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How to Keep Animals out of Your Chimney

Chimneys offer ideal shelter for a variety of smaller animals. That’s good for the animals but bad for you, the homeowner. Animals inside your chimney can cause several potentially serious problems. Here’s what you need to know about this issue and how to prevent it.

chimney swifts, esopus nyThe types of animals that hang out in chimneys

Depending on where you live, you may find many different little walking and flying critters inside your chimney at various times of the year. These include:

  • Squirrels
  • Birds such as sparrows, owls
    and chimney swifts
  • Raccoons
  • Mice and rats
  • Bats
  • Snakes

Problems caused by critter infiltration

There are three ways animals in your chimney can cause problems:

  1. They can build nests that may catch fire. Additionally, nesting material can impede the efficient drafting of smoke and harmful combustion gases such as carbon monoxide and send these toxins back into your home.
  2. The animals can die inside the chimney. Some species of animals are unable to get out of a chimney, and this can lead to horrible smells moving into your room as well as another way of blocking the drafting of smoke.
  3. Your home can be host to unwanted visitors. If you forget to close your fireplace damper, any of the animals we’re talking about here can easily scurry down the flue and make it into your house.

A note on chimney swifts

The chimney swift is a small bird that is federally protected – meaning it’s illegal to disturb them during their nesting season, which often happens inside chimneys.

Chimney swifts can’t perch like other birds. They cling to porous surfaces, such as the inside of chimney flues that aren’t lined with stainless steel (non-grabbable) liners.

If you have or suspect you have chimney swifts in your chimney, contact a licensed chimney service or local game and fish to be advised on how to handle the problem.

chimney cap, beekman nyThe best way to keep everything out of your chimney

For some reason, many homeowners operate their chimneys without sturdy chimney caps or flue covers in place. Chimney caps generally are full-width components that cover and protect the entire top of a chimney including the flue opening. Flue covers guard just the flue opening, but that’s enough when it comes to keeping critters out.

If you don’t have a chimney cap or cover, you’re opening yourself up to not only small-animal infiltration but also all kinds of airborne debris such as leaves and twigs from nearby trees. This material, like animal nests, can quickly cause a major disruption to air flow and venting within your chimney.

So to prevent the critter problem, have a licensed chimney technician evaluate your chimney and recommend the best type of chimney cap to protect your flue opening as well as the concrete chimney crown and upper-level bricks and mortar.

As to debris currently in your chimney, your technician likely can perform a thorough chimney sweeping to rid your flue of nesting materials, dead animals, tree debris and built-up creosote, which is highly flammable and the cause of most chimney fires.

Hudson Valley Chimney of Poughkeepsie, NY, is on call year-round to help with chimney cap installation, chimney cleaning, chimney inspections and all manner of chimney repair projects. We’re licensed and CSIA-certified. Reach a professional today at (845) 471-1071.

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