Most frequently asked questions

How often should I have my chimney cleaned?

All chimneys should be inspected yearly by a certified professional and cleaned as required. The inspection is necessary to ensure that the chimney has adequate draft, is free of debris and cracks, has no loose or missing mortar joints and is otherwise free of damage.

What is the best time of the year to get my chimney cleaned?

We recommend having your chimney swept or inspected at the end of each heating season. There is a greater appointment availability than in the fall, and if repairs are need, you’ll have at least 6 months to complete them.

What can I do with smoke coming back?

First check that your damper is fully open. Crack a window or door open to allow replacement air into the room. If it continues close any glass doors to the firebox. Also check to make sure that bathroom, kitchen and attic fans are off. These devices can reduce the air pressure in the house, reversing the draft. At anytime if flames are coming out of the firebox, extinguish the fire and open all windows immediately.

How do you sweep a chimney?

A chimney flue is cleaned with special brushes that fit your chimney flue. We clean most chimneys from inside the house. This method allows for more control of the dust. The brushes are attached to flexible poles, we add poles as needed to push the brush up into the flue. We can only do this as fast as our special chimney vacuum collects the debris. The walls of the fireplace are cleaned by hand using wire brushes.

Will the chimney sweep cause a mess in my home?

No. By cleaning the chimney from inside your home we maintain control over the dust. All our equipment is laid out on clean drop cloths in front of your fireplace. The hose of our chimney vacuum collects the debris as we brush the chimney. We can only brush the chimney as fast as our vacuum collects the dust. The dirtier the chimney flue, the slower we brush.

What are you looking for when you do a chimney evaluation?

We do a thorough exterior and interior inspection of the flue and chimney. We look at the type of chimney you have, we inspect the liner type and if present the size of your chimney flue. When cleaning your heating system flues, we will evaluate the interior flue for any deterioration and make sure that your heating appliances are properly sized for the chimney that they are venting into. We check for condensation/moisture and any damage that can be caused from moisture or gases. We will let you know the condition of your chimney and whether or not a chimney cap is present, check your crown as well as your flashing for cracks and leaks. We will do an inspection of the fire box to check for cracks and/or deterioration. We will check that the damper is properly working as well.

What is an insert?

An insert is like a wood stove inside your firebox. Upon cleaning, it needs to be physically moved and vacuumed behind. They usually have black trim around their borders that nestle up against the fireplace.

What is a flue?

A flue is the passageway inside your chimney that allows the gases to pass out of the home and into the atmosphere. A chimney houses flues.

How many flues do I have?

You should have one flue for each fireplace, stove, and furnace or boiler. Some homes also have a separate flue for their water heater.

Do I need a chimney cap?

All chimneys should have caps to prevent leaves, sticks, debris, animals, rain and snow from entering the chimney flue. A cap also prevents embers from leaving your chimney and potentially landing on your house or a nearby tree.

Will a cap prevent my flue from venting properly?

A chimney cap is designed by code for your protection. It must be installed and sized properly to vent correctly. In some cases, chimney caps can actually help eliminate certain downdrafts and improve venting.

What is a Chimney Liner? And Why do I need one?

A Chimney Liner is a clay, ceramic, or metal conduit installed inside of a chimney, intended to contain the combustion products, direct them to the outside atmosphere, and protect the chimney walls from heat and corrosion. The liner protects the house from heat transfer to combustibles. In the NBS tests, unlined chimneys allowed heat to move through the chimney so rapidly that the adjacent woodwork caught fire in only 3 1/2 hours. Liners protect the masonry from the corrosive byproducts of combustion. In the tests it was determined that if the flue gases were allowed to penetrate to the brick and mortar, the result would be a reduction in the usable life of the chimney. The flue gases are acidic in nature and literally eat away at the mortar joints from inside the chimney. As the mortar joints erode, heat transfers more rapidly to the nearby combustibles and dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide can leak into the living areas of the home.

What is a top sealing damper?

A device installed at the top of a chimney for the purpose of sealing the flue shut when the fireplace is not in use. They are often used as replacements for throat dampers that are installed just above the firebox when a masonry chimney is built. Lyemance and Lock-Top top-sealing dampers are as much as 90% more efficient than throat dampers because they provide a silicone rubber gasket seal rather than metal to metal.

