Chimney Sweeps Share 5 Bizarre Flue Finds

Garrett Kelly
Written by Garrett Kelly
Updated November 18, 2014
chimney sweep holding broom
Chimney sweeps say soot isn't the only thing they find in chimneys. (Photo by Eldon Lindsay)

There's nothing better than an evening by the fire, but have you ever wondered what's hiding in your chimney?

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Unlike the famous scene in “Mary Poppins,” real-life chimney work typically doesn’t involve lighthearted song and dance. From the nesting fowl to a misplaced fish, chimney sweeps deal with some strange finds up the flue.

Three highly rated chimney sweeps help answer the burning question: What is the weirdest thing you’ve found in a chimney?

1. Catch of the day

Carl St. Clair, owner of highly rated Central Indiana Chimney Repair in Indianapolis, recalls a job where he literally found a fish out of water. After arriving at a job to inspect a furnace that kept shutting off, St. Clair says he found a fish blocking the chimney’s passage. St. Clair says a bird probably scooped the fish up from a nearby pond, perched near the chimney and dropped its catch down the flue. “It was the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen,” he says.

2. Memories behind a mantel

Clay Lamb, owner of highly rated American Chimney & Masonry in Cincinnati, says one of his strangest finds was of sentimental and monetary value. While working on chimneys, Lamb says he often finds old family photographs and coins that have fallen behind the mantel. “[I’ve found] old pictures that slipped behind the cracks, and coins that I gave back to the customer,” he says. “It’s more family relics than anything.”

RELATED: 5 Reasons to Install a Chimney Cap

3. Nest pests

St. Clair says the creature that causes him the most grief is the chimney swift, which is a type of bird that can’t perch and instead prefers to hang on the sides of vertical structures.They often roost inside chimneys made of brick and mortar, and St. Clair gets calls about them every year. He says he can’t remove them because in Indiana you have to be licensed by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to remove most birds. “You have to wait for them to leave before we can put a cap [on the chimney] and clean it out,” St. Clair says.

4. Read all about it

Joseph Sauter, owner of highly rated Your Chimney Sweep in Indianapolis, says he’s pulled everything from ducks to snakes out of chimneys. However, several years ago he found something that was truly newsworthy. Sauter says he found some newspapers from the 1940s in a chimney that had been sealed up. “We just opened up the chimney to inspect it [and found them],” he says.

MORE: How to Avoid Chimney Repair Scams

5. Body of nature’s bandit

St. Clair says his most disgusting find was a raccoon that didn’t make it out of the chimney alive. He says the customers were gone on a three-week vacation, and the raccoon died while they were away. St. Clair says there were tons of maggots on the carpet in front of the fireplace. “It was beige carpet, and the carpet [looked like it] was moving,” St. Clair says.

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