A Nurse with a Gun

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Noises From The Flue

Brrrrruuuuuulipliplip! Brrrrruuuuuuliplipliplip! Brrrrrrruuuuuulipliplip! There has been an unsettling noise emanating from our living room fireplace. Ilsa heard it first, and found it intensely interesting. In the middle of the night, I heard it. Coons......It had to be raccoons. They are attracted to the cat food my wife-mate puts out on the front porch for the strays. Occasionally I will be greeted by the varmints as I pull into the driveway at night, my headlights grazing across their gleaming eyes with black masked faces.

I leaned my tallest ladder, the one I use to paint the gingerbread in the gables, against the chimney. I stuffed a flashlight and camera in my pocket, and up I went. A sturdy piece of wire screen covered the top of the chimney, but something had pried a six inch diameter hole into it. The noises did not sound like squirrels.......My neighbor keeps doves, perhaps they had taken up residence. Maybe a possum........

Then I realized my position, at the top of a forty foot ladder, looking down a brick passageway to God knows what. Shining a light and flashing a camera at God knows what. I never claimed to be the sharpest card in the deck, but I damn sure ain't the dullest. I climbed down and decided to live and let live. I'll just keep the flue closed.



Anonymous Travlin said...

When my teenage son was home from school one day we heard something fall and crash in the basement. Upon looking we found a starling flying around. We eventually shooed it upstairs and out the back door.

We found no openings in the basement where it could get in. A friend explained the mystery. It perched on the chimney top to beat the frigid weather, and overcome by fumes it fell in. Then it revived and wiggled through the vent pipe, and out of the vent on top of the water heater! We looked and there is an opening in the vent pipe of the heater for fresh air to create an updraft.

About a week later my son was home from school and the same damn bird was in the basement again! My chimney is in the middle of a steep roof of a 2-1/2 story house. I wasn't about to climb up there to repair the screen, and it would cost a lot to hire it done.

Fortunately the bird-brain seemed to learn his lesson and hasn't been back for a third time. Or maybe he just fell into the water heater and got boiled.

My son is now sent to school even if he is sick. We just drink cold water at our house.

10:43 PM  
Anonymous Jack said...

Is that really a pic you took of your chimney?

12:02 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Yeah Jack, it is. I was hoping to get a photo of whatever was in there.

1:29 AM  
Blogger Peripatetic Engineer said...

Possum. Had a small one crawl through the drier vent and into the gas drier. Made a nest and took up residence. Don't know why the heat didn't drive him out or why it didn't catch on fire. Found him when I was cleaning out the vent tube. .22 rat shot was the cure.

6:15 AM  
Anonymous Blackwing1 said...

That's one very strangely shaped chimney...more like a slot than the typical square-ish profile.

It's also very clean. No fireplace? You'd certainly want to have it tuck-pointed before burning anything in it though...some of the bricks appear a little loose.

Here in Minnesnowta the raccoons are one of the biggest wild reservoirs of rabies. We had a den of them in the neighbor's garage that we trapped and had killed because of that...they're just plain dangerous around kids, too.

8:20 AM  
Blogger phlegmfatale said...

"this damned house" should be a tv show.

8:29 AM  
Anonymous WR Olsen said...

I ran a chimney cleaning company for a number of years and your chimney looks to be clear of animal life. But it's an unlined flue that depending on the appliance attached to the chimney needs to be looked at. A wood stove (which doesn't appear to be the case) puts out a lot of creosote that would soak into the brick...very dangerous

8:46 AM  
Anonymous Kristopher said...

You probably should have closed the hole in the grill, and maybe added bars.

Even if you leave the flue closed, you'll have problems ... like birds or animals building nests on the flue because it's warm there.

10:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

raccoons can get moderately destructive, and if one were to fall into the fireplace while Ilsa was present, the chase might be merry indeed. i'd fix the chimney screen, were it me. not sure how best to fix it so the coons can't just break it open again, though.

the real solution might be to wait for the left-out cat food to attract a skunk, then diplomatically suggest that feeding stray cats perhaps isn't such a great idea after all.

11:51 AM  
Anonymous Mikee said...

A fireplace with something alive somewhere up the flue, that came in through a hole in the screening on top of the chimney? If only there were some way to safely create within the flue a noxious condition - like smoke or heat or flame - that would encourage the creature to exit the chimney by means of the same place it came in, the top of the flue! But what could we use, and where could we use it? Suggestions, anyone?

12:24 PM  
Blogger jon spencer said...

The flue looks like the chimney is just being used for a gas furnace or water heaters.
However here is a question.
Where is the chimney liner?
As it looks now, it could be a home fire waiting to happen.
Look into chimney liners or inserts.
If your insurance company sees the picture, your rates and or coverage could be affected.

12:30 PM  
Blogger BobG said...

I've had a couple of starlings come down my chimney, and even a woodpecker once, that flew around inside the house and raised all sorts of hell until I could herd it toward the front door and shoo it out.

12:57 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

the chimney/fireplace is from about 1923 when the house was built, thus, no liner. I suspect it was never used at all, actually. The brick fireplace hearth and mantle inside the living room was, at some point, painted with thick white oil based paint. I would never build a fire in it. The fumes would be horrendous.

In fact, I sealed off the flue with insulation, "Great Stuff" amnd caulk a few years back to prevent heat/cooling loss. We use a modern fireplace in the den.

I don't want to seal whatever it is in there so that it will die or be forced to try to escape through the bottom of the shaft.

4:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

.... I suspect that you've got a bad, bad springtime case of frogs, bud...... I suggest you build a fire immediately.....


7:37 PM  
Blogger Ruth said...

When I was a kid my parent's cats were suddenly immensly attracted to the pipe from the wood burning stove to the chimney. Finially my dad pulled it apart, expecting a mouse nest, or possibly a small bird (we'd had starlings and chickadee's in there before, and it had been over a year since it was last used) and instead discovered a full grown female mallard duck.

She had somehow fallen down the chimney, and instead of landing on the bottom managed to fly into the pipe (about 1/4 of the way up the chimney) and down it to sit on the flu, where she was stuck because there wasn't room for her to spread wing at all.

We figured (based on the cat's reactions) that she'd probly been there for several days, so we stuck her into one of the cat carriers and hauled her down to the local SPCA for them to clean up and eventually release. They didn't believe us when we told them where we found her, till they actually took her out of the carrier and realized she was covered in soot. But she cleaned up well, and was released a couple days later.

7:45 PM  
Blogger TrueBlueSam said...

We had this situation last year on a much shorter chimney. The coon will come out at night to forage, so you will have to watch at dusk for it to leave, then seal off the top of the chimney. You will have to find a way to mitigate the danger of working on a ladder in the dark. Remove the damper at the bottom af the flue and the babies will be on the smoke shelf. I siliconed a sheet of aluminum on the top to seal the flue from animals. Good Luck!

8:36 PM  

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