If your living space is graced with a fireplace, you know that chimney care is an essential part of your home maintenance. But while some home maintenance needs – like a leaking pipe or malfunctioning water heater – are readily apparent to your average homeowner, chimney issues can be trickier to spot. Many homeowners are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of a chimney system, and to further complicate matters, many system components aren’t easily accessible.
Unfortunately, these challenges make it hard to know who to turn to for chimney care. As with many industries, there are scammers who can take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners. So what’s the diligent homeowner to do?
Chimney issues left unattended can lead to serious and costly damages. The key to peace of mind – and getting the service you deserve – is finding a professional chimney sweep technician you can trust and being aware of common scams so you aren’t taken in by them.
Recognizing Chimney Scams
While not all scams are textbook, there are patterns and red flags you can identify. Here are a few that every homeowner with a fireplace should take note of.
The Cold Call
Someone knocks on your door and just happens to be doing work in your neighborhood. They saw from the road that your chimney looks damaged, and they have some time right now to fix it. Or, maybe they could squeeze in an inspection at a discount since they’re already in town.
Even if this person seems professional or friendly, by giving him or her access to your home you’re depriving yourself of the time to examine the person’s credentials and qualifications. Additionally, most well-qualified sweeps tend to be booked a ways out.
The Service That Never Happened
If you take a scammer up on his offer, it’s possible that he’ll spend time around your chimney and leave with payment… but without having done any actual work, or having done a poor job. A scam artist trusts that your inability to see into the chimney’s nooks or high points will cover his incomplete work. Or a scammer may complete an “inspection,” take a deposit for a future appointment, and then disappear without a trace.
The Deal That’s Too Good to Be True
Oftentimes scammers will use a deal that’s just too good to pass up, such as a bottom-dollar inspection, in order to secure your business. Having gotten their foot in the door, they’re now free to “find” all kinds of issues. Keep in mind that if a deal seems impossibly good, it probably is.
The Problem That Doesn’t Exist
A scam artist may tell you they’ve found significant problems that need to be fixed immediately or require a substantial deposit. These may be exaggerated, or altogether non-existent. Be especially suspicious if the “sweep” happens to have just the right chimney liner or chimney cap in their truck. These components are not one-size-fits-all, and you might be paying to swap out a perfectly functional component with one that is poorly matched to your system or improperly installed.
If extensive repairs are required, a legitimate contractor should be able to provide evidence, such as photos or videos of the damage. Just be watchful of how these are produced. A seasoned scammer may have pictures or even bits of crumbled mortar they have brought in!
The Heavy-Handed Salesman
An overly aggressive approach is a big red flag. While some chimney issues can be serious, a “sweep” who’s pressuring you to act immediately is probably hoping you’ll be too concerned to take time for research. They may hope you’re unfamiliar with typical price points, that you won’t seek a second opinion, or that you won’t check into their customer reviews or professional qualifications.
How to Find a Trustworthy Chimney Professional
Fortunately, there are many ways to find helpful information on reputable companies, helping to ensure you’ll get the service you’re paying for. Here are some things to check out:
- Certifications and professional associations. This is key in an industry that isn’t federally regulated. Is the business you’re hiring invested in proper training, education, and industry standards? One way you can tell is by whether they’re certified by the CSIA, which is a reputable certifying agency run by a board of volunteer industry experts. Certification is rigorous, recertification is required every three years, and certified sweeps must sign onto a high code of professional ethics.
- A permanent place of business. Your chimney professional should have a physical address they operate from – not just a P.O. box.
- Professional presentation. While we’ve all heard the saying that you can’t judge a book by its cover, a company’s appearance does betray some things about them. Unmarked service trucks? Service personnel with no identification? Flyers or a website that look hastily prepared or unprofessional? These indicators should raise some serious questions.
- Customer reviews. Start with well-known websites like the Better Business Bureau, Google, and Angi, and find out whether the chimney business you’re considering hiring leaves customers satisfied with their work.
And remember – while scams exist, we don’t want you to be discouraged. Partnering with a good chimney care company can help you stay on top of safety and maintenance issues so you can confidently enjoy your fireplace for years to come.
That’s why we exist – as a matter of fact, we value knowledge, experience, and reputable service so much that we have the most CSIA certified staff in the area. Even our front office team is certified! We’re also members of the National Chimney Sweep Guild and the Better Business Bureau.
When you work with us, you can rest easy.
Call Today to Schedule
We’re happy to field your chimney service questions and do what we can to keep you educated about chimney safety and care. If you do your research, you’ll find there’s a reason “integrity” is in our name. Call 570-221-4113 or reach out online now to schedule.