A Nurse with a Gun

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Chimney Mystery Revealed

Crap.......A few days ago, the noises inside the chimney subsided. I had hoped that the critters inside had vacated the premises. They had not.

Today, when I came home there was the aroma of death throughout the living room. I removed the damper from the fireplace, and poked around with a stick. Nothing jumped. I slipped on some size eight and a half Bio-Gel surgical gloves and tried to reach whatever was inside. Click to enlargeNo luck. Finally, I fired up my digital camera and began to blindly take photos.

I discovered no less than three raccoons in various stages of decomposition behind the back of the firebox. It seems the smoke shelf was never sealed off, and it was a brick pit approximately 30 inches deep. I strained to reach the rotting varmints. There was no way to reach them. I considered using endoscopy instruments, but they just would not be able to carry the weight. Plus, endo tools are not rigid, and I would most likely be removing the coons in chunks. Fishing equipment, gaffs, nets, none would be suitable.

I briefly considered squirting them down with kerosene and cremating the little bastards. Bar-b-qued coon must certainly smell better than rotting coon. There is, however, a capped off natural gas line for fire logs in the fireplace, and when I considered the risks of burning the house down or even blowing it to smithereens, I started to look at other options.

As the funk of decaying coonflesh affected my brain, I came up with a plan......For now, cover them with Great Stuff foam insulation. Make a layer approximately 12 inches thick. Then, take a day off work and fill the recess behind the firebox with concrete, burying the little rotten son of a bitches like Jimmy Hoffa.

Finally, I'm going to climb the damned chimney and cover the top of it with expanded steel. I'll seal that grate down with concrete as well. Then I'll stuff so damned much fiberglass insulation into the smoke chamber that it will be the most weather tight area of this damned house. To hell with it. We have a functional fireplace in the den anyway. The firebox of the living room chimney is painted with white enamel that will bubble and toast in the heat of a fire. That thing will never have a cheery blaze warming us as we sit around the hearth swapping stories in our old age. It's decorative. Instead we can watch Norm freaking Abram on the TV and shoot spitballs in his direction as we remember the dead coon days of yore......



Anonymous Jules said...

Can you reach up in there and sprinkle some quicklime on top of them before you seal it off? It's what I used to do way back when I was animal control and encountered carcasses too big to do more than bury in place.

8:38 PM  
Blogger kbarrett said...

I you want to do t right, I might suggest closing the flume, and sealing your side with foam?

Next year, when there is nothing left, you could clean the mess out by filling it with water, and using a submersible trash pump to drain it and all the remaining crap.

+1 on sealing up the vent up top.

Use bars, then expanded metal. The coons defeated the last grid ... some other ones will do it again.

9:12 PM  
Blogger Squeaky Wheel said...

Oh, gross.

10:01 PM  
Anonymous Bob in Houston. said...

Can you get the more solid of the coons in the pic out with a gaff? Or maybe one of those Great Dane sized pooper-scoopers? Maybe a lobby dustpan and a long handled linoleum scraper to push the rest of the remains into it? I keep think what if there is the slightest crack underneath the remains, all that Great Stuff and concrete might make it harder to remove if it starts oozing. Or maybe as Jules says, hose it down with Quicklime but then come back in a month and hit it with a shop vac, preferably one you won't miss.

10:50 PM  
Blogger Vinnie said...

Treble hook taped to a broomstick, have extra hooks so you can just cut the tape and drop the glop in a bag.
Chicken wire is cheaper than expanded mettle.

Fixing it right is cheaper and easier than doing it over when well... they get runny.

Trust me, I had dead cats under my house this winter. No fun.

2:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I may propose something.. if you seal them down they will stink indefinitely... Someone proposed lime and I proposed some modern washing machine powder. There was that "perfect crime' documentary.. in 2 week it stripped flesh from the bones to a perfect clear, both fat and meat... Of course if hole isn't waterproof it will not work... But whatever you do expect lot of bugs coming out from every damn hole... We had bird down the ventilation shaft...wow that was a lot of bugs until we found where they are coming from...

Cheers Herrmannek :)

2:40 AM  
Anonymous Blackwing1 said...

Whatever you do, DON'T seal the carcasses in there...no matter how tightly you try to seal it up, the rotting flesh is going to stink for a long, long time. Even just dead mice in brick wall will reek for 6 months to a year before they dessicate enough to dry out and stop rotting...I can't imagine how much water mass there is in a dead 'coon carcass.

And DON'T depend on chicken wire to close off the top...'coons can chew their way right through chicken wire. Flattened expanded metal of at least 16 gauge (better is to find some 14 gauge) with backer-bars is the minimum you want. I've had raccoons and woodchucks gnaw right through chicken wire to get to a garden; gods know what they'd do to get to what they think is a good nest.

7:45 AM  
Blogger bumper sticker philosopher said...

+1 on the quick lime. hundreds of murderers, gangsters and municipal road-kill workers can't be wrong.

9:01 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Guys, you are starting to make me think I will have to tear out the brick to get at the damned things. There is no way other than that. The old arm will not reach. I tried hooks and line from the top of the chimney.

Perhaps I should just seal off the flue and let the aroma out the top of the stack........

Oh......and it will be an expanded steel/angle iron grate welded up and bolted to the top of the stack, not chicken wire.

9:49 AM  
Anonymous cranky said...

By July, the maggots will have eaten everything wet and stinky, so you'll have no problem vacuuming/dragging out the fur and bones.


2:25 PM  
Blogger kbarrett said...

+ 2 on the quicklime ... probably a better solution than what I proposed.

8:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Call a chimney sweep. He has probably delt with this before and has solutions you wouldn't think of.

9:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

quicklime sounds like your best bet here.

and a big WTF on decorative fireplaces in general. after all the trouble of building a chimney that's got holes everywhere a real, functional chimney would have holes, yet without any of the liners a real chimney needs... and enameling the firebox, with some stuff that wouldn't stand heat... wouldn't it have been just as easy for whomever to just build a proper fireplace you could have actually used, instead?

ech, i'll never understand people who prefer form over function. give me pretty stuff i can use for decoration, sure, but make it pretty stuff that works.

11:17 AM  
Anonymous Mike Y said...

Best d*mn dead coon graphic ever!

12:13 PM  
Blogger Rorschach said...

+3 on the quicklime.

Other options, 50/50 liquid drain cleaner plus water, it will dissolve the rotting carcass and keep the smell down too. but then you have to wait until it evaporates. And the sodium hypochorite may also dissolve/attack the grout/mortar holding the bricks together so that might not be a great idea.

tape plastic sheet over the hearth to keep the smell out of the house while nature takes it's course. in a week or two the only thing left should be a skeleton or three.

4:06 PM  
Blogger Dr. StrangeGun said...

+4 on quicklime, maybe with a little red devil mixed in as well. Alkali won't attack the masonry.

When you seal a rotting body, it goes anaerobic. When rotting flesh goes anaerobic, it liquifies. Liquid seeps into, perhaps through, masonry.

8:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you do decide to seal it in, which I suspect you won't considering what others have told you, do NOT use "Great Stuff" expanding foam. It will melt the next time you use your fireplace. When it does, it will likely release toxic fumes into your home. Also, a large sealed volume of the stuff won't cure as it needs to be open to the air to cure.

9:54 AM  

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