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This document warns consumers about a common consumer fraud involving promises of quick, cheap chimney inspection, cleaning or repair services. Chimney and flue safety hazards such as carbon monoxide gas leaks, fire hazards, and chimney inspection and testing are addressed.
Readers should also see Chimney Cleaning Advice, Procedures and see CHIMNEY REPAIR METHODS.
Watch out for consumer fraud and scam operations that promise low-priced specials on chimney inspection, cleaning, re-lining, or repairs. Readers have informed us of a variety of common chimney rip offs involving professional criminals who combine information about new home buyers and local business names with a telephone promise of various chimney services such as chimney cleaning for $39.95. Homeowners attracted to this chimney deal may encounter scammers who arrive with a ladder, take a superficial look at a chimney, and claim that the chimney is unsafe, needs re-lining, or other treatment.
How to Avoid the Chimney Sweep Fraud Scam
A clue from our photograph at left: if your "chimney repairman" doesn't even leave the ground, it's doubtful that he's a professional. But just placing a ladder against the building and "looking" is also not a professional nor thorough chimney inspection and certainly it's not a repair.
These warnings [adapted& quoting from] from the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection can help consumers avoid getting scammed by a fake chimney service company:
To find a reputable chimney sweep, ask friends for referrals, look in the business section of your telephone directory under "Chimney Cleaning,” or visit the Chimney Safety Institute of America web site at www.csia.org. You can also visit the site for the National Chimney Sweep Guild (NCSG) at www.ncsg.org.Many sweeps apply for certification by CSIA or membership in the NCSG. These organizations promote professionalism in the industry by testing applicants and offering continuing education opportunities to keep members up to date on changing technology and fire safety.>
NEVER hire a chimney sweep who shows up at your door uninvited. There are many home improvement scams that commonly take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners; fly-by-night chimney sweep scams is one of the most prevalent
Be aware of telemarketing offers where someone offers you a very, very low price to come and clean your chimney. If someone is trying to get in at a very low price or is calling you out of the blue, they may just want to get their foot in the door, because they're really looking to do some type of repair work.
Some scammers provide photos they claim are from inside or outside your chimney, as evidence to convince you that your chimney needs repair. You have to be sure the photos are actually from your house. So any pictures that are provided to justify getting work done should include something in the photo or in the background that identifies it as your home
Some scam artists show debris from a chimney as an indicator of something that's broken. If the company claims that this debris shows that your liner is broken or collapsed that you need a new liner system, get a second opinion, or have them show you where it is broken.
Be aware of attempts to frighten you. If you get the feeling that a salesperson or sweeper is using terms like carbon monoxide poisoning or house fire in a way that feels alarming, you should get another opinion. This could very well be a hard sell tactic.
If you are being pushed to make an immediate decision, then make the decision to look for someone else.
Protect your privacy – Never give out personal information
over the telephone, especially your Social Security number.
Do not disclose financial information to anyone outside of a
trusted circle of family members and advisors.
Always ask for identification - Never let strangers into your
home, and always check identification of any service person
you have contacted before allowing them to enter your home.
Report suspicious solicitations to the police.
Limit the amount of cash you keep on hand or at your home.
Do not allow anyone to take you to withdraw money from your
bank to pay for their services.
Carefully review all contracts before you sign. Also, review
all bank and credit card statements, stock reports and
investment prospectives. Double check sales receipts to make
sure you were not over charged.
Ask questions - Never be afraid to consult a trusted friend, a
financial advisor/lawyer or family member for assistance,
especially when making purchases of more than $100 or
signing contracts. Contact the Better Business Bureau and/or
the New York State Consumer Protection Board with any
questions or concerns.
Ensure that all promises be put in writing, including the
project scope, costs, payment schedule and start and
expected completion date. Review the contract carefully
as you have three days to cancel the deal.
Do not pay the full amount upfront.
Don’t sign a certificate of completion until the work is
completed to your satisfaction.
Be wary of contractors who offer high cost loans in
combination with construction services.
Keep all paperwork.
