Fireplaces are amazing on those cold winter days and nights, but they come with some basic maintenance that you must perform to keep your home and your family safe. Many homeowners don’t even think about the idea of animals getting into their chimneys, but they can do a lot of damage. Here are some of the reasons why animals in the chimney are such big problems.
#1 – They Can Get Inside Your Home
Though chimneys have chimney caps and dampers designed to prevent rain, leaves, and even animals from getting inside their homes, these things can fail from time to time. In some cases, homeowners may even forget to close off their dampers – a flap inside the chimney that opens and closes and allows for airflow – after the last fire of the season. If the chimney cap is faulty, or if homeowners do not have a chimney cap, this offers the perfect opportunity for animals to use the chimney as a door into your home.
Many different animals have been known to enter homes through chimneys. These include birds, bats, squirrels, and various others depending on where you live. These animals can do a great deal of damage inside your home, and they can also leave excrement behind that can cause foul odors. Worse still, some of them carry diseases they can pass along to you and your family.
#2 – They Can Get Stuck and Die
If an animal can enter your chimney through the top but cannot get into your home due to the closed damper, this also presents an issue. Birds and bats may be able to fly back out if they are uninjured, but other animals like squirrels and raccoons may find themselves completely stuck. If the chimney has even a small amount of soot and creosote buildup, the buildup can get on the animal and prevent it from making its escape.
When an animal enters your chimney but cannot get back out, the animal will likely die. Not only is this incredibly sad, but the animal carcass on top of your damper can cause a foul odor that the damper and fire doors combined cannot keep out of your home. A chimney cap in good repair should prevent this.
#3 – They Carry Diseases and Pests
Depending on the type of animal that gets stuck in your chimney, the droppings, excrement, or dander could make your family sick – especially if they have compromised immune systems, respiratory issues, or severe allergies. Birds can carry diseases like bird flu that can be transmitted to humans and make them very ill, and they can carry lice and other pests that may affect your family, as well.
Bats pose a significant risk, as well. Their guano is associated with histoplasmosis, which is more commonly known as spelunker’s lung and can cause serious illness. If caught early, histoplasmosis is typically confined to the lungs. However, if the disease is not treated right away, it can spread throughout the body and become fatal. Once again, ensuring your chimney cap is in good repair is the best way to prevent this.
Animals in the wild may be cute and interesting, but when they get inside your chimney, they can be downright dangerous. Fortunately, you can prevent damage, illness, foul odors, and more by having your chimney inspected annually and keeping your chimney cap in good repair.