We can’t all have expertise in everything. That’s why it’s important to be able to rely on the contractors you hire to help maintain your major home systems. Unfortunately, there are those who will take advantage of your unfamiliarity with technical aspects of your chimney system – trying to make off with your money for services they aren’t actually qualified to provide.
The good news is that there are a few simple things you can check to help ensure you’re hiring a reputable service provider. On the flip side, there are also some warning signs that help you recognize which providers to avoid.
What Are Common Chimney Scams?
Scams can take all shapes and sizes, but at the end of the day they have common markers that should give you pause. Here are a few of the common ways they can take form.
⚠️ Pricing Shenanigans
A business is advertising an extremely low rate for a basic service. But once they arrive, they find that additional work is required to complete the service. Suddenly you’re paying much more than you anticipated. Or they collect the low service fee, but find many other (usually costly) things they need to fix. Or they take your money, but spend suspiciously little time completing the service.
There are more scenarios that could pop up, but the lead-in is the same – the ultra-low price is merely a foot in the door to grab some initial cash and hopefully secure much more money for additional (unneeded) services.
⚠️ Urgent Needs
You may not know everything about your chimney, but you know it’s important to maintain. If gases don’t vent properly, they linger and pose dangers to your family. If it’s obstructed, an uncontained fire could result. And deterioration can lead to costly issues and home damage.
Scammers will play on these concerns to pressure you into immediate action. But in reality, a heavy-handed sales technique is usually a way to keep you from doing your research. If expensive repairs are needed, it’s a good idea to step back and check into typical price points for the repairs. Get an additional estimate if something seems out of whack, and be certain the company is reputable and the repairs are truly necessary.
⚠️ Hefty Down Payments
A service fee or deposit isn’t unheard of, but be wary of someone who requires full payment in advance for an expensive service to be provided at a later date – especially if you haven’t established the individual’s credentials and reputation. It’s possible that there will be no follow-through, and that the payment will be lost.
⚠️ Lack of Qualifications
Anyone claiming to be a chimney professional that is suitably qualified should be happy to provide evidence of their credentials. Technically, since the chimney industry isn’t federally regulated, anyone with a business license and some brushes can advertise as a sweep. But that doesn’t mean they can deliver on what they promise. Asking for proof of credentials is essentially asking the person to demonstrate that they have the training and experience to do what you’re asking them to do.
⚠️ Faked “Evidence”
Some scammers may be underqualified, while others are outright crooks. If an alleged pro claims that you need extensive repairs, they ought to be able to show you some evidence of the damage, such as photos or videos. But don’t be shy about examining the evidence and being cautious about how it was produced.
It’s a bold move, but some scammers will carry their “evidence” in with them – pictures of deterioration or damage, crumbled brick or mortar, even a dead bird. And if you’re suspicious, don’t hesitate to seek second opinions and collect additional estimates.
How to Hire A Qualified Chimney Professional
Here are some do’s and don’ts of finding a service provider who will treat you fairly.
- Hire the individual who knocks on your door with a deal. It’s highly unlikely that a reputable sweep is merely canvassing the neighborhood with time to complete an inspection on the spot.
- Hire someone without a brick-and-mortar location. A P.O. box isn’t the address you’re looking for here – a sweep should be operating out of an established physical location.
- Trust claims of an endorsement from the local fire station or other unsubstantiated claims without following up.
- Take the bait of a rock-bottom service price. It may be a cliche, but it’s nearly always true: you get what you pay for.
- Let an alleged pro pressure you make an expensive decision on the spot, especially if they seem to be preying on fears related to safety, health, and the value of your home. You can take time to ask questions and space to process and research your decision.
- Ask to see credentials. Two significant organizations that provide objective credentialing standards are the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and the National Fireplace Institute (NFI). Sweeps that are credentialed will easily be able to produce evidence of it – and that evidence shows you that they are committed to a high standard of education, current training, and professional ethics.
- Make sure the company is licensed and insured. A company that isn’t licensed and fully insured is not doing all they can to protect their customers.
- Look for satisfied customers. Check the Better Business Bureau and Angi to see what their record of service looks like from the perspective of past customers.
We Care About You – Call Today
We care about our industry and want to see people safely enjoying their fireplaces for all they’re worth. Our personal commitment to customer care is evident in our work with organizations like the CSIA, the NFI, and the NCSG. We’re also fully licensed and insured, have years of experience, and service a long list of satisfied customers.