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Avoid These Common Chimney Scams

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.

When’s the Best Time for Chimney Masonry Repairs?

As winter gives way to spring, many homeowners’ thoughts turn to home improvement. Longer days and warmer weather seem to create space for home maintenance tasks that were put on hold during the colder season. One area that shouldn’t be overlooked in home maintenance is chimney masonry repairs.

Common advice among chimney professionals says that springtime is a great time to address masonry issues.

Aside from the motivation of longer days, is there an ideal time of year for masonry work? Common advice among chimney professionals says that springtime is a great time to address masonry issues. Here’s why:

Why Is Springtime Best for Chimney Repairs?

a couple of bushes with big pink flowers in front of a white house

Early assessment of winter damage.

Brick and mortar are tough, but they’re still susceptible to wear and tear over time, just like any other building material. Winter can be particularly harsh on chimneys.

  • Bricks are porous and can take in water from snow and sleet.
  • Moisture that enters bricks will expand when temperatures drop below freezing, leaving damage behind that worsens as the freeze-thaw cycle continues.
  • Harsh winds and weather extremes can cause erosion, cracking, gaps, structural damage, and other deterioration.

Long story short, spring is a good time to have your chimney masonry assessed for any damage that winter may have aggravated and ensure your chimney is in top shape for the coming year.

The curing process.

If you’ve determined that masonry repairs are needed, curing is a critical part of that process. Curing refers to the time you allow the repaired masonry – or more precisely the mortar – to dry and harden, achieving properties (under the right conditions) that ensure its strength and longevity.

Your chimney professional will remove old, deteriorating mortar and repair with new mortar properly formulated for the job at hand in order to achieve a good match and bond. Once it’s set into place, the mortar begins to cure. Early spring is conducive to getting the best repair outcome because it offers the right temperature and humidity levels for curing.

Higher humidity levels in summer can hinder the curing process and affect the quality of the repair work. On the other hand, winter weather can cause freezing and cracking in the repair area. That’s why spring tends to be a sweet spot: the cooler, more moderate temps allow repaired masonry to cure slowly and completely, resulting in a reliable repair.

Availability of chimney professionals.

Spring tends to be a less busy season for chimney care companies compared to the peak season of fall, when homeowners are rushing to get their chimneys winter-ready. This means that scheduling a chimney masonry repair in spring is likely to be simpler and more convenient. If professionals have greater availability, you’ll likely be able to book a date that works best for you without rushing or long waiting times.

The close of burn season.

Another convenience spring repairs offer is the simple reality that you won’t be using your fireplace furnace or wood stove. Enjoying fires through fall and winter builds a cozy ambiance and adds radiant heat to your home. As desirable as these effects are in the chilly months, you’re likely not going to be using your fireplace and chimney once spring rolls around.

This is another factor that makes it an ideal time to let the pros get to work. Your chimney will be rendered temporarily unusable while repairs are underway, but you wouldn’t be using it anyway – and when you are ready to build your next blaze or turn on the furnace, your chimney will be in prime working order.

Why Be Proactive About Chimney Repairs?

There are lots of benefits to being proactive about chimney repairs. Some advantages of staying on top of chimney condition include:

  • masonry chimney with missing bricks and damageThe prevention of further damage. Ignoring masonry issues can lead to more significant problems in the long run. Damaged chimney masonry can allow water to seep into the chimney, causing moisture damage or allowing water to enter your home.
  • Increased energy efficiency. A properly functioning chimney improves the energy efficiency of your home compared to a damaged one. Why? Damage can lead to cracks and gaps, giving cold air a point of entry in winter and allowing cool air to escape in summer. This can spell increased energy consumption and higher energy bills.
  • Aesthetic appeal. Your chimney is functional, yes. But it also contributes to the overall appeal of your home. Damaged masonry can be an eyesore, but well-built brickwork in good repair looks tidy and attractive.
  • Long-term savings. Procrastinating on chimney maintenance and repairs can seem to save money in the short term, but it can lead to more extensive damage and expensive repairs down the line. Chimney care is an investment in your home.

What Does Your Chimney Need? We’re Here to Help

Whatever’s in order for your chimney – whether a routine inspection or sweeping or a more significant installation or repair job, give us a call to see what we can do for you. We offer comprehensive services, and are happy to put our 25 years of local experience to work for our clients. 

We’ve got you covered, whether you’re thinking your chimney needs just a little TLC, a restoration tailored to perfectly fit your home’s historic period, or a full tear-down and rebuild. We can help ensure that your fireplace system remains a beautiful part of your home that’s ready to enjoy for years to come.

Get started by dialing 973-450-1947 or by booking online with us today.

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