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Avoid These Common Chimney Scams

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Your home heating system is a beneficial component of your home for both its functionality and charm. Like any element of your home, however, it requires maintenance to ensure it remains in top working order. Because your chimney has many areas that are difficult to see and reach, the trust you invest in your chimney professional is imperative. As with all industries, however, it’s possible to be duped. 

How do chimney scams happen, and how can you know your chimney technician is reliable? While it’s hard to know the ins and outs of every scheme, it is possible to identify patterns. And, thankfully, there are steps that can be taken to identify trustworthy professionals in the chimney industry.

Unsolicited Service

You didn’t hire a chimney sweep, but the person at your door claiming to be one is offering you a deal on an inspection because he happens to be in the neighborhood. But if you’re alert to the possibility of chimney scams, you’ll be wary of unsolicited services – even if the price seems good. 

a post it note on a keyboard with "Scammer" written on itDo you know if this person will be reachable if the service isn’t completed well? Are you confident in their expertise? Are you sure this isn’t a foot in the door technique to identify all kinds of expensive-to-address “issues” in your system?

The bottom line is, if you haven’t had time to research the company and verify their legitimacy, you’re opening your home up for a service you can’t confidently expect to be done well – or at all. Be especially attentive to unsolicited service scams after storms or natural disasters, as some unscrupulous individuals have been known to fabricate damages to pressure you into unnecessary repairs, exploiting your insurance coverage and leaving you responsible for hefty deductibles.

Underqualified Technician

Anyone can advertise themselves as a professional. This doesn’t mean he or she really is – or if they are, it doesn’t mean they’re qualified in terms of experience, skill, and industry credentials. A legitimate chimney business will be happy to back up their claims.

A person who is underqualified can end up doing more harm than good, and if poor work or damage has been done, resulting issues can become amplified before you become aware of them. Additionally, some people who perpetrate scams use low-quality materials or neglect safety measures, which can put your home at risk.

Unfinished Business

You got a good deal on an inspection, but it turned up problems. Some scammers are hoping you’ll pay a substantial deposit to secure an appointment in the future, perhaps paying for supplies up front.

But if you’re working with a business you don’t know, it’s hard to guarantee this work will be completed. While it’s certainly possible that a legitimate business may require a downpayment, proceed with caution when paying for future work – especially if the work is costly.

Deceptive Pricing

a 100 dollar bill that's burningOne way of luring homeowners into scams is by offering prices far below industry norms for chimney services. This is a “foot in the door” technique. The scammer may start tacking on additional charges as they work, blaming unexpected circumstances or hidden fees and leaving you with a much larger bill than you expected.

Or the low-priced services can simply be a gateway to “discovering” many more extensive maintenance needs, which could be fabricated or exaggerated.

Of course, a chimney professional may find legitimate maintenance needs – that’s part of the reason you schedule annual chimney inspections – but don’t hesitate to ask for further explanation and evidence, such as pictures or video, or the problem areas. Give yourself time to research reasonable price points for work that’s being recommended. And understand that the reason ultra-low prices may seem too good to be true is usually because they are.

Heavy-Handed Sales

Another potential warning sign is high pressure tactics or sales techniques that prey on fear. Yes, there are serious risks to home and health that can come with chimney break-down or blockage. And yes, a chimney professional will be concerned about safety implications of chimney care and maintenance. But preying on fear and putting strong pressure on you to act immediately can be tactics to trick you into paying more than necessary or to pay for repairs that aren’t necessary at all. 

The remedy? Insist on giving yourself some time and space to assess the situation and your options. A little research about pricing and an additional quote may provide significant cost savings. So, take a deep breath and think things through rather than responding to pressure by agreeing to substantial repairs on the spot.

Finding a Reliable Professional…

As active and engaged members of the chimney profession for over two decades, we’ve rubbed shoulders with a lot of excellent, well-qualified chimney sweep technicians. They’re out there, so we know it’s possible to avoid scams and find a top-notch, service-oriented pro to partner with you in all your chimney needs.

Our top advice?

  1. Check the basics. Do they have a brick and mortar address? Do their business materials appear professional? Do their technicians wear or carry company identification? Are they friendly and responsive?
  2. Verify qualifications. Look for certifications earned through diligent hard work through a reputable, not-for-profit professional organization such as the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). Check for membership in professional associations as well, which demonstrate industry commitment.
  3. Check reviews. Thanks to the internet era we’re in, you should be able to identify a track record of quality customer service via online reviews and personal recommendations. Start with well known sites such as the BBB and Google.
  4. Ask questions. Your chimney professional should be responsive and willing to explain the scope, nature, and costs involved in the work.

Trust Our Techs

Your home is important to you, and your chimney company should prioritize it, as well. So homeowner, take heart. By being attentive to red flags and diligent about finding a seasoned, qualified professional, peace of mind is possible and you can feel confident about who you partner with for chimney care.

Call 973-450-1947 or reach out to us online today.