RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Is your fireplace or wood stove keeping you warm this winter?
You've heard the warnings about getting your chimneys inspected to make sure everything is working properly, but this is a different kind of warning.
The folks at Cougots Chimney service are making the rounds. Their mission is safety and service.
Going year after year with consistent burning creates a big risk in chimney fires.
But as you think about safety, you should also be concerned with your money.
Dan Fitzpatrick of Cougots Chimney says crooks usually pop-up during the winter months, targeting homeowners looking for a good deal.
"They show up in the middle of winter a lot of times they are from out of the area they may have number that calls somewhere out of state," Fitzpatrick said.
Like with any service, you have to do your homework. Get several estimates, and never feel pressured to sign anything.
Fitzpatrick says ask yourself some questions.
"Are they a local company, do they have an office, can you find them registered with Virginia Department of Occupational and Professional Regulation."
Experts say a big red flag, is when a chimney contractor rushes you into buying and installing a chimney liner.
Among many things, it's used to prevent heat and sparks from reaching combustible material in your home, that can cause a fire.
"That doesn't mean your chimney doesn't need one but they are going to push for it right away whether you need it or not because it is the highest ticket item in our business. "
Remember don't just take the contractors word for it, if they tell you something is wrong with the inside of your chimney, they should be able to show you proof by using either a video camera or a digital camera.
"Sign here, you need this work, lets go right away your house is going to burn down, that sort of mentality should all be red flags for the consumer."
Also keep in mind, if a fraudulent contractor gets access to your home, you run the risk of not only losing money, but work being done improperly, putting you and your family's safety at risk.
The experts say also watch for crooks offering sky high prices or prices that are too low.
The Better Business Bureau says an average chimney sweep will cost you about $150 to $200.
We've posted more information under "On Your Side Alerts" on our website.