Who’s in Your Chimney?
The only creature you ever want to enter your home through the chimney is a mythical one. Santa Clause, however, isn’t the only one who’ll treat your flue like a front door -- birds, bats, squirrels, raccoons and chimney swifts will gladly invite themselves in through your chimney if you give them the opportunity.
As an open portal from your fireplace to the outdoors designed to allow smoke to escape, chimneys -- especially when the hearth below goes dormant in the summer -- make a tempting nesting spot for all manner of wildlife. That’s bad news for everyone -- both for the family who lives there and the animal that decides to take up residence with them.
For one, animal traffic through your chimney exposes your family to a wide variety of dangerous diseases such as Lyme disease and rabies. Also, the animal waste that could collect in your flue or hearth poses its own health concerns in the forms of histoplasmosis, toxoplasmosis and salmonellosis.
Not to mention the damage to your property and the necessary cleanup that becomes more and more difficult the longer wild animals roost in your chimney. Rodents and other vermin can chew up insulation, wood, ductwork and electrical. Nests and other debris can obstruct and clog your flue. Nevermind if an animal were to actually get into the main part of your home!
Of course, it doesn’t take much imagination to know how devastating it would be for the animals themselves if you were to fire up the hearth when the weather turns cold again, unaware of their presence.
Speaking of which, it’s a huge mistake to try to start a fire and smoke any wayward wildlife out of your chimney. Not only can it harm the animal, it can scare the animal, causing it to lash out and cause even further damage to your flue, which’ll cost you more in the long run.
Signs You’ve Got Company
How can you tell if your chimney is housing more than just soot (besides waiting for something to plop down into your fireplace)? Here are some signs you’ve got chimney critters:
Noises: Scratching, rustling, scurrying or squeaking.
Droppings: Both inside and outside the fireplace, flue and chimney.
Gnawing: If you see signs of gnawing throughout your house, it might be rodents.
Urine trails/pillars: You’ll probably smell it before you see it.
Nests: A telltale sign, for sure.
Odor: The nose knows.
Anxious pets: The best nose (and ears) in your home probably belongs to the family pet, and unwanted creatures tend to make them anxious.
If you do discover some critters squatting in your chimney, you’ll need a wildlife removal expert to both safely rehome the creature(s) and to help create an exclusion to prevent them from getting back in.
To help prevent this from happening to begin with, make sure to install a properly-fitting chimney cap and always keep your flue closed when not in use. Keeping wildlife out of your chimney in the first place will go a long way toward making sure they don’t take up residence.
Suspect a wayward tenant in your chimney? Schedule a complimentary inspection with your local wildlife professional.