A bit of a gripe about my local chimney sweep / installation contractors....

Detector$ Posted By Detector$, Dec 4, 2008 at 5:48 AM

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  1. Detector$

    Member 2.

    Dec 16, 2007
    Just looking to vent a little...

    I'm building a new place and will be installing a new Jotul F600 with doublewall connector pipe and pre-fab insulated chimney. We worked with an architect to design our house and have an excellent builder/GC.

    Due to my travel schedule and for peace of mind, I'm not going to install the stove/chimney myself. I'm an engineer and have read all of the manuals and have been closely reading this site for about a year and a half. Based on that, I only wanted the BEST (Certified) installers to do the installation.

    So, over the past 6 months, I've reached out to EVERY SINGLE NFI certified woodburning specialist installer in TWO STATES (and our stove shop recommended installer)! Waving CASH!!! Price really wasn't a big issue. I couldn't get an ounce of interest from any of them to even give me a quote. One actually came to the house... never called me or the builder back to give us a price. Finally talked to our HVAC contractor, and he didn't want to do it. Good lord! I know it's busy season. But, given the state of the construction economy, I expected to see at least some level of enthusiasm from the contractors (not just the chimney guys). My experience has been awful. Most of the contractors still in business appear lazy and greedy. Since I'm building at a time when most aren't they're trying to get rich off me.

    Builder couldn't wait on the stove guys to do the install so I took some time off and the two of us just put the chimney in ourselves.....

    Our installation is very good, but I'm very disappointed at the level of professionalism I've found from the NFI certified guys around here.

    Makes me wonder if I should invest in starting my own business? Seems like customer service is a thing of the past.
  2. Cearbhaill

    Feeling the Heat 2.

    Nov 15, 2007
    The deep end
    It's hardly limited to this field- it's rampant across the entire spectrum of business IMO.
    I have long since tired of begging people to take my money.
    I spent my entire career taking customer service very seriously and I truly lament the state of most businesses today. When it is the exception to find really stellar customer service, that is just sad.

    That said, when I do find it I make sure that my appreciation is heard all the way up the chain of command by writing letters to everyone involved.
  3. Nic36

    Feeling the Heat 2.

    Jan 23, 2008
    Decatur, Alabama
    Yeah, don't feel like your situation was unique. When I planned to buy a wood stove, I was totally willing to pay to have everything installed. The first stove store I went to actually had their stove installer there. This was in the spring of this year, so I assume they were not that busy. It still didn't matter, they just didn't seem like they were very interested. After a couple of more encounters like that, and after finding this forum, I installed it myself.

    It really is sad that you cannot pay someone to do work anymore.
  4. timfromohio

    Minister of Fire 2.

    Aug 20, 2007
    You're not alone. I recently put in a new stove. I built the hearth myself according to NFPA standards, had the stove in place, and just wanted to pay somebody competent to run the pipe. Not a hard job. I had 4 guys come out to give me quotes. I got a written quote from only 1. Two others never called back - they showed up, eyeballed it, took NO measurements and said they'd get back to me - never heard from them. The other guy gave me a verbal quote, then later said he would need to make a certain amount on the job and would bill me for materials plus "x" amount. Now, the only complication with the installation was that there was a roof truss above the stove - easy to get around using a couple of elbows. Two of the guys said they'd just cut it - uhhh, not in my house. I'm an engineer as well, read all the material I could get my hands on and, thanks in no small part to lots of advice from folks on this excellent forum, installed the pipe myself. I did have a good friend who is a contractor help out with the roof work, as I'm certain if I had tried to re-shingle it would have leaked at the first rain.

    It was very frustrating to have these idiots who proclaimed to be certified and experienced show up, take no measurements, eyeball things, and then never call back.
  5. offroadaudio

    New Member 2.

    Dec 17, 2007
    South Central Pa.
    I don't want to kill the rant, but I'd like to add a positive spin.
    The first guy I called to come out and quote my extensive needs - (1 chimney with 3 flues, 2 open fireplaces and a wood/oil combo furnace, 35 feet high and no easy way to get up there, plus another single flue chimney 35 feet high and over a 110 year old slate roof) - this guy spent about 1.5 hours at the house with flashlight in hand, up and down ladders taking measurements and discussing my plans, wants and needs.

    In a week he sent written quotes in the mail.
    The good guys are out there.
    If anyone needs a pro in York County Pa, send me an e mail and I'll give you the info.
  6. Medman

    Feeling the Heat 2.

    Jul 8, 2008
    Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
    I have long since given up the search for compentency and desire for good customer service in the home renovation/building industry. I have found over the past five years that there are certain maxims in building construction in general:

    Individuals working independently (not businesses with multiple employees) who have to advertise their business are not likely to be competent. The best contractors in any field have no need to advertise; their reputation precedes them. My flooring installer, plumber, electrician, window installer, and GC do not and have never advertised, and they are always booked months in advance. Likewise, a mason here who was serving sentence for non-payment of child support had six months of cash work before he was even released. Most of the work was for police officers. He is that good.

    The contractor who says he can come right away and start right away should go away and stay away. There is a good reason why they are not busy, even in an economic downturn.

    If you get quotes for a specific installation, at least one will be too high because the company simply does not want the work. At least one will be too low because the person sent to spec the job is incompetent.

    After years of working for these companies, the most incompetent of these people will get hired at the Home Depot as experts in their field, giving bad and possibly dangerous advice to clueless customers who have not taken the time to educate themselves.

    My only recourse has been to learn and do it myself, even when I didn't want to and was willing to pay someone else to do the work. Case in point was with my recent boiler install; I could not get a plumber experienced in these types if installs to even come out and look, and I used all of my connections with the independent guys above. In the end, I did (and redid) the job myself. I learned a lot and I am extremely satisfied with a job well done.

    Forums like this one have made it possible for all of us to benefit by being better educated an aware of the problems, issues and solutions. Thanks to all who contribute their time, knowledge, and experience to the rest of us!
  7. Slow1

    Minister of Fire 2.

    Nov 26, 2008
    Eastern MA
    I'll say that there are a few breaths of fresh air around. I shopped about a bit and am thankful for the guy that helped with my install. I did not end up going with the shop that directed me to him, but he worked with me anyway. Anyone who needs a good sweep/installer in eastern MA, feel free to PM me and I'll share his info (no, I don't get anything for it).

    I found his advice to be solid (i.e. everything checks out with the experts here so far - can't get better than that) - he shows up when he says he will, cleans up as he goes, was even cheerful after getting the stove dropped on his hands (nothing broken, but that did delay the job a wee bit).

    I emailed him recently to ask a couple questions (just how tall is my chimney anyway?) and his response was to set up a time to talk about "any issues you have that are leading to this question so we can fix you up right away".

    When you find a good person, you have to hang on to them and treat them well.
  8. Hanko

    Minister of Fire 2.

    Feb 26, 2008
    livingstion co, Michigan
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