Angie's List: Chimney cleaning

Scheduling a chimney inspection and sweep should be an item on your fall home checklist.

As the weather changes, you may notice more contractors soliciting door-to-door. So, how do sniff out crooked contractors?

Angie Hicks with Angie’s List says, "Chimney cleaning and repair scammers tend to follow the same scam patterns we see in other home improvement industries. They solicit door-to-door, they offer really low prices and then pressure you into an expensive repair."

The key is to shop around.

"Get multiple estimates before you have any work done,” Hicks says. “The average chimney cleaning and inspection cost about $150, and don't be fooled by prices that sound too-good-to-be-true."

Whether your chimney is venting a wood-burning or gas fireplace, wood stove, furnace or water heater, you should have it inspected annually and cleaned as needed.

Creosote can build up inside your chimney, creating a fire hazard.

Animals can take up residence or debris can accumulate, blocking a flue.

A chimney professional can make sure there aren't any problems with the various parts that may comprise your chimney, such as the mortar, flue or cap, many of which can be difficult or impossible to detect without special equipment and a trained eye.

Chimney sweep contractor Dave Clift says, "If it's been a long time you are going to want to have it cleaned and inspected. You will know notice on traditionally masonry fire place that you will get a lot of odor out of a chimney when the creosote is getting really heavy usually if it's got to the point where you are getting a strong odor out of it you are probably long overdue for having it swept."

Before any work is done, make sure the contractor is insured and bonded. It's important to check that the company has insurance before you hire. Insurance protects your home and furnishings.

If a contractor recommends expensive repairs, they should be able to provide photo or video images of the problems.

Make sure the images are actually of your home and be wary of anyone who pressures you to act immediately.


A nationwide Angie's List poll found:

  • 11 percent of Angie's List respondents say they've had at least one negative experience with a chimney contractor

  • 2 percent say they've had nothing but bad experiences>/li>
  • 13 percent say they thought they'd paid too much for services or for services they didn't need.

Chimney cleaning and repair scammers tend to follow the patterns of those in other home improvement industries:

  • Luring homeowners via phone solicitations

  • Door-to-door sales pitches or ads offering too-good-to-be-true prices

  • Preying on fear and lack of knowledge to score quick sales.

  • Once they get a foot in the door, they may claim costly repairs or products are needed immediately to prevent serious problems like carbon monoxide leaks or chimney fires.

Angie's List 4 Checkpoints for Chimney Service:
1. Get multiple estimates: As with hiring any contractor, it's best to receive multiple quotes before proceeding with work. The average chimney cleaning and inspection cost around $150 - the price for a video inspection and sweep will be closer to $200. Be wary of upfront prices that seem to be good to be true, and don't let contractors pressure you into snap decisions.
2. Check the contractor's credentials: Certification by the Chimney Institute of America (CSIA) means they have gone through training in fire safety, and adhere to a professional standard of ethics. Also, check to see if your state requires a license for chimney sweeping.
3. Insured and bonded? It's important to check that the company has insurance before you hire. Insurance protects your home and furnishings.
4. Scope out a snapshot: If a contractor recommends expensive repairs, they should be able to provide photo or video images of the problems. Make sure the images are actually of your home and be wary of anyone who pressures you to act immediately.

While it's wise to be wary of fly-by-night companies, it's still important to service your chimney regularly to avoid any hazards.

A nationwide Angie's List poll found: 89 percent of Angie's List respondents have a chimney; 56 percent have never hired a chimney professional.


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