LESLIE: Rebecca in Tennessee is on the line with a question about cracks in chimney. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.
REBECCA: Well, let’s see. Where do I start? I have an external chimney. I believe they said it was limestone. There are cracks that are going from the bottom of it all the way to the top, on the front. And if you’re facing it, on the right side, as well. And on the inside, around the mantel, let me put it to you this way: there are paint chips that have shifted about an inch above from where they were originally on the wall. And there are cracks kind of coming from the vicinity of the chimney, down to the windowsill.
TOM: Hmm. OK.
REBECCA: I had someone take a look at it and he said the foundation under the chimney was cracked. And what it is – I’ve really been given two different opinions as to what I need to do to fix it.
TOM: OK. Let me ask you a question, Rebecca: the person you had look at these cracks in chimney, was this a chimney contractor or a mason?
REBECCA: It was a – he’s actually a roofer, an external specialist. But he also works on chimneys. He …
TOM: OK. So it’s a contractor. And who was the second opinion from? Another contractor?
REBECCA: Yes, another contractor.
REBECCA: And one opinion is the chimney needs to be torn completely down. And the other one is it needs to be knocked down to the roof level and tied into the roof.
TOM: Now, let me ask you a question here, Rebecca: what do both of these guys have in common?
REBECCA: I don’t know.
TOM: They both want your money. That’s what they have in common, OK?
REBECCA: Yeah, that’s true. Yeah.
TOM: So they have a conflict of interest regarding these cracks in chimney.
This is a significant project and a potentially serious one and one that may go deeper than what you’re seeing. What you’re telling me is concerning because of the number of cracks in chimney and the evidence of movement. So, I’m going to tell you that what you should do is find a professional home inspector. You can find one that’s certified by the American Society of Home Inspectors and have that inspector look at your chimney. Either a home inspector or a structural engineer but not a contractor.
A home inspector does not do work on the house. They only inspect, so they don’t have that conflict of interest. If you go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors, which is ASHI – A-S-H-I – .org or I think it’s also HomeInsector.com, you can enter in your zip code. You’ll get a list of certified inspectors in your area. You can call a few, chat with them about what’s going on.
They’ll charge you a small fee: maybe $100 or $200, I would guess, to do what’s called a “partial inspection.” It’s basically they come out and look at one item. But I really think you need a set of skilled eyes looking at that, where the guy is not trying to sell you a repair, to tell you what exactly is going on and what has to happen, before you start spending money with these contractors.
They may be completely right but I’m uncomfortable whenever you have a contractor that says, “You’ve got a problem, lady, but I’m just the guy to fix it for you.” It’s just a big conflict of interest and you’ve got to guard against it, OK?
REBECCA: OK. Thank you very much.