Almost everyone enjoys a fire roaring in the fireplace on that blustery winter day in Acadiana. Having your chimney cleaned is part of being a part of home ownership.

In preparation for the winter season, Better Business Bureau Serving Acadiana is advising consumers to know which businesses to trust and which to avoid to prevent their hard earned dollars from going up in smoke.

Chimney sweeping is not something that homeowners deal with often, so they may lack knowledge of the cleaning process. While not all chimney cleaners are unreliable, many scammers take advantage of this and do shoddy work … or no work at all.

In some cases, consumers have reported calls stating the local fire department recommends the resident's chimney be cleaned. The calls go on to recommend a particular chimney sweep and endorse their services on behalf of the fire department. Though many fire departments do recommend having chimneys cleaned on an annual basis, they do not endorse any particular company.

In addition, many scam artists are targeting the elderly, making vague, unclear phone calls claiming they have done business in the past and it is time for their annual sweep.

Scam artists are also advertising at a much lower price than legitimate businesses. Typically, a professional chimney sweep will charge between $100 and $200 for the cleaning of one chimney shaft, whereas scam artists are charging as little as $50.

The BBB advises that if a price sounds too good to be true, it usually is. You generally get what you pay for.

Reports that many scam artists use a low price tactic to get in your door, at which point they recommend additional work be done immediately, bullying the consumer into a much more expensive bill. If the price you are quoted is significantly lower than that of other businesses, it should be viewed as a red flag.

BBB recommends using these helpful tips when hiring a chimney sweep:

  • Check out all chimney sweeping business at bbb.org before you do business with a company.
  • Find out how long they have been in business. How long have they operated in your area? Find out if they offer current references, or if you know anyone who has used their services in the past.
  • Ask if they have a valid business liability insurance policy. In the event of an accident, this policy keeps your home and belongings safe.
  • Find out if any employees are certified through CSIA. Though this is not law, it is recommended by the fire department, and speaks to the qualifications of the individual or business you hire. CSIA is a national nonprofit agency with a certification program for chimney sweeps and certification is required of members of the National Chimney Sweeping Guild.

If you need more information, you can find it at http://www.acadiana.bbb.org.