Can my damper be repaired?

A damper that has come loose or off its bracket can be reseated. However, if a damper has become brittle and parts have snapped off, it cannot be repaired. It really depends on the damper that is installed. Most times we need to see the damper before we can make an accurate assessment if repair is a possibility. A damper that works improperly significantly increases your heating and air conditioning bills.

Is brick that much more expensive than other siding materials?

Brick costs more than some other commonly used siding materials because brick is a premium product, but it’s not nearly as expensive as you might think. In many parts of the country, a new brick home will cost you only a small percentage more than a comparable vinyl-sided home. Other products, such as artificial stucco, cost about the same as brick, but are far less durable and require much greater maintenance and upkeep.

Is brick energy efficient?

Brick is a building material that has exceptional “thermal mass ” properties. Thermal mass is the ability of a heavy, dense material to store heat and then slowly release it. For you, this means that during the summer months your brick home stays cool during the hottest part of the day. During the winter, brick walls store your home’s heat and radiate it back to you. Vinyl, aluminum, wood or EIFS (artificial stucco) are all thin, light building materials that don’t have good thermal mass properties. The superior thermal mass qualities of brick have been known for centuries. Most notably, the Pueblo Indians in the Southwest used adobe masonry to moderate weather extremes and keep their homes comfortable.

What are the correct dimensions for a brick fireplace?

Single-face fireplace dimensions including the firebox depth, width and height along with the proportionate flue size are given in? Technical Notes 19. This Technical Note also addresses all the necessary features in a brick fireplace and their relationship to one an other.

Can I change my brick’s color once it is in a wall?

A brick’s color can be attributed to its clay composition, any added compounds, its firing temperature and any surface treatments. Because brick is composed of naturally occurring materials, all brick will not necessarily be exactly the same. For this reason, some brick may be of a slightly different color than others in a given batch. Usually, this adds character to a wall, but occasionally it is desired to blend these brick with other brick in the wall. This can be done by individually staining the brick in question.

Staining is a common practice and is usually done by a professional with expertise in its application. The stain itself is a proprietary product made specifically for brick. A local brick supplier in your Yellow Pages should be consulted for a product and professional applicator. Since the surrounding mortar joints must be masked, it is a time consuming process and is usually only done when a limited number of brick are involved. If staining is done properly, it should have no detrimental effect on the bricks and should provide a long lasting finish.

What are the correct procedures for repointing brickwork?

Repointing or tuck-pointing existing brickwork may be in order when mortar joints have softened, deteriorated or exhibited pronounced cracking. Generally, repointing involves carefully removing existing damaged mortar while not disturbing or cutting the existing brick. The joint is then repacked with mortar in layers. It is important to rem ember that the mortar should always have slightly less strength than the brick. Usually, the best mortar for use in repointing is what was in the wall to begin with. For most walls less than 70 years old, generally Type N or O mortar should be used when repointing. For structures older than this, it is best to try and determine what the original mortar consisted of and match that.

Should brickwork be painted?

A brick wall may be painted provided the correct preparation is done, the proper paint is selected, and the paint is applied correctly. Generally, new brick walls are not painted. However, if it is desired to paint a recently constructed brick wall, the wall should be allowed to fully cure 28 days and should not be cleaned or treated with acid solutions. Alkali-resi stant paints should be used and a zinc chloride or zinc sulfate solution may need to be applied to the wall to neutralize the surface. Painting brick does not preclude good construction and detailing practices. Any deficiencies such as surface deposits; broken brick; cracked, loose or missing mortar; or inadequate flashing and weep holes should be corrected prior to painting. In addition, the brick should be thoroughly cleaned and given ample time to dry before application of paint.

For brickwork to function properly, the wall must resist moisture penetration and be permeable to vapor from the structure. Consequently, any paint applied to the wall must also have these same characteristics. In addition, the inherent features of a brick wall which channel water out, such as weep holes and vents, must not be clogged by paint or caulk to inhibit the flow of water. Latex an d portland cement-based paints perform well on brick walls. Oil-based, alkyd, rubber and epoxy paints do not allow any vapor in the wall to escape and consequently should not be applied to brick. Prior to painting, the brick should receive a prime coat suitable for the paint application per manufacturer’s instructions.

