When Lucille Collings bought her house, the fireplace was a big draw.
“I love a fireplace, it’s so nice,” she said.
But in January, Collings got a phone call from a chimney company offering a free inspection.
“The woman called me three times and three times I said I am not interested,” Collings said. “Then she called me a fourth time, okay.”
When the technician showed up, he had bad news.
She says he told her the pipes were too close and that she needed a new fireplace liner and to watch out for carbon monoxide.
“Scaring the heck out of me,” Collings said.
She agreed to $4,600 in repairs and when the work was finished, Collings lit a fire and says smoke poured into her home.
“It’s a nightmare, just a nightmare,” she said.
Collings filed a complaint with the attorney general’s office, but industry experts say they’ve seen this scenario many times before.
Out of state companies calling homeowners with chimney cleaning deals, only to get their foot in the door to sell unneeded services. Work that is often done improperly, putting people at risk.
There is no state regulation of chimney sweeps, so we reached out to The Chimney Safety Institute of America.
They recommended that Lucille contact a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep.
Jon White of Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep in Swampscott is CSIA certified, and he took a look at her chimney.
“They used an undersized liner,” White said. "The heating system liner was altered and the vent pipe wasn’t installed properly and permits weren’t pulled.”
If you are hiring a chimney sweep, make sure the company is insured, ask what industry licenses or credentials they hold and verify them, ask for current references, avoid deals that sound too good to be true, and always get everything in writing.
Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep did the repair work on Lucille’s fireplace free of charge, just in time for the holidays.
“Heard her story, wanted to help,” White said. “So I contacted our chimney supplier, National Chimney Supply, and they agreed graciously to give us the parts. I then called a local plumber and he decided he wanted to pull the gas permit and do that end of it. We gave her a safe chimney.”
A truly warm gesture.
“It’s so nice and warm and cozy. I just can’t believe it, I appreciate everything,” Lucille said.
You should always be wary of unsolicited phone calls from companies offering deals or who say they are in the neighborhood doing work. And be safe. The National Fire Protection Association recommends that you have your chimney inspected yearly.