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Birds Don’t Belong in Chimneys

Birds Love Chimneys

A common problem homeowners have to face is different types of wildlife coming into their home and causing chaos, and animals in the chimney are no different.  We often worry about burning habits that we forget to check for other things that could go wrong inside of the structure.  However, having a Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) certified company send in a technician to do a chimney sweep will give you an idea of what is in or has been in your chimney.  The people at A-1 Chimney Specialist are ready to save the day when you give the call.

There is one bird in particular that is known for getting into chimneys referred to as a chimney swift.  They are very small birds with slender bodies and long, narrow, curved wings.  They have short tapered tails, a round head, and a wide but nearly invisible bill.  They appear black at a distance but are actually dark gray-brown.

These birds are protected by Federal law, so don't  try and remove them. Let us handle it.

These birds are protected by Federal law, so don’t try and remove them. Let us handle it.

Don’t Smoke Them Out

These birds like to make homes in chimneys and other vertical surfaces that are dim, such as air vents, trees, and wells.  Even though they do have a specific spot for nesting, they are usually very short with time out of air as they are always flying. With their long claws, they are not able to perch like other birds, but can cling to walls.  Chimney Swifts are also able to bathe while they are flying because they just grace the top of the water and rise up as they shake it off.  They also eat airborne insects while flying, such as flies and bees.  The birds have special sticky saliva to secure their nests to the walls of chimneys.

The oldest chimney swift on record was released in Ohio in 1970, but today they are near threatened.  They have been declining over 2 percent per year for many decades.  Part of the problem is that traditional brick chimneys are deteriorating and the modern style is not fit for nesting.  Also, people are putting caps on their unused chimneys where the bird cannot get in.  Depending on when a chimney sweep is administered, it can tear down an existing nest if the birds are in their nesting season.  If you have a chimney swift nest in your chimney, you cannot get rid of it until after the young have left the nest.  Chimney sweeps know not to do a sweep if they know that there are young in the structure as part of the Migratory Bird Act, as they can be fined or penalized.



Ready for Inspection?

What to Expect During a Chimney Inspection

If you are a responsible chimney owner then you probably already know that your chimney should be inspected and swept at least once a year. You also probably already know what to expect during the process. But what if you are a new chimney owner or possibly have a new appreciation for what it means to be a responsible chimney owner. Well have no fear. Apprehension is common the first time you have someone start looking around all up in your flue. Lucky for you we are here to dispel some of the common myths about chimney inspections and have you looking like a pro when that first chimney sweeper comes calling at your door.

If you have a chimney (working or not) you need an annual cleaning and inspection. This ensures maximum safety and protects the structural integrity of your home.

If you have a chimney (working or not) you need an annual cleaning and inspection. This ensures maximum safety and protects the structural integrity of your home.

The first thing a chimney sweep will do is lay down a tarp or other covering to contain the mess. Chimney inspections can be a messy business but as with many things if there’s no mess it’s not being done right. A chimney sweep will be checking every nook within your chimney to make sure there are no cracks, creosote buildups, or other potential problems. This has a tendency to dislodge a small amount of soot. Thus the tarp. This will contain the mess and keep your living room or den as clean as it was when the sweep arrived. After everything is properly covered the sweep will get to doing the dirty work.

One of the first things a chimney sweep will check is that you are using proper protection. Every chimney should have a liner within it that will contain the nasty byproducts that result from regular use of your fireplace. There are 3 main types of chimney liners (ceramic tile, steel, and cast in place) which will determine exactly what problems the sweep will be checking for. As an example if you have a ceramic tile liner the sweep will be checking for cracked or broken tiles as well as cracks in between the tiles. If a problem is found your chimney sweep will know the best way to deal with it.

In addition to making sure that your byproducts are being properly contained a chimney sweep will check for buildups of creosote that could lead to a costly chimney fire. Creosote will build up within your chimney as the smoke from a fire in your fireplace moves up the chimney and cools. This tar-like gunk is flammable and if enough of it builds up can catch fire. No one wants to have to deal with a burning in their chimney so it is best to be proactive in keeping your chimney clean. A good sweeping once a year will help prevent creosote from becoming a problem.

When many people think of a chimney inspection the envision a soot-covered man peering at the inside of your chimney but what many people do not realize is that just as important is the state of the outside of your chimney. The most common cause of chimney damage is not from fire but is actually from water. Most chimneys are masonry structures and with any masonry structure exposed to wind and rain it can develop cracks. If water gets into these cracks it can freeze and thaw causing expansion and contraction that can do a lot of damage to your structure. There is also the issue of mold and mildew that can be a result of water seepage. It is important to identify these structural blemishes early. If a crack is left unchecked it can spread and before you know it you can have a serious structural situation on your hands. Cracks in the masonry can also lead to less efficiency with regards to the operation of your chimney as they allow air and moisture to get inside. There are several processes with which to repair problems of this nature and your chimney sweep will know best which to perform should the situation call for it.

Depending on the nature of the inspection will depend just how in-depth the chimney sweep will go. There are 3 types of inspection. The first will deal mostly with the easily accessible features of a chimney and is most commonly performed as part of seasonal maintenance. The second level requires the opening of access panels and may involve the chimney sweep going into the attic or other areas to check the masonry. The third level involves actual removal of parts of the chimney and is reserved for if a level 2 inspection reveals intense damage that needs to be immediately addressed. In most cases a level 3 inspection is not necessary.

So whether your fireplace is worn from years of use or brand new and ready to start getting its burn on it is important to have your flue inspected. Chimneys come in all shapes and sizes and can have issues as unique as the structure itself so make sure that you are taking proper care of yours. Don’t let the fear of what an inspection might find stop you from having it done. In the long run you will be glad you did!