Regular chimney maintenance and repairs typically require skills that go beyond the normal weekend warrior DIYer.
If you don’t use the right equipment, it can be dangerous and messy, and could trigger allergies or respiratory problems. Also, it’s a job rife for scams, especially for those unwilling to climb on top of their roof or inside their soot-filled chimney.
Chimney sweep solicitation calls
Many chimney scams start with a solicitation call. If the company calls you, hang up, says Richard St. Marie, owner of Rich and John’s Complete Chimney Service in Woodbury, Conn.
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Once you bite on a solicitation, the telemarketer sells the job to the highest bidder, and that person may not have the proper state credentials or training, or they may not carry liability insurance to cover any damages.
“They’re not interested in doing the cleaning, they’re interested in getting as much money as possible when they get there,” St. Marie says.
The cost of a basic chimney sweep ranges from $125 to $250, depending on the type of chimney and its condition.
Chimney fire hazard scare tactics
If a contractor says your chimney is a fire hazard, they may be right, especially if they find glazed creosote, which can ignite. But if they tell you it needs to be fixed immediately and it’ll cost thousands of dollars, get a second opinion. It’s a common scare tactic.
Call your local gas company, which will come free of charge to verify whether the chimney is truly a fire hazard.
Referrals for chimney work
If someone contacts you claiming your oil or gas company referred your home for chimney work, be suspicious. It’s a cold call. Utility companies don’t make those kinds of referrals.
If a contractor shows you photos of chimney damage or creosote buildup, make sure the pictures truly came from your chimney. Many top pros email service recommendations to customers with time-stamped photos they can easily recognize.
No unsolicited visits after hours
Scammers can be bold. Some cruise neighborhoods looking for company yard signs of a legitimate contractor at work. After the contractor leaves a home, the scammer visits a short time later claiming they need to collect an outstanding balance.
Never pay anyone you don’t recognize. Legitimate contractors collect payment before they leave the job or they mail a bill.
Hire qualified chimney service providers
It’s easier than you think to find qualified, reputable chimney service companies. Start with the following:
▪ Read reviews for chimney sweep companies. Look for reviews that match the type of service you need and request bids from at least three companies.
▪ Never buy chimney maintenance and repair services from a telemarketer or allow door solicitors into your home. Don’t let a contractor pressure you into going to the bank to withdraw money.
▪ Not all states require trade licensing for chimney sweeps, but they should be registered with the secretary of state’s office. Reputable businesses also carry liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance, if applicable. Ask to see a copy of each policy before you sign a contract.
▪ Educate yourself about the function and maintenance of chimneys by visiting the Chimney Safety Institute of America. You can search CSIA for certified sweepers in your area and the courses they’ve completed.