For further information, obtain a copy of Home Improvements
Without Headaches [PDF download] or obtain a copy directly from the New York State Consumer
“We encourage people not to fall for a super-low price,” she said, adding that no legitimate chimney cleaning would cost $25 or $30; they usually cost up to $300. [this was a 2008 price - Ed.]
Recent Chimney Sweep or Repair Fraud Cases
Quoting from the Daily Freeman, a New York newspaper article published 11 December 2010
Police Chief Phil Mattracion said Friday that the con artists, who identify themselves as being with All Purpose Chimney Care Inc., approach homeowners and tell them that their oil company has demanded they get their chimneys cleaned.
So far, Mattracion said, three property owners have been approached for a cleaning. One elderly person did pay the scam artists, but the check was later stopped by her son, Mattracion said.
Mattracion said police suspect the same scam was played out in October in Darien, Connecticut.
Mattracion said residents should not even discuss the matter with the con artists and call police immediately at (845) 647-4422.
Quoting from the DarienPatch, a Connecticut newspaper article published 29 January 2010
Following the arrests of two scam artists, the Darien Police and State Department of Consumer Protection urge residents to take necessary precautions when investing in home repairs.
... Clifford E. Kearns of Sheldon, NY and 26-year old John R. Rastrellie of Stuart Fl.—were arrested on Wednesday afternoon following a sting operation in which the two men tried to scam a 79-year-old Darien woman of $13,000 of unnecessary chimney repairs.
Chimney Safety Institute of America, a trade association,CSIA Technology Center, 2155 Commercial Drive, Plainfield, IN 46168, www.csia.org - this is a recommended resource that provides a certified [chimney] professional locator at http://www.csia.org/default.aspx?tabid=174
National Chimney Sweep Guild (NCSG), also a trade association, National Chimney Sweep Guild, 2155 Commercial Drive, Plainfield, IN 46168
(317) 837-1500, www.ncsg.org - this is a recommended resource
Great Deals, BIg Scams, New York State Consumer Protection Board, Advocating for and Empowering NY Consumers
1-800-697-1220, www.nysconsumer.gov . Web search 02/11/2011, original source: http://www.consumer.state.ny.us/pdf/protecting/scam_
Without Headaches, New York State Consumer Protection Board, 2007, this document includes telephone numbers for local consumer protection offices in various New York counties or municipalities. Web search 02/11/2011, original source: http://www.consumer.state.ny.us/pdf/educating
Beware of Chimney Scams, Jim Gillam, Jay Hensley, The Chimney Sweep News, March 2008, Jim Gillam Editor/Publisher, 541-882-5196, Web search 02/11/2011, source: http://www.labrossebrothers.com/Beware%20of%20Chimney%20Scams%200308.pdf
Chimney Repair and Cleaning Scams, The truth about chimney repair and cleeaning: Internet Scambusters #151, Internet Scambusters, 197 New Market Center #115, Boone NC 815-642-0460 Scambusters.org. Web search 02/11/2011, original source: http://www.scambusters.org/chimneyrepair.html
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NFPA #211-3.1 1988 -
Specific to chimneys, fireplaces, vents and solid fuel burning appliances.
NFPA # 54-7.1 1992 -
Specific to venting of equipment with fan-assisted combustion systems.
Gas Appliance Manufacturers' Association has prepared venting tables for
Category I draft hood equipped central furnaces as well as fan-assisted
combustion system central furnaces.
National Fuel Gas Code, an American National Standard, 4th ed. 1988 (newer edition is available) Secretariats, American Gas Association (AGA), 1515 Wilson Blvd., Arlington VA22209, and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Batterymarch Park, Quincy MA 02269. ANSI Z223.1-1988 - NFPA 54-1988. WARNING: be sure to check clearances and other safety guidelines in the latest edition of these standards.
Fire Inspector Guidebook, A Correlation of Fire Safety Requirements Contained in the 1987 BOCA National Codes, (newer edition available), Building Officials and Code Administrators International, Inc. (BOCA), Country Club HIlls, IL 60478 312-799-2300 4th ed. Note: this document is reissued every four years. Be sure to obtain the latest edition.
