Superior Chimney Sweep

An Open Chimney is an Invitation to Animal Invaders

By Karen Lamansky
Lindermann Chimney Supply

Having an open chimney to an animal is like an open window.  Only chimneys are better.  They are a little more remote, offer more privacy and are quiet enough to nest in.  Just as you are not likely to leave your window open, you need to think twice about leaving your chimney uncapped.  Animals can bring in all kinds of undesirable baggage.


bird droppings stinkSo where do you think critters “go” when they are in your chimney?  I can assure you there’s no “little bird’s room.”  So what does this mean?  It means mounds of animal and bird-doo can build up in your chimney carrying with it fungus, bacteria, diseases and other discussing micro-organisms.  And does it stink? You bet!

Cuddly Critters – Not!!

These animals that invade your chimney aren’t just cuddly cartoon critters.  They can be vicious and willful.  Raccoons typically nest in trees with holes and chimneys.  They can crawl in and out of chimneys.

The raccoon is a skillful climber.  Their feet rotate 180 degrees when climbing headfirst.  Their front paws are hand like with long, flexible, dexterous toes.  When cornered they become mean and can attack, especially when protecting their young.  Imagine opening your fireplace damper with several of these masked bandits snarling at you!

A Squirrel on Adrenaline

If you want to see a close enactment of a squirrel on adrenaline, watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  A fitting take-off of that movie would be for Clark Griswold to open his fireplace damper on New Years Eve only to have that same squirrel, now covered with soot, bouncing around his house while everyone tries to catch it.  It may sound funny, but I guarantee it won’t be if it’s your house.

This has been known to happen.  The first thing most people do it they hear a scratching above their fireplace is to grab a flashlight, open the damper and look into the chimney.  That’s all the invitation that a sooty critter needs to come bounding into your house in an adrenaline rush.  That critter doesn’t care how much your collectibles cost.  It doesn’t know it shouldn’t mess on your kitchen counter.  It just wants out.  And how much would the cleaning gill alone cost you?


Just like kids and relatives often bring extras to dinner, so does your not-so-friendly neighborhood critter.  Critters bring along ticks, fleas, internal parasites and, of course, parasites from their feces.  So when the sooty squirrel is bouncing all over your house, some of his Tag-A-Longs are probably putting down roots in your carpet.  Even if they stay confined to the smoke shelf of the fireplace, dust, debris and dander from these critters can still find their way into your home.  Or should I say their new home?

Unclean Guests

Unlike human company, your critters won’t likely step into the shower before descending into your chimney.  They bring with them remnants of their previous location like dirt, feces, body odor and more unthinkable debris.  All that could separate you from them is a metal fireplace damper door that probably doesn’t seal very well.

Protecting Against Critter Invasion

To protect yourself against chimney critter invasion, ask your Chimney Professional about a solution.  Chimney caps consist of a base, a screen and a lid.  Caps not only prevent critter invasion, but also protect the chimney against rain, snow and entry of debris like leaves.  If you have a fireplace, a chimney cap and top-sealing damper combination will not only prevent critters from entering the chimney, it will also create and air-tight seal saving you hundreds of dollars on heating costs.

Refuse to share your home with a wild critter.  Have a barrier of defense installed at the top of your chimney – a cap or damper/cap combo.  Not only will it prevent a host of undesirable, unhealthy problems, but will also help protect your chimney against future deterioration.  A cap/damper combo can even save hundreds of dollars on your heating bill!

Don’t wait to hear that scratching in the middle of the night to take action!  By then, you may already have a whole family of critters living happily in your chimney.

Karen Lamansky has been involved with the hearth industry for 20 years and is the author of “Fireplace Design Ideas” published by Creative Homeowner.

Reprinted, with permission, from the April 2009 issue of The Chimney Sweep News, an independent trade magazine for chimney service professionals.  Jim Gillam, editor/publisher.  541-882-5196.








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