Smoke out a crooked chimney sweep
When you get your chimney serviced, be sure you hire a pro — not one who will diagnose huge, expensive problems, regardless of whether they exist. Here's what to know.
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As you look to get your chimney serviced, be wary of dishonest sweeps who try to dupe homeowners into unnecessary or shoddy work. (Bing: Search for quality chimney sweeps)
"There are some bad actors in the business," says Ashley Eldridge, director of education at the Chimney Safety Institute of America. "They typically will hire unscrupulous people who are being paid a commission; it's in these people's interest to diagnose huge problems, regardless of whether they exist."
There's no reason for you to settle for a substandard sweep. You can locate a certified sweep on the CSIA website. Certification is no small deal. Eldridge says it requires passing a rigorous exam, including testing about the international residential code, as well as best-practice tools and techniques.
How do you separate the pros from the pretenders? There are several easy ways. An obvious bad sign is a sweep in an unmarked van or one who requests payment via a check made out to "cash."
Here are three other warning signs:
The most common red flag is an extremely low estimate. Often a scammer will go door to door, offering a "promotional price" of as little as $20 for an inspection. "Once they get in there, they invariably recommend expensive repairs," Eldridge says.
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Don't take the bait. Ask for a written estimate and say you'd like to get a second opinion; this may send a scammer scurrying.
Another ruse is the cold call. Scammers will talk as if they already have an appointment or say they've serviced other chimneys in your neighborhood and then try to pressure you into inviting them to do an inspection or cleaning. Ask the caller's name and phone number — no honest sweep would refuse to give this info.
The sweep offers a price that is conditional on your making a decision on the spot.
Above all, Eldridge says, trust your gut reaction. "If you don't feel comfortable with this person, then don't do business with them," he says.
I think Dick Van Dyke was a chimney sweep in "Mary Poppins!", he's 87 now, but not retired from acting.
Now he would have been one funny chimney sweeper.
i had just bought my house and had it cleaned at winter time. they saw a single female and told me i needed a whole new chimney. that it was ready to fall over and collapse once i turn my heat on. well, hello, i just had it inspected for the purchase, plus my insurance guy was out to do their inspection for the new homeowners policy, they both would've noticed any deterioration. it was in excellent shape. but, im to believe i need a new chimney by them??? pissed me off. told them to leave.
its been 4 winters now and no, it didn't fall down. and they still call me every year, i told them to stop calling me every year and then they proceed to call.
I run a legitimate chimney company here in NH. When I find something wrong with a chimney I report it to the owner then they decide whether to proceed or not. If the situation is dangerous, such as CO2 leaking into the house then I tell them that as well. I'm here to educate my customers not force them into something they cannot afford. Also, I charge the cheapest prices around, not because I am a scam artist but because I respect my customers and want them to be able to afford being safe in their own homes. I charge $25 for an inspection and $75 for a sweep which includes a free inspection. I also offer multi flu discounts as well as discounts for the disabled, elderly and low income. Being honest and helpful to your customers shouldn't be a red flag! Also, we don't have signage on our vehicle because people keep stealing our magnetic signs! We finally gave up and stopped putting them on. 90% of our business comes from happy customers who referred us to a friend so nobody really ever cares that we don't carry signage. We are registered with the state, have professional cards and t-shirts with our company name on it. Why would we need more? If you want an honest caring sweep then call us at 603-968-9608!!
How to hire a chimney sweep:
1. Google (or bing) 'Chimney sweeps'
2. call 3 of them for quotes
3. make a decision based on your judgement
4. Write a check