(615) 459-2546 office@ashbusters.net

A clean, well-operating fireplace and chimney adds warmth and enjoyment to chilly days. But it’s important to keep this home system well maintained by scheduling regular sweepings, being proactive about maintenance, and being diligent about annual inspections… and this requires placing your trust in a reputable chimney sweep. 

Unfortunately, as with many industries, there are scammers who will take advantage of a homeowner’s desire to keep their home safer and better maintained, often employing pressure and fear tactics to do so. The good news is that you can enjoy your chimney with peace of mind by being aware of common scams – and knowing how to avoid them.

How Scammers Take People In

Fundamentally, scammers take advantage of peoples’ concerns, such as saving money, keeping their families safe, and protecting their homes. Then they use high pressure sales techniques (often to invented or exaggerated problems), presenting themselves as the solution. By making problems appear urgent, they hope you’ll act quickly – before checking too carefully into their claims or credentials. Often, unnecessary repairs are done, promised work is never done, or inferior work is done at high costs.

Here are a few ways scams can play out:

1. The “No Proof” Scam

"SCAM" typed in big letters with smaller versions of the word behind itOften this scam begins with a cold call or a knock at the door. A scammer offers to clean, inspect, or repair your chimney… but can provide no proof of their credentials or certifications. Why is this suspicious? A credible sweep should be happy to back up their claims by verifying any credentials they claim to possess. Additionally, most reputable, well-established sweeps are already booked out well in advance and aren’t likely to be knocking on doors – especially in the fall and winter months.

2. The Unbelievable Deal

One common chimney scam is when a company offers an extremely low price to clean or repair your chimney. A fraudulent sweep will use this tactic to get their foot in the door. Once you’ve paid for your bargain inspection – which likely wasn’t thorough or legitimate – they’ll start tacking on additional charges for services that should have been included in the original quote, or they’ll start insisting you need additional, expensive services.

3. The Emergency Scam

Another way of scamming customers is by playing up the urgency of repairs, claiming that your chimney needs immediate attention for safety’s sake – no time to think it through! Keep in mind that there are times when extensive repairs are needed, and there are certainly safety factors involved in chimney care. However, a sense of urgency can also be used to manipulate an unsuspecting homeowner into opening their wallet before checking a company’s credentials or getting a second opinion.

4. The Pay First Scam

A service fee or deposit isn’t unheard of, but be wary if a provider insists on full payment or a very large payment prior to any work taking place, especially if you have no reviews or referrals to recommend the chimney sweep. If you were called or visited by a company out of the blue and they want you to pay for an inspection that will be provided later, they may have no plans to return!

What Should I Watch Out For?

You want to feel comfortable with any service provider, especially one you’re inviting into your home. A chimney sweep should be easy to communicate with. They should  listen to your concerns, answer questions, and be able to explain the necessity, scope of, and options for repairs. There should also be transparency about their qualifications. 

In contrast, there are some tactics that ought to raise a red flag. If you see one – don’t ignore it!

✓ Fear tactics

a masonry chimney against a blue skyScammers will often use fear tactics to pressure homeowners into agreeing to expensive repairs or services. For example, they may tell you that your chimney needs to be fixed immediately or you’ll put yourself at risk of a house fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. Ask for verification and explanation of what’s needed. A good sweep is concerned and educated about home safety, so verify that your sweep has the training and experience to recognize risks.

✓ High pressure sales tactics

If someone tries to pressure you into agreeing to a service right away or tells you a great offer is available for a very limited time, take heed – a heavy-handed technique often betrays a lack of substance that you’ll discover in time.

✓ Deceptive advertising

Some scammers use deceptive advertising to draw in the unsuspecting. They may use fake reviews or claim to be endorsed by the local fire department. Also be cautious about advertising that betrays a lack of longevity. No company identification on personnel, no physical address, unmarked service vehicles, shoddy advertising materials, or a website that lacks detail  – these indicate that the company in question may not be legitimate.

Professionalism You Can Trust

While being vigilant about scams is important, there’s no need for fear. There are many chimney sweeps dedicated to working in the industry with integrity When looking for one, begin with these two questions:

  1. Are they certified? Professional certifications are evidence that a company operates within a code of ethics and has demonstrated broad, current, reliable skills and knowledge. For instance, we’re certified by the CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America), which is the gold standard for chimney sweeps – a national agency run by a volunteer board of industry experts which requires recertification every three years.
  2. Are their customers satisfied? Get recommendations from family and friends, or search for reviews from reputable sources such as the Better Business Bureau or Google.

As a company that’s been in this business for over thirty years, we’re committed and proud to serve our community. Any chimney sweep worth their salt will be ready to verify their credentials, answer your questions, and be transparent about timelines and pricing. After all, it’s your home that’s at stake, and we can vouch that any reputable provider will want to help you protect it.

For professionalism you can trust, give our techs a call or book online today.