Musings from Quince

Chim-Chiminy….Fun at Home, not really!

Well, well…..just when I was ready to get serious about a few decorating tips, something came up over the last several days which I feel compelled to write about!  Those of us who live in houses, whether owned or rented, indeed are aware that on occasion, certain types of unpleasantries must be dealt with in a timely fashion or else the situation at hand will only worsen, requiring even more $$ and time to correct.  I think it was 5 days ago that sounds began emanating from the fireplace in my dining room.  The damper is always closed, of course, but it sounded like a critter or 2 had found a way to get right down to the grate at the bottom.  My 3 cats were all sitting in a row, right under the damper, staring in wonderment, waiting for something to somehow fly or run out; a couple of days later, a rather nasty odor, downright gross, began to fill the dining area, and I surmised something must be (there’s no delicate way to say this) dead in the chimney.  Ugh….with temps. in the high 90’s you can imagine my dismay….I checked out the basement to make sure it wasn’t the source (no problem) and then noticed outside that a few maple tree branches had grown quite a bit and were now hovering over part of  the roof, providing a natural springboard for critters to use as they scampered about from branch to branch.

Mr. Chimney Sweep, c.1910

Per usual, things like this usually happen at the very end of a work week, or during a holiday weekend, so I figured I’d call my chimney sweep on Sunday to set up a Monday appt.  In the meantime, I solicited advice from an assortment of friends and family on what they would do.  ALL of the male species told me to just open the grate, let the dead whatever fall out, and dispose of it.  Are you kidding me????  Look, I can set a mouse trap with the best of them, and even dispose the mouse & trap when I have to (this acquired skill took me quite awhile to master), but I draw the line on this one. Molted snake skins don’t freak me out either, but this is something I just will not do….I also note that none of the men volunteered to come over and take care of this for me!  All the gals said….”Chimney sweep, of course!”

So, I started calling my chimney sweep, (who henceforth shall be known as “Tim”) and finally reached him.  I could hear the lack of enthusiasm in his voice once I told him what I needed help with, but I guess he could hear the state of desperation in my voice….he rearranged his day and showed up this morning…..the stench at this point was nauseating, and he immediately identified the smell as that of a decomposing squirrel…great…I’ll spare you the goriest of details, but I am forever indebted to Tim for “getting things taken care of”!  He admitted this was the worst part of his job and had a few stories to tell about similar situations (again, I’ll spare you the gory details).

I know it seems hard to believe at this point, but the days of frosty mornings and chilly nights are less than 3 months away, so you want to be  totally prepared to participate in the delights of a wood-burning fireplace.  I recommend the following:

1) Make sure all chimneys are capped.  These caps can be installed from the outside, for about $275 in about 15 minutes, and they last a lifetime! (Mine is being installed as soon as the parts come in).

2) Keep dampers closed when chimney not in use.

3) Find a reliable chimney sweep for fireplace maintenance – you’d be surprised at what can collect (creosote, etc.) along the walls of the flue during a typical winter season. 

4) Keep tree branches trimmed away from all rooftops to prevent a fire hazard, and to discourage critters from scampering over your rooftops, potentially creating problems!

Thank God for Tim!

Tim, Chimney Sweep, 2010

I’d just like to say how happy I am that there are people out there to take care of things like this!  Now, if I could only get rid of the orange-vanilla room deodorizer (this is what they use) permeating every square inch of my house….time to turn on the attic fan and let it go crazy!

About 12 years ago, when I lived on/near UVA grounds, the damper of my chimney got stuck and I had to call the fire department…..4 fire trucks showed up en masse after what seemed like an eternity, completely blocking off the residential circle I lived on. The house had completely filled with smoke and I was starting to panic….one of the firemen walked up my driveway in full garb carrying an axe, prepared for most anything!  Even he had a hard time unjamming the grate….it was in December, freezing cold, and we had to open all the windows while the giant fans blew out the smoke.  I remember at one point I had about 6 firemen standing in my living room – one of them was a gal, and she and I started talking about the Christmas wreath I had hung over the fireplace mantel! Imagine that!  Even then there was an opportunity to discuss home aesthetics with another professional.
Well, I’m anxious to hear if any of my readers have had similar experiences with their fireplaces.  I really love those comments, so keep them coming!