Tuesday, May 28, 2013

It's Your Money. Spend It Wisely.

Word of mouth remains the most reliable referral when it comes to finding a good chimney service company, but here are some basic guidelines intended to help you make a better choice. Chimney flues require yearly inspections and servicing to remove soot and creosote deposits as well as to diagnose potential problems with the system.   
How do you select a chimney company? 
When you shop for a chimney company’s services, one of the first things you'll ask is what’s the rate? More often than not, we tend to hire the person that offers the cheapest rate but when it comes to your home, what are you getting for that deal?
When a chimney service company quotes $200.00 for their service, you may gasp before opting to hang up right then and there in favor of a company that offers to do the job for much less than that (some for as low as $50.00).
You can find chimney services anywhere, Angie's List, Craiglist, Yellow Pages, and of course even the internet. Some may even come to your door since they just happened to be in the neighborhood. But what are you getting for you money?
In all honesty, if you've ever seen the operation, chimney sweeping is deceivingly simple. A brush is pushed through the chimney passage several times and the fallen debris removed. Simple. Or is it?
Well established chimney service companies understand the real complexity of maintaining an exhaust system. They employ tools specifically designed to perform their job, they know what to look for in terms of potential issues in order to avoid problems and costly repairs or how to properly repair a damaged system, and what it costs to not only protect their business, but also their customers as well as their homes. A thorough sweeping and evaluation of the system will typically take an hour or more. Do not be fooled by the twenty minute sweep who shows up at your house with a brush and a ladder.

Let’s talk about initial impressions.
You can immediately get a feeling for who you're about to hire with that first phone call. A company conscious of its first impression will be courteous and knowledgeable of the business at hand, will most likely ask you a few questions about your home, and even provide you with an informative profile of their service and reputation. As a customer, a person in need of good service about to spend your hard-earned money to maintain an important component of your home, you should not expect anything less.
But let’s get beyond a courteous, informative phone call. You've made your appointment. What do you expect?

Good companies will have an emphasis on the overall presentation; that first impression on you, the customer. A professional-looking lettered vehicle is a good start. A uniformed, well-groomed technician compliments that impression exponentially. Business cards and documents with the company letterhead are also part of the company's investment in making a good impression. 
Would you hire the long-haired, tattooed, pierced guy getting out of an old, dented, flat gray old van? Hopefully not, but this is where that gap in service prices comes into play.

As I pointed out before, a solid company protects not only themselves, but also their customers. Good chimney service companies invest in the education of their technicians, which starts with certification from the Chimney Safety Institute of America, where new technicians learn the latest building codes, maintenance procedures as well as the guidelines for chimney sweeping service and exhaust system installations. By properly training their technicians, good companies are protecting you as a homeowner. At this point you're not making a payment for a service; you are investing into peace of mind and the safety of your home and more importantly, you and your family.

Remember gasping when the person you called quoted you $200.00 or more?
Your run-of-the-mill scam company's primary focus is getting paid for the job of the day. They'll be happy to offer you a “deal” simply because they don't plan on seeing you again. The bolder outfits will even employ scare tactics to force you into a repair you most likely don’t even need.
A good company will look to cultivate a relationship with you by going out of their way to treat your home as their own. Their technicians will provide you plenty of information, offer suggestions, and ultimately let you make the best decision.

Remember, good professionals in any field are forced into realistic rates because of carrying proper liability insurances, another way to ensure the protection of their business as well as the customer.
 An insured  company pays their premiums because they mean to stand behind their work, and of course, in the name of being able to make a living after paying insurance, workman's compensation, health benefits to their employees, the rate will be what most of us will see as high.  
Companies of questionable reputation offer lower rates because in many cases they operate uninsured and without the proper licenses. Stories of apologetic contractors promising to fix their mistakes in the future only to never be seen again are unfortunately all too common.

In reality, a chimney service appointment at even as high as $240.00 dollars translates to $20.00 a month. On average, chimney and vent systems are supposed to be checked yearly. In cases of excessive use of your fireplace or wood-burning stove, you may want to have your system checked halfway through the heating season as well.
Bottom line, a solid, honest, well establish chimney service company goes several steps further to cultivate a relationship with their customers. In training and offering benefits to their employees, they keep the typical revolving door which results in the customer getting a new person on each appointment. Understanding that familiarity inspires trust and comfort in a customer, good companies make the investment in their employees and overall presentation and proper licensing and insuring of their services. 
And of course, ask around. A good company will only be too happy to offer you referrals in order to win your business.

contribution by Javier A. Robayo

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