The season has officially turned the corner to fall. The colorful leaves are starting to hit the ground, and the chilly wind has everyone digging through their closets for a warm jacket. Along with this cooler weather comes the season to build fires. In order to keep your home and family safe this burning season, make sure you have your annual chimney sweep and inspection done before lighting the fireplace. One surefire hazard around this time of year is the animals find their way into your chimney.

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As the cold weather sets in, everyone starts looking for ways to stay warm, including the animals. Some animals, like certain birds, migrate to warmer climates for the fall and winter, but others like to stick around. The birds that stay in the area and other small animals like squirrels and raccoons will need a warm place to settle in for the winter. Unfortunately, a recently used fireplace offers a warm, cozy chimney that attracts these animals. Animals flock to the cozy confines of a chimney and even build nests there to make it homier. This can cause some serious problems for you.

When an animal and its nest fill up the flue, the chimney cannot vent properly. The purpose of a chimney is to vent smoke and other harmful gases created by the fire out of your home. If the path of the gases is obstructed by an animal or nest, the toxic fumes have nowhere to go except back down the chimney and into your house.

There are a variety of hazardous chemicals in fire smoke, but a two of them are well-known and deadly. Most people have heard of carbon monoxide. This clear, scentless, tasteless gas results from every type of combustion, meaning your fireplace produces it. If carbon monoxide builds up to too high of concentrations in your home, it can cause suffocation in mere minutes. Another dangerous chemical is creosote. This tarlike product of burning wood floats through the air until it finds something to land on. Inhaling or consuming these tiny particles can have serious health consequences like cancers and birth defects.

All in all, it is in your best interest to keep animals from hunkering down in your chimney. The most effective way to keep animals out is to have a mason install a chimney cap. A chimney cap is a small, usually metal apparatus that allows fumes to leave the chimney but prevents animals and water from entering the chimney. Generally low-cost, this simple investment can save your life.

If you need a new chimney cap put in or have any chimney-related concerns, contact All American Chimney Service, LLC in the Louisville, Kentucky area for a professional consultation.