Top 4 Common Chimney Scams [and how to avoid them]
It isn’t always possible for you to tell a healthy chimney from one that is in need of repair.
This is pretty inconvenient because if you delay your chimney repairs for very long, they can worsen and even multiply. Chimney problems follow one another like fallen dominoes.
Unfortunately, this is exactly why the chimney cleaning and maintenance industry is so prone to scams. Scammers prey on homeowners because the homeowners take the word of chimney companies at face value.
They rarely question anything!
Chimney cleaning and repair service providers tend to follow the pattern of scamming, followed by others in the home improvement industry as well.
Homeowners are lured by door-to-door sale pitches, phone solicitations, and ads offering unbelievable deals intended to prey on the customer’s fear and lack of information to make a quick sale.
But not anymore!
I’ve made a list of the four most common chimney scams that you should be on the lookout for.
#1 Chimney Scam Operators Quote Ridiculous Prices Initially and then Add Hidden Charges
You’ve seen it before. “Too Good to Be True” pricing.
Not just for chimney scam operators, either. The “too good to be true” pricing is a favorite for scammers in every service sector.
Chimney scammers as well as other scammers use tricky prices as their preferred tool to rip off uninformed customers.
Make it a point to learn about the services you are being charged for and their individual rates. Incorporating that practice by itself will make a huge difference and make it harder for these criminals to fool you.
The rates for chimney cleaning are not uniform and they vary from one region to another, as well as job to job.
Acquaint yourself with the base price charged for standard chimney cleaning services in your area. You should know you are possibly falling victim to a scam if you get charged any higher.
Companies or individuals offering their chimney cleaning services for lower than the industry average are probably trying to make a quick earning than actually provide the full-service package that you seek. Trusting these service providers will mean compromising with the safety of you, your family, and your house.
Sometimes companies also use this tactic to gain your trust and then upsell products and services that you might not even need.
It helps to verify whether the chimney cleaning professional you are planning to engage in service has CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps certification or not.
In order to receive certification, professionals are required to sign a Code of Ethics which will require them to practice honesty and transparency in conveying pricing information directly to potential clients.
#2 Chimney Scam Artists Insist that Your Chimney is in Dire Need of Immediate Repairs
Most people don’t know that much about chimneys or the chimney system.
Chimney scam artists take advantage of our lack of knowledge and information on the subject.
It is not uncommon to come across chimney sweep professionals who recommend you to get immediate repairs done for the safety of your household when you call them for a chimney inspection.
Even if your chimney inspection does reveal the need for necessary repairs, you should collect a minimum of three estimates from different local CSIA certified professionals, along with documentation, before you make your decision.
It makes perfect sense to shop around a little for the best deal before spending on big-ticket repairs.
But always be aware that you get what you pay for. Especially in the chimney industry.
At Patriot Chimney, we’re not always the cheapest bid. And we don’t aim to be.
Our primary objective is to get your chimney in a safe and efficient working condition. And the price that we quote reflects the work that is required to achieve that.
It also reflects the education standards that we have required for our technicians.
#3 Sometimes, Fake Chimney Cleaning and Repair Services are Able to Get the Best of You
Come fall and winter, there are chimney cleaning and repair services opening up everywhere.
Nationally, the number of businesses providing chimney cleaning and maintenance services spike up before families begin using their heating systems and fireplaces during the winter, with the rise in demand for such services seasonally.
Only the best and boldest scam artists try to pull off this scam.
They arrange for papers to validate industry experience and affiliations that they do not have and set up short-term operations promising to provide effective services but actually end up providing inadequate service.
If you wish to avoid falling victim to this scam, all you have to do is scout for chimney cleaning and repair professionals with a reputation in the community.
Contacting your local state consumer protection office should also provide you with any additional information about the company, such as its background history and so on.
Try to find out how long the professional service provider has been operating in the community for a better understanding of whether it is trustworthy or not.
Better yet, search on CSIA to find their credentials. I wouldn’t recommend hiring a company that isn’t listed on CSIA.
#4 Chimney Service Providers Scam Their Way Out of Credentials
The reason that you are recommended to hire the services of an official CSIA certified chimney sweep is that they’ve had to undergo several clearance tests, meet standards for maintenance of chimneys, and agreed to abide by their Code of Ethics to earn for themselves the enormously important accreditation.
So it is no surprise that many industry scammers try to duplicate the trademark and misuse it.
When you hire a chimney service professional the next time who claims to possess CSIA certification, ask to see their identity card.
Their ID should have their photo marked with their individual CSIA credential. If you are hiring your services from a company, there should be at least one CSIA certified chimney sweep available onsite even during the inspection.
Call the company and verify this detail with them that a CSIA certified professional will be part of your chimney cleaning and maintenance services.
How to Avoid Falling Victim to These Scams
Criminals who operate scams are almost always on the lookout for desperate and vulnerable individuals who are willing to pay any expenses to have their chimney repaired but be spared the trouble of actually climbing up on the roof to get to the source of their chimney’s problems.
