Almost everyone is trying to save money these days, and with a vengeance. After all, the sting of various present day economic factors has given most of us a rash to one degree or another. Having delivered my services, first as a chimney sweep and later performing full-blown masonry repair, I am reasonably certain that I can give some advice that will save you, the homeowner, a decent amount of money in the near term and/or long term. My observation over the last 20 years is that in the Portland, Ore. metro area the chimney trade is divided up into 3 types of technical persons:
•A Chimney sweep who only performs chimney cleaning and installation of raincaps and dampers. Some may write repair estimates that would be performed by a mason within the company. Hopefully the sweep knew what he was looking at when he wrote the bid (sometimes they do not). Sometimes they do not inspect thoroughly enough. There are some very good sweeps in the Portland area, and some that make me shake my head (Like the one that told one of my customers that she needed a “stainless steel lining system” for her furnace chimney to remedy a carbon monoxide leak in her basement. They based their assessment on the “fact” that they could smell the carbon monoxide leak…).
•Repair technicians that prefer to do the smaller, less technically involved repairs.
•Masons that perform large jobs and technically difficult jobs.
Of course, there are exceptions, but the 3 descriptions above are what I have observed in the previous 20 years out in the field, and they apply to the big boys on the block. The one or two man operations are a different story.
The point here is that it is critical that whoever is attempting to sell you a repair or service had better know what they are looking at, and have the integrity to do a thorough inspection. Your money is wasted if you purchase a repair that you did not need or worse, purchased the wrong repair.
Guidelines for getting repair estimates
•Always try to be present when the estimator arrives; observe his or her actions closely.
•Always ask questions to ensure that you fully understand what is being communicated to you.
•Always try to get at least 3 different estimates from different companies.
•If an estimator talks down to your, does not answer your questions, or is disrespectful, consider using another company.
•Have the estimator define any terms that he may have used that you do not understand. Any estimator worth their paycheck will gladly do so.
Your best defense as a homeowner is to gather data from different sources so as to make comparisons and evaluations of data. After you have gathered your data, do further research of your own if warranted.
The chimney sweeps and repair masons of the Portland metro area are decent, hard-working people for the most part. But like any other profession, there are some individuals that are less than savory…
In the next article:
Small steps you can take now to avoid spending many dollars later.