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Do You Know the Life History of Your Chimney?

Clues to the life history of your chimney will be found in the age of your house, assuming it has its original chimney. Popularized in 18th Century in America, chimneys built in the mid-1700s rose well above the roof as a precaution. An unusually tall brick chimney towering over the back of the house might come from this period. Another clue would be the fact that the chimney is on the exterior of the home, built on the outside of an outer wall.

History of Your Chimney - South Georgia - Homestead Chimney Service

Deep fireplaces and sloped flues, designed to reach outside the house, marked this period. In the early 1800s, chimneys were brought inside the walls of American homes. With shallower, reflective fireplaces, came chimneys built on the inside of exterior walls, a style that persisted until the 1940s. Then, in the 50s, fireplaces again deepened and chimneys once again took their place on the outside wall of the house.

Pre-fabricated chimney systems arrived with pre-fabricated houses and metal chimneys became standard on homes built in the 70s and 80s. Typically hidden with siding or a brick facade,  these chimneys too were placed on the outside walls of the house. Built up an exterior wall like before, chimneys from this era terminate much closer to the roof-line than the earlier models.

Now that you know something about its birth, you can learn a lot about your chimney’s life by looking at its filled cracks and patched holes. Assuming it is fit and functioning well at this point, whatever difficulties your chimney has faced have been overcome. The mortar patches and caulked flashing, the newer firebrick and well sealed crown, all tell you that your chimney had the usual frailties but was well loved.

That shiny new stainless chimney cap can tell a story of its own; was it replaced because of wind, rust or just age? In addition, the chase cover may conceal the truth about your chimney, one-time home to both a bird and a ferret? If you live in the Southern United States, especially in Georgia, do not be surprised to learn that migrating chimney swifts once called your chimney home. As long as a chimney fire hasn’t been part of the past, your chimney’s life history is sure to be a long and storied one.

If you’d like to know more about what your home’s chimney has been through over the years, ask the chimney sweep the next time you get it inspected and swept. Who knows what you might discover?

Information About Chimney Swifts

Chimney sweeps are not the only species of birds that spend time around residential chimneys but they are one of the ones you need to know about because they are Federally protected. This simply means that if you try and harm them or move them once in your chimney you open yourself up to a large fine.

The chimney swift is a North American bird that takes up residence in chimneys, stone wells, and abandoned buildings. These birds are most common to regions east of the Rocky Mountains and are usually seen flying in groups. However, they roost in buildings all along their natural route.

Chimney Swifts

After wintering in Peru, these swifts head back to the continental U.S. in March, where they reside until early November. Their appearance is characterized by long wings with a span of approximately 12.5 inches, a short body, and a squared tail. When flapping their wings, these birds are bat-like and they typically make a ticking or chipping call. Males and females have the same appearance, with a sooty gray or black coat and a slightly lighter throat.

This bird is unable to stand upright or perch, instead using tail bristles and claws to cling to vertical surfaces. Swifts begin nesting in May and this behavior may continue through August. Most birds have a single brood of three to five eggs. The nest is made from twigs adhered with saliva and attached inside the chimney wall. After approximately 18 days, the young hatch and about a month later, the family leaves the chimney.

Though these birds seem attractive and are not harmful, their residence in the chimney is typically unwanted. Prior to their migration in fall, they congregate in flocks of hundreds to thousands at large roost sites. When the first major fall cold front blows through, the birds fly south to the Amazon Basin in Peru.

When conducting annual chimney inspections, chimney sweeps look for signs of these birds. They remove nests that have been left behind in the chimney and install chimney caps to prevent the birds from taking up residence the following season. Humans and chimney swifts can live in harmony but preferably not in the same home.