It is easy to prey on people and draw them into a chimney scam by telling them that there’s a problem with their chimney and that this problem could lead to compromising their health/wellness/safety/security.
Lack of knowledge is another risk factor that predisposes individuals to fall victim to these scams. It is always possible to make yourself more aware, so you can prevent yourself from becoming a victim of these chimney scams.
Even if you are not aware of the components and individual component functions of a chimney, there are telltale signs which alert you regarding whether a company is legitimate or not.
You can adopt other safety measures like calling up a few chimney cleaning and maintenance services and obtaining general price quotes and time duration required for common service functions.
Usually, a chimney cleaning job necessitates one person to be on your roof, performing the necessary chimney maintenance task and another in the basement, vacuuming soot, and other residual material that comes out of your chimney.
Also, any legitimate chimney services provider should be able to furnish either photo or video proof of expensive repairs.
If you’ve been approached by a chimney cleaning company that offers their services for a price that seems way too good to be true, it probably is.
If you’ve been made overly aggressive sales pitches by the company- that is another cause for concern. High-pressure sales tactics are only employed by companies who do not abide by ethics and might exploit you for their financial gain.
There are easy ways to see if you’re being made victim to a chimney scam.
As I mentioned earlier, it is best not to buy into aggressive sales pitches as once you’ve responded with any interest or taken affirmative action sealing the deal with them, your chimney cleaning service agent could demand that you have to spend on immediate expensive repairs.
You can always rely on your friends and other social support to provide you with contacts of dependable chimney cleaning service companies/providers.
It is among the best safeguards against common chimney scams that you could practice.
Of course, you ought to check up on the company’s accreditations and licenses even after they’ve received the company referrals from trusted friends and family members. Additionally, it is wise to verify whether the company has any complaints or judgments against it served by the state Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau.
Researching the company before being rushed into any decision always has a higher payoff.
Check whether the chimney maintenance business you are planning to outsource your chimney cleaning and maintenance services to, has a good reputation and satisfied clients who they’ve serviced in the past.
Certain red flags such as claims of the fire department endorsing the company, rates lower than average, unmarked service personnel and trucks without any identification and email, flyers and websites with poor grammar and typos should alert you that the company might not be legitimate.
Tips for Hiring a Chimney Professional
I know, it’s a lot to consider.
But that doesn’t mean that it has to be a stressful task. You can easily reach out to your local chimney company and have a done-for-you solution in no time!
But navigating through all of the chimney companies in your city can be a chore all on its own. And it makes sense, too.
Hiring anyone to come into your home to fix something like your chimney shouldn’t be a task you take lightly. So I created a list that you can use to make sure you make the right decision when you need someone to help you in your home.
Questions to Ask
When you’re hiring a chimney company, you should always ask the following questions before allowing them to come into your home:
- Can the company provide references?
- Does the company carry a valid business liability insurance policy?
- Does the company ensure that a certified chimney technician will be on the job?
If they guarantee all three of those, then you are in a good spot. The technicians don’t necessarily need to be certified by the CSIA, but I do recommend putting in a bit more due diligence before accepting a certification that’s not by the CSIA.
This is because certifications are a tricky thing, especially in an unlicensed industry like ours. Any company can craft a list of job-related questions and sell them as an exam and certify those who pass.
I recommend you take a few extra minutes in your research before making your hiring decision to learn more about the certification the company has. Here are a few tips to make sure the certification is reputable:
- Is the word “certified” just part of the business name or is it an earned designation?
- Is the certifying body a for-profit business or non-profit?
- Does the certification need to be maintained and renewed through continuing education as the industry evolves, or is it well enough to be certified through a one-time exam?
- Is the certifying body well-established or are they relatively new to the scene? New doesn’t mean “bad” but you should make sure the requirements for certification are more or at least equally stringent as those of more established certifications
- Is the mission statement of the certifying body focused on educating and protecting homeowners or is it more focused on making it easier to earn a certification?
- Does holding the certification require following a code of ethics?
If you can answer all of these questions, then I think it will be safe to allow the company in your home to work on your chimney.
Please note that If you are hiring a chimney company to install a cap for you, most of the time, they will need to buy the cap themselves. This is primarily for liability and insurance purposes.
Besides, it’s probably cheaper for them to buy a cap at the dealer discount than for you to buy one at retail cost.
It doesn’t matter if you are in Roanoke, Lynchburg, Blacksburg, or some other city anywhere in the USA — if you have any questions about the safety of hiring a chimney company, please don’t hesitate to email me at email@example.com or call me at 540-225-2626. I’m happy to help!
Schedule Your Inspection
Patriot Chimney has a few CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps that you can trust with your home and family. During your service, you can expect your technician to inspect, clean, and verify that the venting system is sized and installed correctly.
We’re licensed, insured, certified, and guarantee you’ll be happy with your service.
No Mess Guarantee
Proud NCSG Members
Fill out the form below and someone from our office will give you a call to set up a date and time.
Your dedicated technician will arrive at your home on the agreed upon time and get to work!
When you choose to work with us, you’ll be so thrilled that your family is safe and your chimney is efficient!