimney fire. Creosote that’s reached more than ⅛ of an inch thickness is enough to catch a spark and cause a major chimney fire.


Poor air quality.

A dirty or blocked chimney can cause poor indoor air quality. Harmful gases, like carbon monoxide, may enter your living space if the chimney is obstructed, potentially causing health risks to those inside.


Structural damage.

Creosote can cause damage to different parts of your chimney like the flue liner and the mortar between bricks. This can lead to structural problems, water intrusion, and the need for costly repairs.


Insurance and compliance problems.

Some insurance companies and local authorities require regular chimney inspections and cleanings. Neglecting these requirements may result in higher homeowner’s insurance premiums or penalties from your town.

I Have a Gas Fireplace – Do I Still Need to Have My Chimney Cleaned?

It’s a common assumption that these lower-maintenance appliances don’t need professional care and attention, but this is actually inaccurate. Just like with wood-burning units, gas appliances need regular cleanings, too.

Gas appliances have gained a reputation for being lower maintenance than wood-burning fireplaces, but it’s not completely earned. It’s true that creosote isn’t as much of a concern with a gas fireplace or inserts because gas burns cleaner the firewood. However, an annual chimney cleaning is the bare minimum for routine maintenance any time you’re dealing with a heating appliance – no matter the fuel type.

Your chimney is still susceptible to blockages and animals don’t care if you have a wood-burning fireplace or gas logs as long as the chimney is safe and warm. It doesn’t matter whether you have a traditional masonry fireplace or a gas unit, English Sweep is the right team for your chimney cleaning. Call us at 636-303-1459 or get in touch with our team online to schedule your appointment.

How Can I Prevent Chimney Fires?

An annual chimney sweeping is just one step you can take to minimize the risk of a chimney fire. While it’s not possible to stop creosote from building up in a wood-burning fireplace altogether, you can limit it and make your fireplace safer.

Here are a few tips to help you keep creosote levels in check:


Book yearly chimney inspections.

Chimney sweepings and chimney inspections should come as a package – when you schedule one service, schedule the other as well. Inspections will reveal creosote buildup, obstructions, and any other issues that might lead to a chimney fire.


Only burn well-seasoned firewood.

Some types of firewood contain too much moisture which can promote the accumulation of more creosote. Seasoned wood has been left out to dry for several months so that fires burn hotter.


Use a spark arrestor.

Install a spark arrestor at the top of your chimney to prevent smoldering, hot embers from escaping and potentially igniting the roof or surrounding surfaces.


Use the correct fuel.

Only burn fuel that is appropriate for your specific type of heating appliance. If you have a gas fireplace or gas insert, you should not use traditional wood.


Maintain proper airflow.

It’s crucial that your fireplace has adequate airflow for efficiency and safety, and a chimney cleaning can clear up blockages. Using your appliance correctly helps burn fuel more efficiently and reduces creosote production.


Don't overload your fireplace.

Take care to not overload the fireplace or stove with too much wood or other fuel. You should always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for fuel capacity.


Burn hot fires.

The hotter the fire, the better. A slow, smoldering fire produces more creosote than a hot, well-ventilated one.


Install a chimney liner.

A chimney liner can help protect your chimney’s interior from intense temperatures and keep harmful gases from leaking into your home. Some older houses don’t have a liner – or if they do, you may need a replacement. During an inspection, a chimney technician will update you on the condition of the liner.

What Should I Do to Prepare for a Chimney Sweeping?

We don’t want you to stress over getting your home ready for a chimney inspection, but we do have a few helpful tips to help the appointment go as smoothly as possible.


Clear the area near the fireplace.

We need a little wiggle room to work. If you have furniture, decorations, or upholstery that’s in the general vicinity of the fireplace, remove it or push it back a few feet.


Cover items.

Some items near the fireplace can’t be moved easily, so we suggest covering them with drop cloths or plastic sheeting to protect them from dirt and dust.


Don’t use your fireplace.

We get it – it’s hard to resist the lure of cozy fire, but for the safety of our chimney technicians, we ask that you try to hold off on using your fireplace for the 24 to 48 hours before your appointment. This allows enough time to pass for the interior components to cool down.


Close the damper.

If your fireplace has a damper, make sure it’s completely closed to prevent soot or debris from falling into the fireplace during the sweeping.


Secure your pets.

Although we love pets, it’s a good idea to secure them in a separate area while we’re working to ensure their safety.

Do Chimney Sweeping Logs Work?

If you’ve looked up chimney sweeping, you’re probably seeing a lot of ads for chimney cleaning products like sweeping logs and powdered creosote removers. These products come with big promises to control and destroy creosote.

So… Do they? Kind of. They’re meant to change the texture of the creosote, so it can be removed more easily, but their job stops there. While they can help limit and loosen creosote buildup, they shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for a professional chimney cleaning. When it comes to getting the creosote out, you’ll still need some professional hands.

In addition, chimney sweeping logs are unlikely to make much of an impact in chimneys with heavy levels of creosote. A Stage 2 or 3 creosote buildup requires the expertise of a chimney technician and special tools to safely and thoroughly sweep the chimney.

Long story short? If you need care, don’t DIY – call on us instead. Reach out now

Gregg Boss smiling with Chimney Brush sitting on limestone hearth with visual inspection tools and Logo on shirt-English Sweep Valley Park MO

You Don’t Have to Live With a Dirty Chimney

Do you have a smelly, leaky chimney? Let English Sweep take care of it for you. We have decades of experience cleaning chimneys and saving homeowners from musty odors. Trust our team when it’s time for your annual chimney cleaning. 

You can call us at 636-225-3340 or schedule an appointment online.


An annual chimney inspection will get you set up right for a safe burning season. You can call on our technicians for all your chimney services and be confident you are getting the best.