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If your fireplace and chimney system  are not working the way that they should, there is a very good chance that there are animals in your chimney. The challenge many homeowners face, however, is that they do not know whether the problem is due to an animal or if it has another source. Here are a few telltale signs that may indicate an animal inhabitation.

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One of the first things that people notice when there is an animal in their chimney is an unpleasant smell. This can be caused by rotting material from the animal’s housing or it could be from the animal’s waste. If there is an unpleasant smell coming from the chimney, it is a good idea to have your chimney system professionally inspected for signs of animal inhabitation.

Another indication that animals have set up camp in the chimney is excessive noise. Old houses often make noises for a number of reasons, but animal sounds will be a bit different. The sound of scratching or of something scurrying around is a sure sign that there are animals living above the fireplace. Animals within the chimney system pose a health and a fire threat, and must be addressed immediately.

A good look inside of the chimney can also give clues as to whether or not you have animal residents, even if the animals themselves cannot be seen. One thing to look for is any type of nest or outdoor material. It is often also possible to see animal debris, such as waste or fur, accumulating inside of the chimney.

Having animals in the chimney system can be dangerous for both the animal and the homeowner. Many young animals have a hard time finding their way out of the chimney, and can end up dying. Animals and their nests can also cause chimney fires and inefficient heating systems.

If you think you may have an animal living in your chimney, contact a professional sweep immediately. Failure to do so can lead to even bigger problems down the road.