If a pipe bursts or your furnace goes wonky, you’ll know it. But some home systems have maintenance needs that are less obvious to the average homeowner. For instance, when’s the last time you climbed on your roof to investigate the condition of your chimney cap? Would you know if your chimney flue was warped or cracked?
Chimney inspections are crucial for keeping your chimney system running in tip-top shape. But since 1) chimney issues can be hidden and 2) the implications can be serious, being able to trust your chimney pro is paramount.
Unfortunately, scammers are aware of these same factors, taking advantage of your inability to easily access chimney components and often preying on fears of chimney fires or carbon monoxide poisoning. This makes chimney care an industry where scammers can ply a fraudulent trade by saying they’ve provided an inspection or service that never happened, or by claiming you need new components when the current ones are still in good working order.
Common Chimney Scam Techniques
How can you avoid being taken in by a scam? Homeowners should be aware of existing scams and how to avoid them – and should know how to recognize an honest, well-qualified chimney professional.
One prevalent scam in the chimney industry is the old bait-and-switch. An alleged pro who “happened to be in the neighborhood” offers a deeply discounted price for a cleaning or inspection. …only to “discover” additional problems during the service. They may claim you need extensive repairs or new components, resulting in a high cost that overshadows the inexpensive inspection (which may or may not have been legitimate).
Unnecessary, “Urgent” Repairs
Another scam is flat-out unnecessary repairs. A sweep may claim that your chimney requires immediate repairs, perhaps even showing you pictures of a different chimney or bits of crumbled masonry they snuck in with them. Scammers may use concern for the well-being of your home and family to pressure you to pay for repairs immediately, before you can research them or have questions answered.
A fraudulent sweep may claim to be certified by a professional organization, but in reality, they have no credentials. Always take the time to verify a company’s credentials before hiring them. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) is a nationally recognized organization that certifies chimney sweeps and has a handy search tool to locate certified sweeps.
And if someone is claiming this credential and doesn’t actually have it? Be sure to file a trademark violation complaint.
You’ve been told your chimney needs repairs, and you paid in advance to secure an appointment for a later date or to pay for supplies. Perhaps you paid for an initial “inspection” and put down cash for a follow-up. But the professional never shows up – they’re gone, and so is your deposit!
Warning Signs of Chimney Scams
✓ Unsolicited offers: Be wary of chimney sweeps that show up unannounced or make unsolicited offers. A reputable company is unlikely to cold-call or knock on your door trying to sell you a service.
✓ High-pressure sales tactics: If a chimney company is pressuring you to sign a contract or pay for services immediately, it’s a red flag. Give yourself time to research the company, and perhaps get a second opinion, before agreeing to any work.
✓ Lack of credentials or references: If a company cannot provide proof of their certifications or valid references from previous customers, find another company. A reputable chimney sweep will be happy to provide this information upon request.
Tips for Choosing a Reputable Chimney Company
Being able to recognize potential scams is the first step in not falling victim to them. Knowing how a scammer works helps you circumvent their tactics and be proactive about finding a chimney company with the skill and integrity to meet their needs.
1. Do your research
Before hiring a chimney sweep, scour the company’s website, read reviews, and ask for references. Look for a company with a good reputation and a clear record of providing quality service. Checking out a company with the Better Business Bureau or verifying they hold a New York Home Improvement Contractor License is a great place to begin. And if someone you know personally has used the company, this underscores their legitimacy.
2. Verify credentials
Is the company in question a member of professional associations, and has it attained professional certifications? This testifies that they’ll have the skill, professional ethics, and knowledge required. If you have doubts, ask them to verify their credentials.
3. If a quote seems off, think it through
Asking questions helps you understand a fair price, validate the claim that the work is necessary, and avoid any bait-and-switch scams. Additionally, you should ask for a written contract that outlines the services to be performed, the cost, and any guarantees or warranties.
4. Check out their address and presentation
A legitimate business should have a brick-and-mortar location. Be wary of a service provider that can only provide a P.O. box, that uses unmarked trucks, and whose personnel have no identification. Also, examine their website for typos and poor grammar. If there’s no attention to detail, it may be because they are not a legitimate, practicing business.
5. Trust your instincts
If something feels off, explore it rather than ignore it. Was the work too quick? If someone claims to have inspected your chimney, note that a cleaning and inspection should take half an hour or more. Can they provide reasonable evidence of damages requiring extensive repairs? Are they overly aggressive? Is what they’re offering too good to be true? Use a company you feel comfortable with based on their reputation, credentials, and customer service. It may be cliche, but it’s true – it’s better to be safe than sorry!
Trust Our Professional & Honest Sweeps
Chimney scams can be costly and dangerous. By being aware of the scams and how to avoid them, you can protect yourself and your home.
At All Seasons Chimney, we have the reassuring strength of credentials, 25 years of experience, and satisfied customers backing our claims. We’re happy to be a resource for you. You deserve the best in chimney care, so give us a call at 845-762-0351 to schedule or book online now.