Homeowners throughout the Tennessee River Valley often find evidence of small animals nesting in the chimney, especially during the summer when fireplaces are typically dormant. With the chimney perched above the home, it is as just as good as a tree for birds, owls, squirrels, raccoons, and other critters that are looking for a dry place to rest, hide their food, and escape predators. If your home is on a migratory path, your roof and chimney may be a frequent rest stop for many birds on their way to their next destination. Once on top of the chimney, these curious critters will climb in an open flue where they can make quite a mess, building nests, foraging food, and even hatching their young. While some animals will eventually leave, others may become trapped and actually perish in the chimney, requiring chimney debris removal and cleaning.
Animals are not typically quiet creatures, so hearing strange noises like screeching or scratching, especially at night, is a common sign that there may be unwanted guests living in the chimney. Also, there may be a foul smell emanating from the fireplace due to decaying organic matter. You might even spot feathers, pests, or droppings in the fireplace, indicating the presence of animals.
While these small critters may look cute and cuddly, they pose a danger to the chimney and your home. They attract pests like mice, rats, cockroaches, and other rodents that can carry parasites and diseases dangerous to humans and pets. In addition, some individuals have pest allergies, and their presence can cause an allergic reaction. Also, their nests can obstruct the flue sending smoke and fumes into your home instead of out the chimney when you light the fireplace increasing the risk of carbon monoxide exposure.
If you suspect that there are live animals in the chimney, don’t try to remove them yourself. Also, don’t light the fireplace to smoke them out. Instead, contact a Certified Chimney Sweep®, like A-1 Chimney Specialist or your local pest control service. A trained professional will safely trap and remove the animal from your chimney and release it in its natural habitat.
Installing a stainless-steel chimney cap is the best way to keep animals and pests out of your chimney. These devices are available in several attractive styles that will complement any chimney design. They feature a mesh screen that protects your flue from animals and pests while allowing the smoke and exhaust to escape. It also has a spark arrestor that prevents hot embers in the chimney from landing on your roof.
Even if you don’t think animals are living in the chimney, you still need an annual chimney inspection, preferably in the spring or summer. The annual review is necessary to ensure there are no flue obstructions, combustible deposits, or other damages that can interfere with the safe operation and venting of your fireplace and attached heating appliances. During the top-to-bottom visual inspection, the chimney sweep also checks the chimney cap to ensure it is secure and is keeping animals and pests out of the chimney. If the chimney cap is not secure or if it is damaged, a chimney cap repair or replacement will be necessary to protect your chimney and fireplace from surrounding wildlife.