Should a water repellent be applied to a brick wall?

Generally, water repellents are only an interim solution to any water penetrating a brick wall since they loose their ability to repel water after 1 to 10 years. However, in cases where all other options have been exhausted, it may be considered as long as one is aware of the inherent nature of water repellents.

There are basically two t ypes of water repellents: films and penetrants. Films such as acrylics, stearates, mineral gum waxes, urethanes and silicone resins form a thin membrane over the brick. Penetrants such as silanes, siloxanes and blends actually penetrate the brick surface. Films are good at repelling water but poor at permitting water vapor transmission which allow the wall to breathe. Penetrants, on the other hand, are good at both. They will usually have a matte finish while films may produce a higher sheen. Penetrants are more acceptable since they allow any water present in the brick to exit the wall. However, penetrants will not provide graffiti-resistance to a wall while some films will.

Application of a water repellent does not negate proper brick construction and detailing procedures. Any deficiencies in a brick wall such as inadequate flashing, weep holes, mortar joints or broken brick should be corrected prior to the application of a water repellent. The wall should also be cleaned and allowed to th oroughly dry before administering a water repellent.

How can paint be removed from brickwork?

As always, the wall should be thoroughly saturated with water before and after any cleaning application. Also, a small inconspicuous area of wall should be tested to confirm that any solutions used will not harm the brick.

Freshly applied paint can be removed with a solution of trisodium phosphate mixed with water at a rate of 2 lb. per gallon of wat er. Apply the solution to the brick; allow it to soften paint; and remove with scraper and stiff bristle brush. Proprietary chemical compounds are also available through local distributors to remove fresh paint.

Existing paint which has been in place for some time is more difficult to remove and may require using abrasive techniques with non-steel scrapers or sandblasting by a professional. Certain brick should not be sandblasted. Proprietary chemical compounds from local distributors in the form of a gel solvent may be necessary to soften existing paint. Numerous applications may be necessary depending on the number of paint layers.

Can stains be removed from brickwork?

Most stains and discoloration can be removed from brickwork if the proper cleaning technique is employed. There are essentially two categories of stains; those which are externally applied to the wall and those which originate from within the wall. Those which come from within a wall may need additional investigation to prevent the stain from returning.

As always, it is important to thoroughly saturate a brick wall before application of any cleaning solution. As a general rule, acidic cleaning solutions should only be applied to red brick with no surface finish such as sand. Also, an inconspicuous area of the wall should be tested with any cleaning solution for compatibility prior to application on the entire wall. Any cleaning solutions should be thoroughly rinsed from the wall.

Most stains can be dealt with by thoroughly washing the wall with a common household or kitchen cleanser dissolved in water and applied to the wall with a stiff bristle brush. If this is ineffective, a poultice which dissolves the stain and pulls it into an inert material may be necessary. The inert material can be talc, whiting or fuller’s earth while the solvent will vary based on the type of stain. Proprietary cleaning agents can also be employed to remove specific stains.

Sandblasting and pressure washing brickwork can also be options for certain brick w hen especially stubborn mortar or externally applied stains are involved. Bricks with coatings such as sand or slurry finishes should not be cleaned in this manner. Sandblasting and pressure washing should usually only be undertaken by a competent professional with experience. If improperly executed, either of these methods can permanently damage the brick.

Can water penetrate brickwork?

Homes have been built for hundreds of years with the knowledge that brickwork is not impervious to water. Water can migrate into brickwork. Brickwork handles this moisture by either having a cavity or separation between itself and the wall behind it or by being so thick that it acts as a barrier to the water.

For a drainage wall, water travels down the backs ide of the brick in the air space and is then channeled out with flashing (metal or plastic sheet) sloped toward the face of the wall and weep holes (small openings or tubes) spaced every few brick at the mortar joints. These flashing and weep holes should be located above all doors and windows, below all window sills, and above the ground at the base of the wall. In a barrier wall, the mass of the brickwork keeps the interior of the wall dry by allowing water to evaporate before proceeding all the way through the wall. Only under prolonged exposure to sustained moisture or rain will a barrier wall exhibit moisture on the interior. When this occurs, the moisture then drains down the back of the wall into flashing at the base which channels it out through weep holes.

