What to Do When…

Chimney ownership comes with its own challenges, and you may not know what to do in every situation. We’re here to help by going over some of the most common ‘Uh oh’ scenarios of chimney ownership and what you should do in each situation.

Plus, we’ll cover why you might find yourself in these types of situations in the first place and what you can do to prevent them in the future.

Let’s get started…

What to Do When… You Have Birds in Your Chimney

So, you’ve heard the chirping and the scratching and you’re 99% sure you’ve got birds nesting inside of your chimney. What can you do?

The best thing to do is schedule a chimney inspection with a CSIA-Certified Chimney Sweep®. A sweep will be able to use camera equipment to look inside the flue and not only confirm that you do in fact have birds inside, but also identify what type of birds you have nesting in your chimney.

This is important because not all birds can be legally removed.

For example, Chimney Swifts are federally protected birds that love to nest inside of chimneys, as well as in abandoned buildings and even stone wells on occasion. These birds are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and cannot legally be removed from your chimney.

Chimney Swifts winter in the Amazon Basin of Peru. They arrive in the continental US in late March and are gone by early November. Nesting begins in May and can continue into August. Once an entire brood has fledged, they will fly with their parents in slow, noisy parades around the area of the nest site. The young will return frequently to the roost during the first few days post-fledging but will soon begin to visit other roosts in the area.

At the end of the breeding season, the Swifts’ communal instincts peak prior to fall migration. They congregate in flocks of hundreds and even thousands at suitable roost sites. Although Chimney Swifts can withstand a few early cool snaps, they will usually head south on the first major cloud front that blows through in the fall.

If a sweep tells you that you have Chimney Swifts inside your chimney, you’ll need to wait until they leave of their own accord, schedule a cleaning, and take measures to prevent them from returning.

If the birds in your chimney are NOT federally protected and can be removed, the chimney sweep may be able to do so humanely or recommend someone who can. Regulations differ from state to state, which may determine what the chimney sweep can or can’t do.

How can you prevent birds, including Chimney Swifts, from getting into your chimney in the future?

Put a cap on it! Chimney caps are designed to protect the flue against rain, snow, and sleet, while also keeping birds and animals out. With a properly fitted chimney cap on your chimney top, you won’t have to worry about birds getting in again.

What to Do When… You Smell Gas Coming From Your Fireplace

You shouldn’t be able to smell natural gas or a rotten egg type smell coming from your fireplace. If you do, something is wrong.

So, what should you do if you smell gas coming from your fireplace? Turn the appliance off and call your utility provider. They should be able to check for a gas leak. They may also recommend that you have your chimney and fireplace inspected by a CSIA-Certified Chimney Sweep® to ensure that everything is installed and working correctly.

What to Do When… Your Chimney Is Clogged

Clogged chimneys can be a big problem for safety, efficiency, and performance. What can you do if you have (or suspect you have) a blockage? The first thing to do is schedule an inspection with a CSIA- Certified Chimney Sweep®. Using video scanning equipment specifically for chimneys, the sweep will be able to get a look at your flue’s interior, so they can confirm and locate the blockage.

What happens from there will depend on the blockage:

  • If the blockage is from something like nesting materials or creosote, they’ll recommend a chimney cleaning to remove the blockage.
  • If the blockage is from broken flue tiles, they may recommend a flue relining or flue repair.

What can you do to prevent chimney blockages in the first place?

Have a quality chimney cap installed and keep up with routine chimney inspections and cleanings. This will ensure your flue liner stays in great shape and that your chimney stays clean and clear of outside debris, birds, animals, nesting materials, and creosote buildup.

What to Do When… a Chimney Fire Occurs

Chimney fires are scary because they can do a lot of damage quickly. You may not even know a chimney fire is occurring, but if you do suspect a chimney fire, the best thing to do is leave the house (take your pets and loved ones with you!) and call 911.

If you are burning wood, you may also want to keep a Chimfex® Chimney Fire Extinguisher on hand. This CSIA-approved product can be used to control the fire until the fire department arrives. Here’s a quick how-to-use guide you can print out and keep with your Chimfex®.

Once you’ve been cleared to return to the home, schedule a chimney inspection with a CSIA-Certified Chimney Sweep® to assess the damage so you know what needs to be done.

For more on chimney fires, the signs of a chimney fire, and what causes chimney fires, read The Facts About Chimney Fires.

What to Do When… You Think You Have a Chimney Leak

You’ve likely heard it before, but water is your chimney’s worst enemy. And that’s why, if you suspect a chimney leak, the sooner you act, the better.

What should you do?

Start by scheduling an inspection with a CSIA-Certified Chimney Sweep®. A sweep will have the tools, equipment, and knowledge to quickly pinpoint the source of the leak and recommend effective, long-lasting solutions.

You may need flashing repairs, a new chimney cap, a new chase cover, crown repairs, or masonry repairs. Whatever you need, schedule repairs ASAP – time is of the essence where water is concerned.

For all you need to know about chimney leaks, what causes them, how to prevent them, what the signs of a leak are, and why it’s so important to act fast when you have a chimney leak, check out Chimney Leaks: What to Do If You Have One & How to Prevent Them. Did We Miss Anything?

Have questions about scenarios we didn’t cover here? Let us know – we’re always looking for ways to add more value and cover more topics that homeowners like you will find helpful. Reach out at office@csia.org or give us a call at 317-837-5362 to share your ideas!


In case you were wondering, here are 5 Things You Can Do to Help Your Chimney and Fireplace, brought to you from our Homeowner Resources.