Homeowners complain about Chicago chimney sweep service
When Hilary Morris of Des Plaines, Ill., hired Chimney Solutions Inc., he thought he was getting a standard chimney sweep. But instead, he got a headache.
Morris says the Addison, Ill.-based chimney cleaning company failed to show for several appointments. When a sweep finally knocked on his door, Morris says he insisted on unnecessary repairs.
"They were just supposed to come for a cleaning," Morris says. "They said they found some cracks they needed to caulk and clean. My wife said fine. Then, they said they needed to replace two chimney caps, and she didn't feel like she was in a position to say no." A $45 cleaning turned into a $450 job.
After Morris got home, he went up on the roof to look at the new caps. "There really wasn't any difference," he says. "All they are is sheet metal, some heavy-gauge wire and four screws."
Morris says the chimney sweep company also tried to bill him twice for the work.
"I got abused once, and they wanted to abuse me again," he says.
Other customers tell of similar experiences with Chimney Solutions, like the company failing to show for sweeps, upselling, performing low-quality work and unresponsiveness.
Marla Heller of Northbrook, Ill., says she hired them to clean her dryer vent after they called and said they were running a special. "They did a terrible job," Heller says. "It's not that they don't do anything, but they don't do a complete job. I asked why they just used little brushes, and they said, 'That's the way we do it. What did you expect for the money?'"
Heller says she was disappointed they didn't use a long tool to sweep the vent from the roof and only swept the bottom of the vent. She also felt they took advantage of her. "They said the grate on the roof needed to be replaced," Heller says. "I paid extra for that, and it's probably not anything better."
How the company got swept
Complaints have plagued John Judd, the owner of Chimney Solutions, for years. His former company, American Chimney Sweeps, made headlines in 2003 when a chimney they had supposedly cleaned less than a month earlier ignited a fire in a Bolingbrook home.
Other customers accused an American Chimney Sweeps employee of assault, and a local television investigation revealed several convicted felons working for the company. As a result of these and other complaints, the cleaning company lost its accreditation with the BBB, and American Chimney Sweeps closed on Dec. 31, 2004.
Judd didn't respond to phone messages left by Angie's List.
Chimney Solutions has landed in the Angie's List Penalty Box twice in recent months.
The company also has an unsatisfactory record with the Chicago Better Business Bureau, which has received 44 complaints in the last 36 months. Of those, 18 were closed because Chimney Solutions failed to respond.
The Illinois Attorney General's office also received four complaints against the company in 2007 and eight since 2005. The office is currently investigating and working to mediate the problems.
Officials from the National Chimney Safety Institute of America and the National Chimney Sweep Guild say Chimney Solutions is in no way affiliated with either of their organizations. But the cleaning company continues to troll for customers, even ones they've alienated in the past. "I got another call just a couple of months ago," Morris says. "They said they were going through their list of customers and wanted to see if I needed service.
"It's a shame there are people operating out there that take this sort of approach. It goes back to the concept of trust. I would equate it to the [stereotype of the] shady used-car salesman, at the risk of giving used-car salesmen a bad name."
Heller says Chimney Solutions also recently contacted her again. "I actually made an appointment before I realized it was the same company," she says. "I called them back and told them not to bother. I'm sure they wouldn't have showed up, anyway."
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