One of the most common chimney issues that homeowners encounter is having wildlife nest inside. Your home's chimney is an ideal shelter that's warm, dry and safe. One of the most common tenants to find inside your chimney is squirrels. After all, they are used to living in the hollows of trees. Your chimney can resemble a hollowed out tree to a squirrel, and once they climb in, it can be hard to get out unless the walls are masonry. Here are some tips for getting rid of squirrels in the chimney and preventing chimney fires.
Signs of Squirrels in the Chimney
When you have squirrels in your chimney, you're likely to hear scratching noises in the chimney during the day. The timeframe is important, because that will indicate that it's squirrels instead of a nocturnal creature.
You may also see signs of squirrel droppings in the fireplace. Since animal droppings can be hard to distinguish, you should have it confirmed first. Since the droppings can be hazardous, it's important to have your chimney cleaned thoroughly once you've eliminated the squirrels.
Getting a Squirrel Out of the Chimney
As soon as you've identified your chimney guest as a squirrel, you'll need to determine where it is stuck. It may be in the main flu, or it could be stuck between the insulating flu. The easiest way to determine where it is would be to climb up on the roof and check the chimney cap to find the hole where the squirrel went.
If it went into a gap between your inner and outer flu, you aren't going to be able to catch it. In this case, the easiest thing to do is to drop a heavy-duty rope down into the space for the squirrel to climb out. You may have to leave the rope there for a while before the squirrel will be confident enough to climb it. Just keep checking the space regularly to see if it is still there. You may even be able to tell when it leaves by the sounds around your chimney. The scratching noises will stop when the squirrel is gone.
Main Chimney Flu
For squirrels that are in the main flu, you'll need to take a more proactive approach to get rid of it. If it's stuck in the chimney, you can try using the same rope approach to encourage it to climb out. Alternatively, opening the damper at the bottom will also provide an exit. Sometimes, the squirrel isn't stuck but nesting in the chimney space. If you can see where the squirrel is from above, look to see if it seems distressed. If not, chances are that it may be nesting in the chimney instead.
When you open the damper, you should have the fireplace enclosed with a trap inside. Bait the trap with cut up oranges, and then block off the space with metal screens. Secure the metal screens so that they are touching the walls on either side of the fireplace. This will keep the squirrel from getting loose in the house before you can trap it.
Once you've caught and relocated the squirrel, schedule a chimney sweep cleaning. This gets rid of any nesting material and squirrel waste that could be potentially hazardous to your health. Don't burn the fireplace again until you've had the chimney cleaned out, though, as there may be material in there that could lead to a serious chimney fire.
Squirrels can be a real nuisance in your chimney. If you think you have one settling into your chimney, the information here can help you deal with it. With the right approach, you can avoid any lasting damage to your chimney.