According to the U.S. Fire Administration,  more than one-third of Americans use fireplaces, wood stoves or other fuel-fired appliances as primary heat sources in their homes. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the risks of hiring a chimney sweep to service their home. The Better Business Bureau recommends before hiring a chimney cleaning business, to be aware of possible chimney cleaning and repair scams.
As with many home improvement services, scam artists will lure homeowners with door-to-door sales pitches and phone solicitation offering extremely low prices for their services. Once a disreputable "sweep" gets into your home, they may make unnecessary claims for expensive and immediate repairs and create a sense of urgency with threats of house fire or carbon monoxide leaks - threats intended to frighten you into action.
“Every fall, when homeowners are preparing their homes for the winter months, there are unscrupulous chimney sweep businesses that solicit work either in-person or through direct mail,” said Paula Fleming, vice president of the local BBB. “It is extremely important for homeowners to do their research before allowing just any chimney business to inspect their home. The best way to avoid a scam is to research a business through bbb.org and contact them directly.”

BBB recommends asking any chimney service technician the following questions to ensure they are credible:

  • How long has the chimney sweep been in business?
  • Does the business offer current references?
  • Does the business have unresolved complaints filed with either the local Better Business Bureau or the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office?
  • Does the business or individual carry a valid business liability insurance policy to protect your home and furnishings against accidents?
  • Does the business maintain professional credentials? Will a Certified Chimney Sweep be on the job site?

BBB urges homeowners to avoid chimney scams by considering the following tips:

  • Don’t feel pressured by sales tactics.  If an unsolicited chimney sweep or repairman shows up to your door offering discount services or claims that there is an issue before actually inspecting the chimney, do not feel pressured into allowing them into your home or on your roof. Contact a chimney service on your own or get referrals from people you trust.
  • Require photo or video proof.  If repairs are suggested, ask for photo/video proof of the recommended repairs and do not feel pressured into allowing work to begin immediately. Make sure the photo has things in it than you can identify as your house or ask for photos with enough background so that you can clearly tell that is your home.
  • Don't accept broken debris as evidence of a needed repair.  That rubble may not be from your chimney. Ask to see what is broken or collapsed and have them show you. If they can see the needed repairs - you should be able to as well.
  • Do your homework.  Educate yourself about reputable chimney services in your area using BBB’s Accredited Business Directory. Research the products or repairs specific to your fireplace and chimney before the service person arrives.

For more information you can trust, visit bbb.org/boston or follow us on Facebook.