Your fireplace makes your home a cozy sanctuary, and you know the importance of proper chimney maintenance in ensuring its safety and functionality. However, just like any other industry, the chimney industry isn’t immune to scams and fraudulent practices.
Thankfully, as awareness of scammers in all industries grows, it becomes more difficult for fraudsters to continue using the same tricks. Because they often prey on the unsuspecting and use what you may not know against you, knowledge is power.
Common Chimney Industry Scams
To protect yourself from falling prey to common scams, learn a bit about them, and take steps to avoid them.
Did you know the chimney industry isn’t nationally regulated? That means anyone can call themselves a sweep, whether they have the skills and knowledge to do so or not. You don’t want to end up hiring someone who isn’t qualified to do the work at hand… and if someone is putting pressure on you to act before you can check into their credentials, this may be exactly what’s going on. A poorly executed (or non-existent) repair can cost you in the long term.
How can I fight back?
Research, research, research. A little digging goes a long way, and technology makes this step fairly simple. Look for reputable chimney sweep companies with good reviews and ratings from reliable sources such as the Better Business Bureau or Angi. Ask about a sweep’s credentials, including certifications and professional associations. Seek recommendations from friends and neighbors. And avoid hiring chimney sweeps who show up unannounced or are overly aggressive in approach.
⚠️ The Exaggerated Extent
Let’s face it – you probably don’t get on your roof very often to examine your chimney, and you certainly don’t have eyes on all its interior nooks and crannies. Even if you did, the average homeowner may not know how to interpret what they see unless the damage is obvious and therefore already potentially severe. That’s what makes this scam work.
Your chimney “contractor” claims your chimney system has serious structural issues and needs immediate repair. He might use scare tactics, producing pictures of damaged chimney systems or citing immediate danger to your home and family, or use technical jargon to increase your sense of concern. He may then play the nice guy by offering a discounted price – but if the repairs are exaggerated and unnecessary, this is no deal at all!
How can I fight back?
Evidence and second opinions. If a sweep is telling you substantial repairs are needed, ask for evidence such as video or pictures of the damage and verify they’re of your home. Then, request a detailed written estimate that outlines the scope of work and materials required.
It’s entirely possible that your technician is being truthful when they say you need repairs – after all, chimney damage can happen and issues become more severe over time. But large and costly projects warrant gathering estimates from multiple reputable contractors before proceeding with repairs. Avoid contractors who won’t provide an estimate or are unwilling to answer your questions. After all, this is your home you’re talking about!
⚠️ The “Do It Now!”
Pressing concerns may arise when it comes to home maintenance – and a service fee or deposit isn’t unheard of. But be wary about a contractor who employs heavy-handed techniques (especially relying on fear and urgency) and can’t calmly address your questions. Also be wary of a chimney sweep who insists on a massive downpayment to secure an appointment for future repairs. Often, this type of scammer will get in your door by offering a great deal on an initial inspection, only to discover “damage” and demand you pay more or pay ahead to fit into his busy schedule.
How can I fight back?
Before hiring someone, give yourself some space. Even if concerns are urgent, you deserve a moment of calm to collect your thoughts, do a little research on the contractor, and dig into the repair needs.
Staying level-headed will serve you well in this instance – don’t be swayed by high pressure tactics, and if you have any doubts about a sweep’s recommendations, seek a second opinion. Also, if a deal on an inspection seems too good to be true? It just might be. Prioritize reputation and qualifications over crazy or limited time discounts.
What to Look For in a Chimney Sweep
By now, you may have picked up on some general red flags: unsolicited door-to-door visits or offers, high pressure techniques, inability to verify credentials or provide estimates, extremely low initial pricing, and poor (or no) reviews.
Positively, what should you look for? Here are a few starters:
- A brick and mortar location, not just a P.O. box
- Evidence of certification from reputable organizations such as the CSIA or NFI. Note that other industry involvement also testifies to legitimacy and longevity in the field.
- Experience built through training and time in the industry.
- Good referrals and reviews that have been well established.
- A company that’s fully licensed, bonded, and insured – this demonstrates concern for the customer.
While scammers are out there in every industry, there are also many contractors who are reputable and seek to serve their communities well by providing fair, professional service. For over three decades of service in our industry, we’ve prioritized the safety and best interests of our clients with transparency, professionalism, and skill.
Seek Quality Services With Us
We want you to know what good quality service should look like. So if you have questions about chimney care and maintenance, are needing a second opinion, or are simply ready to schedule your annual chimney inspection, you can rely on us to put our experience and technicians to work for you.
Get started by booking online or by giving us a call today.