How to Avoid a Chimney Cleaning Scam

Fireplaces are wonderful, especially during the cold winter months. But, they do need to be cleaned regularly and unless you’ve lived with a fireplace for most of your life, most people don’t know a thing about how to clean them.

This fact is the reason why there are a growing number of chimney cleaning scams popping up all over the country. Here, we take a look at how these scams work and how to avoid becoming a victim.

How Chimney Cleaning Scams Work

Most chimney cleaning scams target newer homeowners since they rarely have any idea about the workings of their fireplace yet. The contact is generally made by phone or email. To add credibility to their service, the company may even mention the names of the previous owners of you home and state that they used their service while they lived there. In most cases, the homeowner is quoted a very low price for the chimney cleaning service, typically under or around $40.

When the serviceman enters your home, they will inspect your chimney before cleaning it. After the inspection, they will tell you that your chimney has some structural damage or that it needs a new chimney cap (or spark arrester). They may even produce pieces of concrete that they say fell from your chimney to prove their claims.

The serviceman will also talk a lot about carbon monoxide poisoning and how you need to have these repairs made in order to prevent it. If the serviceman is telling you that your fireplace is in fact leaking carbon monoxide (which is rare), have them prove it to you. They should have a meter that will indicate the amount of carbon monoxide leakage.

Another scam involves the serviceman claiming that your chimney’s liner needs to be replaced. Replacing a liner is an expensive job and these scammers usually don’t even install the new liner properly or they use ill-fitted replacements, which can pose a hazard.

How Not to Be Victim of a Chimney Cleaning Scam

Chimney cleaning scammers can come off like they’re good, hard-working folk, but don’t let that fool you – get, and check references before agreeing to any work being performed!

The low price is one of the biggest signs that the service may be a scam. According to he National Chimney Sweep Guild and the Chimney Safety Institute of America, quality inspection of the chimney alone costs around $75, and the actual cleaning around $150. The cleaning of a chimney takes usually an hour or longer.

Get more than one bid for the job. If a service is pressuring you into a quick sale, they are probably a scam.
Check to see if the chimney cleaning company is certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America and that it has up-to-date liability insurance. Not all areas require chimney cleaners to the licensed, but check with your local municipal to see if yours does. If so, check to make sure the serviceman is licensed.

If you are thinking about having your chimney cleaned, but you aren’t sure if it needs it yet, try calling your local fire department. In some areas, the local fire department will inspect the chimney for free and they may even recommend a reputable and local chimney cleaning service.