Chimney masonry work - pay for estimates?

My chimney is starting to show some wear and tear so I am trying to get estimates for repair. Every company I have contacted wants $95-$150 to do an inspection before they will do the estimate. I had one guy come over and do the inspection, but of course the other companies won't take his results and want to do their own. This means that if I get the customary three estimates before making a decision, I will be paying over $300 just to find out which company to deal with. On the upside, they will all take the cost of the inspection off the final bill if given the repair job.
Is this how most chimney repair companies do business? I am located in NJ if that makes any difference.
Thanks, Sara
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Greetings,
What work does it need? "Signs of wear" is pretty vague.
William

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Tell them that you won't do business with companies that charge for estimates. Sometimes they'll back down, sometimes they won't. Did the one guy that inspected it give you an estimate for repair? If so, hire him; if not, ask him to recommend someone.
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We had our chimney rebuilt this summer and got three different estimates, paid for none of them. We're in CT, fwiw.
JennP.
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(Sara) wrote:

estimates.
him
They are not charging for an estimate, they are charging for an inspection. Nice ploy if you can get it.
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It amounts to the same thing. The only way to win at that game is to refuse to play.
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What was the first bid for. Business must be real good there so contractors have enough work that they dont want to waste time giving bids or the oposite, it is your location. Keep calling no it is not normal. But tuckpointing is the easiest way for a customer to get a hack that will do a poor job, mainly in not removing all the deteriorated mortar, and reseting loose brick. Chimneys deteriorate first on a brick-stone house, neglected they eventualy can need replacing-rebuilding You need someone good. Several times ive hired out chimney work and got a crook, and I made them redo it, but I know what has to be done.
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"Sara" wrote

Anytime you want diagnostics done, you will find yourself paying for a quote. Some call it a service fee. If you take your vehicle in to find out what a problem is, you will pay a diagnostics fee. If you call a plumber to find out what a problem is, you will pay a diagnostics fee. Call a HVAC company out, it won't be a free diagnostics. Same with an electrical problem, you will pay a service fee.
Most companies will take the diagnostics off the repair bill, should you decide to go with their company.
This practice is pretty much done in my area. What brought the changes about was, people in general. There would be some honest person trying to make a living, paying their help to diagnose a problem (or paying themselves), put time into a written quote, and hand this over for free. The not so honest homeowner or business owner would take their quote and shop it out. Problems arise when someone's diagnostics are not quite right and someone else does what was quoted. Also, many of people have gone out of business by doing free work. It just can't be done for everyone that asks. Many do free work, but it's always for those that fell on hard times.
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Sara wrote:

<snip>

Of the three chimney sweeps I had come in to give an estimate, two did not ask for any fees. The very first guy who came in didn't say anything about an estimate fee, but then faxed a letter saying it was $50 for the estimate, which I refused to pay as it was not stated upfront.
-- Himanshu
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Look in the yellow pages for a mason who advertises that he specializes in repairs and verify that he does chimneys. Chimneys are very specialized if you want quality. A mason I used and who does all the repair work for major contractors in my area has in all his years of work only done one chimney and that was as a training exercise with someone who had done them for years. Even though he is an expert mason, he says he would never do a chimney himself. It will be hard to find the right guy for your job. Most masons are hacks.

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i suspect there is some seasonality... maybe try a different time of year.
randy

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The housing market is so strong in NJ that contractors have plenty of work. It can be hard to even get a decent one to do a job, let alone give free diagnostics. Personally, it doesn't seem too unreasonable to charge for figuring out what's wrong with a chimney and giving an estimate. After all, it takes more work and time to figure that out than giving an estimate on something like painting a couple of rooms.
Even if you have to pay $300 to get 3 estimates, if you choose one vendor, they will usually credit back their $100. So, for $200, you not only get 3 estimates, but also additional advice as to what should be fixed and how.
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On Tue, 07 Dec 2004 02:06:30 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@nospam.com (Sara) wrote:

Thanks for all of your replies! You guys are so helpful; this NG is a treasure.
Update - I found one company who would come out and do a free estimate. When the guy got here, he took about 10 seconds to give me a low ball price. All my instincts were going off about this person, telling me he was not good to deal with.
Another update - one of the companies I'd contacted called me back today and the price for the inspection had somehow dropped from $95 to $45. So apparently there is some wiggle room.
I am cautious because unfortunately there have been some "chimney repair scams" reported in our local paper recently. Although usually in these scams, the scammer contacts the homeowner first - typically he is driving by, "notices" a brick lying in the yard, knocks on the homeowner's door holding the brick, claims it's from the chimney and says that he's a mason who just happens to have some free time.
The first guy I called, whose inspection fee was pretty high, has been in business a long time, specializes in chimneys and has done chimney restoration work at a local college, so maybe he is the guy to deal with after all.
Take care & thanks again,
Sara
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You realy should ,if you can aford it, is hire someone to oversee the work in progress. It is very likely you will be taken. Contractors try to rip me off all the time, but I know what to look for before I pay. I always warn them that I will be checking it out, it does not matter. This happens to me 90% of the time.
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