The overwhelming majority of brickwork is properly detailed and constructed, experiencing no moisture problems. In the few instances where moisture is a problem, it can be attributed to poor construction or detailing in the brickwork. It is important to maintain a clean space behind the brick in drainage walls. Full contact between mortar and bricks and proper installation of flashing and weep holes are also important to ensure the highest water penetration resistance. Applying and maintaining a proper sealant around window and door openings also plays a vital role in keeping moisture out.

What type of base should I use for brick paving?

A flexible base consists of compacted crushed stone, gravel or coarse sand. Only mortarless brick paving is suitable for this type of base. A semi-rigid base consists of asphalt concrete, commonly referred to as asphalt. Once again, only mortarless brick paving is suitable over this type of base. A rigid base is defined as a reinforced or unreinforc ed concrete slab on grade. Mortarless or mortared brick paving may be placed over this type of base.

Flexible bases include crushed stone, gravel or coarse sand. Applications for flexible bases range from residential patios to city streets. Flexible paving systems are typically the most economical to install since less labor and fewer materials are involved. A flexible paving system allows easier repairs to utilities located beneath the pavement. Flexible pavements also allow for water to percolate down through the system instead of running off on the surface. The thickness of each layer in a flexible pavement depends upon the imposed loads and the properties of each layer. A pavement subjected to heavy vehicular traffic requires a thicker base than a pavement subjected to pedestrian traffic.

Mortared brick paving can be used for any type of pedestrian or vehicular traffic in both interior and exterior applications. This type of assembly is especially well-suited for heavy vehicular areas such as streets or parking lots and where surface drainage is necessary.

Can brick pavers be installed over an existing concrete or asphalt driveway, patio or walk?

Brick paving can be installed over existing concrete or asphalt as long as it is in reasonably good shape. To ensure an adequate foundation for the brick, the existing concrete slab or asphalt should be inspected and repaired as necessary. Any cracks, chips, holes, ruts or spalls should be repaired in order to achieve a flat surface.

The brick can be installed either with or without mortar. If no mortar is used, a half-inch setting bed of coarse sand should be laid and compacted. An edging of metal or heavy-duty plastic should be placed around the perimeter of the brickwork and set to just below the height of the finished brick surface. Pavers can then be placed in the desired pattern on top of the sand. The bricks should be placed as close to each other as possible. It may be necessary to cut some of the brick near the edging. Once the brick are all in place, install mason’s sand between the brick and over the surface. Sweep away excess surface sand and the brick pavement is ready for traffic.

If mortar is used, the concrete slab should be prepared in the same manner as above. A half-inch mortar setting bed should then be applied upon which the bricks are set with mortar placed between the pavers. Only a small area should receive the setting bed at a time in order to ensure that it does not set prior to laying the brick. Mortared brickwork should not be laid on asphalt.

What should I use to clean brick?

Certain brick colors have integral minerals that may be negatively effected by the cleaning process.

Interstate Brick has put together some general recommendations in our Technical Bulletin.

How many paving brick do I need for my Patio?

The standard brick size is a 4 x 8 paving brick. We call this a True paver because the actual dimension is 4in.x 8in. It takes 4.5 brick to cover one square foot of area. Take the total area of desired patio space and multiply it by 4.5 to get the total number of brick needed. Most installers assume that an additional 5% should be added to cover.

What is standard size for brick?

The standard brick size is a 4 x 8 paving brick. We call this a True paver because the actual dimension is 4in.x 8in. It takes 4.5 brick to cover one square foot of area. Take the total area of desired patio space and multiply it by 4.5 to get the total number of brick needed. Most installers assume that an additional 5% should be added to cover whatever is remaining.

Get Your Free Estimate


Our Services:


Our Locations:


5205 170th Pl NE Arlington, WA 98223


4616 25th Ave NE #570 Seattle, WA 98105