Our Company Blog

“Bricked In” – A Fireplace Restoration Project


IMG_0343I originally met the Sasakis in response to a leaking issue into their fireplace.  When I arrived to investigate I was shown to built-in (or bricked in) wood-burning fireplace insert. This particular type of unit was very unique. The cast-iron stove used a clay (or masonry) flue liner instead of a metal flue liner, like most other units.  The clay tiles were constructed directly on top of the unit. Furthermore, the facing brick (or interior) brick was also constructed on top of the stove in an arch pattern. This type of unit was most commonly installed in the 80’s, and can only be installed in a newly constructed chimney.

After inspecting where the leaking issue may be coming from I found that the unit was badly damaged. After years of a slow leak through the chimney cap, the stove has suffered serious water damage and was rusting through.  The unit was old, damaged, inefficient and unsafe. It had to be replaced. Hmm how do we remove the stove with not only the entire facing built on top of it but 30 ft of heavy clay flue tile liners.

After the gentle delivery of some very bad news, my investigation deepened to see what options we have to fix this problem. After punching an inspection hole in the rear of the chimney, I was able to determine that if I removed the facing, I may have a shot at removing the interior cinder block and flue tile that was pinning the stove to the ground. I wrote up an action plan and we started exploring replacement fireplace options. The Sasaki’s decided to go with a Lennox Ravelle Zero Clearance Gas Fireplace.


Since we had to remove the mantle and brick facing anyways, the Sasaki’s decided they would like to replace them with something a bit more modern.  During our search for a proper replacement fireplace insert, Mrs Sasaki saw a picture of a fireplace, mantle, and facing style that she really liked.  After a bit more discussion, it turns out it was exactly what she wanted, except for the fireplace trim.  I was excited to take on the challenge.

I began a week before the job building the mantle in my garage.  I found some really straight and nice pieces of pine wood and began cutting and gluing the mantle and surround. As you can notice, the tiling wraps the corner into the surround pieces, making construction and installation a bit tricky.

Day 1 of the job went incredibly smooth. The brick facing came down quickly and easily and I had no problems removing the old rusted insert. The fireplace has already been wired with 110 electric so just crossing a few wires made that easy. We plumbed a new gas line and installed the fireplace insert.

Now the renoIMG_0469vation began.  The facing was going to be changed completely and the mantle covered. We are doing a tile facing and hearth, and we are finishing with sheet rock above where the mantle will be. After the 2×4 construction was complete I covered the lower portion in concrete board and sheet rocked the top.

I covered the hearth in tile first and installed the mantle mounting bracket on top.  After finshing tiling the facing I was able to quickly snap the surround pieces in place and throw on the mantle.  Finally finished with a bit of grout, sheet rock mud, sanding, and paint.

After finishing on time, exactly as I had planned, the Sasaki’s were thrilled. Not only did they love their new fireplace, but they seemed to enjoy the experience and offered a very generous tip. It’s not everyday you meet clients that are able to express their appreciation for my hard work as the Sasaki’s. Thank you for the wonderful experience. You are a preferred customer for life.

Happy Burning,

Pristine Sweeps
By: Aaron Woodward

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5 Tips for Choosing a Chimney Sweep

Fall is here!  Its the season of Pumpkin Spice Lattes, Pumpkin Carving, and crisp cold evenings with the smell of  hot crackling fires lingering in the air.  This also means it is the prime season for hiring a chimney sweep, Seattle!  The homeowner-to-chimney-sweep relationship historically has been a lifelong relationship.  Chimney sweeps used to travel the city, door to door, sweeping and chimney cleaning Seattle and Bellevue homes. Entire neighborhoods would have the same chimney sweep and once the relationship established, it would continue to be a lifelong relationship.  If the chimney sweep retired, he would almost always pass the responsibility down to a son or family member, for the next generation of Seattle homeowners.

Nowadays, the tradition has changed. Most homeowners have never hired a chimney sweep before and neighborhood referrals are scarce. This leaves the task of hiring a chimney sweep in Seattle completely up to the best judgement of the homeowner.  This can be a bit of a scary task for most homeowners.   Especially since the chimney sweep trade has more scams and fraud than any other home service business.

We have compiled a list of 5 Tips for Choosing a Chimney Sweep in Seattle and Bellevue:

1. Is your Chimney Sweep Properly Licensed, Bonded, and Insured?

We realize this is a bit of a no brainer, but did you know that neither Washington State, County, or City laws require that chimney sweep contractors be licensed, bonded or insured.  That’s right, a $30 city business license means you are a licensed chimney sweep and inspector.  A reputable company knows that you wouldn’t want any contractor working on their house without insurance!  Pristine Sweeps is Licensed, Bonded, and Insured.

2. Is your Chimney Sweep Certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA)?

Certified chimney sweeps seem to be rare in the Northwest. Despite almost every home having a fireplace, thousands of house related fires, carbon monoxide poisonings and deaths occur each year from improperly inspected, cleaned or maintained chimneys.  The Chimney Safety Institute of America is a education and certification organization that is recognized worldwide (despite the name).  The CSIA was founded with one goal in mind: train and educate chimney service providers so that they may become chimney professionals by providing homeowners with a culmination of industry tested research and world wide historical chimney safety data.

Bottom Line:  If a chimney service professional is not certified, then he is advising you based on his own opinion, and not the industry accepted standard.

3.  Does your chimney sweep use subcontractors (1099) or do they have Workers Comp?

Most chimney sweep companies pay their employees via a 1099-subcontract filing (rather than a W4).   If your chimney sweep is paid this way, he is required to have his own business license, contractors license and bond.  If he doesn’t have this, and he gets hurt on your property, he has the ability to sue you for a workers compensation claim, that would otherwise be covered by the companies workers comp insurance.

4. Is your chimney sweep using the correct vacuum and equipment?

Chimney soot needs to be contained, not only for cleanliness purposes but for major health reasons.  Creosote was one of the first known Carcinogens Many chimney cleaning services use regular ol’ shop-vacs to clean your chimney. These vacuums use a low grade filter that allows many of the small hydrocarbon particles to escape into the living area.  Proper vacuums are not cheap.  We use a 3-Motor dual stage HEPA filtration system, that moves over 200 cubic feet of air per minute.  That means we could cycle and clean all the air in your living room in 4 minutes.

5. Is your chimney sweep looking to continue a long term relationship?

At Pristine Sweeps we strive to continue the age old tradition of having life long relationships with our customers.  Our customers signing up for annual or semi-annual services will be given preferred customer status allowing cheaper sweep rates and access to emergency service visits.  We always try to book next years appointment a year and advance and our reminder service will make sure you are available and prepared that day, and we always will send out the same technician you had the year before if we can.

If you have any other questions or would like to book an appointment for a chimney sweep in Seattle or Bellevue please visit our website at www.chimney-sweep-seattle.com.

By: Aaron Woodward


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