Uniform Mechanical Code - UMC 1991, Sec 913 (a.) Masonry Chimneys,
refers to Chapters 23, 29, and 37 of the Building Code.
New York 1984 Uniform Fire
Prevention and Building Code, Article 10, Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning Requirements
New York 1979 Uniform Fire Prevention & Building Code, The "requirement" for 8" of solid masonry OR for use of a flue liner was listed in the One and Two Family Dwelling Code for New York, in 1979, in Chapter 9, Chimneys and Fireplaces, New York 1979
Building and Fire Prevention Code:
"Top Ten Chimney (and related) Problems Encountered by One Chimney Sweep," Hudson Valley ASHI education seminar, 3 January 2000, contributed by Bob Hansen, ASHI
"Rooftop View Turns to Darkness," Martine Costello, Josh Kovner, New Haven Register, 12 May 1992 p. 11: Catherine Murphy was sunning on a building roof when a chimney collapsed; she fell into and was trapped inside the chimney until rescued by emergency workers.
"Chimney & Woodstove Safety", State of Vermont, Division of Fire Safety, Code Information Sheet, January 2007, Office of the Fire Marshal & State Fire Academy, Berlin VT Telephone: 802-479-7561 www.vtfiresafety.org
"Chimneys and Vents," Mark J. Reinmiller, P.E., ASHI Technical Journal, Vol. 1 No. 2 July 1991 p. 34-38.
"Chimney Inspection Procedures & Codes," Donald V. Cohen was to be published in the first volume of the 1994 ASHI Technical Journal by D. Friedman, then editor/publisher of that publication. The production of the ASHI Technical Journal and future editions was cancelled by ASHI President Patrick Porzio. Some of the content of Mr. Cohen's original submission has been included in this more complete chimney inspection article: InspectAPedia.com/chimneys/Chimney_Inspection_Repair.php. Copies of earlier editions of the ASHI Technical Journal are available from ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors.
Natural Gas Weekly Update: http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/oog/info/ngw/ngupdate.asp Official Energy Statistics from the U.S. Government
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Or choose the The Home Reference eBook for PCs, Macs, Kindle, iPad, iPhone, or Android Smart Phones. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference eBook purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAEHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto, have provided us with (and we recommend) Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates' Technical Reference Guide to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Technical Reference Guide purchased as a single order. Just enter INSPECTATRG in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
Ceramic Roofware, Hans Van Lemmen, Shire Library, 2008, ISBN-13: 978-0747805694 - Brick chimneys, chimney-pots and roof and ridge tiles have been a feature of the roofs of a wide range of buildings since the late Middle Ages. In the first instance this ceramic roofware was functional - to make the roof weatherproof and to provide an outlet for smoke - but it could also be very decorative.
The practical and ornamental aspects of ceramic roofware can still be seen throughout Britain, particularly on buildings of the Victorian and Edwardian periods. Not only do these often have ornate chimneys and roof tiles but they may also feature ornamental sculptures or highly decorative gable ends. This book charts the history of ceramic roofware from the Middle Ages to the present day, highlighting both practical and decorative applications, and giving information about manufacturers and on the styles and techniques of production and decoration.
Hans van Lemmen is an established author on the history of tiles and has lectured on the subject in Britain and elsewhere. He is founder member and presently publications editor of the British Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society. Also available at the InspectAPedia Bookstore.
Chimney & Stack Inspection Guidelines, American Society of Civil Engineers, 2003 - These guidelines address the inspection of chimneys and stacks. Each guideline assists owners in determining what level of inspection is appropriate to a particular chimney and provides common criteria so that all parties involved have a clear understanding of the scope of the inspection and the end product required. Each chimney or stack is a unique structure, subject to both aggressive operating and natural environments, and degradation over time. Such degradation may be managed via a prudent inspection program followed by maintenance work on any equipment or structure determined to be in need of attention. Sample inspection report specifications, sample field inspection data forms, and an example of a developed plan of a concrete chimney are included in the guidelines. This book provides a valuable guidance tool for chimney and stack inspections and also offers a set of references for these particular inspections.