The chimney scammers (polite word) are in Maine. We knew it was coming sooner or later. Like deer ticks, red tide and milfoil, it was just a matter of time before this scourge found it’s way north.

For those of you who are unfamilar wiith chimney scammers, they have been prevalent in the Long Island New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area for some time now. There have been multiple reports of chimney scammers in other parts of the country as well, but the Eastern Seaboard seems to breed this particular vermin.

Their tactics are fairly straightforward, with a few variations. They either mail, call or stop by in person to offer ridiculously priced chimney cleanings ($29.95 i.e.). According to the CSIA, the price for a chimney cleaning should start at approximately $150.

Once they are in the home, scammers will then perfect the art of upsell, suggesting uneccessary repairs, upgrades etc. One popular suggestion is that the homeowner’s chimney is unlined and needs to be lined ASAP. They will then go out to their unlettered truck and produce a roll of stainless steel liner they just “happened” to have onboard.

No reputable chimney company will carry liner on their truck and assess and install the same day. To do the job properly, we need to examine the heating appliance, take measurements, send a written proposal for a customer to sign and return and then order materials.

Many of these scammers prey on the elderly and assure them they have installed chimney liner when they haven’t. There have been reports of subsequent house fires as a result of a scammer improperly installing a liner.

We’ve heard stories of these scammers from other chimney professionals, but have felt safely out of reach here in the great state of Maine. Of course, that’s an entirely naive state of mind. So, when we hear from a customer that he received a call from “ABC” chimney company offering a $29.95 chimney cleaning, we
felt like the angler at his favorite fishing hole when he saw an Asian carp devouring the native fish. UGH!

So, beware all you readers. Pass the word. Don’t get scammed by these vermin! Call the police, attorney general or a reputable chimney pro in your area. If you are unsure how to find a reputable chimney pro, look at the Web sites of Chimney Safety Institute of America ( or the Maine Association of Chimney Service Professionals (

HPBA's Fuel Calculator

April 13, 2010

HPBA’s Fuel Calculator lets you see how much you would save by installing a home heating product.

via HPBA’s Fuel Calculator.

It’s true that chimney sweeps have a reputation for being dashing, dark and handsome (and occasionally lovely), but I’m here to tell you that there’s more to us than meets the eye.

For example, I cite you a recent gathering of sweeps for a Chimney Safety Institute of Americ( a certification exam in Manchester, N.H. last week. There more than 30 dashing sweeps (and one lovely one) from all over New England met in an overheated conference room to talk ad nauseum for 8 hours before taking a 2.5 hour recertification test.

The brain power on display was breathtaking. No really, it was! Accepting the widely held premise that chimney sweeping consists of ramming a brush down the chimney and then sucking up clouds of soot with a vacumn, your face and all exposed pores, the contrast was as black and white as …..well a fair skinned chimney sweep at the tail end of an October work day.

We discussed the btu output of a pound of propane, how to multiply pi x r2 to arrive at the total area of a circle, how to calibrate a stack switch on a furnace, how to determine the ovalized area of a stainless steel chimney liner, the three components of combustion, the neutral pressure planes in a house and more.

We waded through the 1000 page International Residential Code book to find an obscure code for something like the maximum allowable angle of a chimney offset, or the necessary width of a hearth floor or the minimum thickness of a mortar joint.

We swapped war stories, shared some industry secrets, commiserated with tales of economic woe, told a few lies (presumably) drank some old coffee and finally, an hour later than we were supposed to given all preceding events, took the recertification test.

It was exhausting, at times frustrating (the inevitable long winded story), sometimes entertaining, sometimes enlightening and more. It was also an affirmation that we chimney sweeps can be an eclectic, smart bunch. Ask us to sing a verse of “Chim Cheree” like Dick van Dyke and we just might break into the Latin version to throw a curveball at our inquisitor. We can be ornery too!

I’ve been dragged, kicked, booted, yanked, flailed and humiliated into publishing a blog. Wah, wah! I want my rotary phone, my transistor radio, my Underwood typewriter and my rock hard Squirrel Nut candy.

Stop your whining, say unfortunate bystanders. How else can you reach so many people, in so many far flung points on the globe?

I dunno. Become a reality show celebrity, act like a jackass and announce I’m entering rehab?  And besides, will they want to listen, I ask. We’ll see, we will see. Clearly, there must be one or two people with nothing better to do. 

So, in the near future we will start writing about the allure of burning wood and a long list of other pertinent (and not so) subjects. To my audience of one or two – you need a hobby!