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Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > House & Garden > Fireplaces


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Repairing a Fireplace


Gas fireplace needs repair

Dec 2012

We have a gas fireplace. We turned it off for a while because we weren't using it and the remote was acting funny. Now, a few months later, we can't get it to start. Do you have experience and can help us? Or can recommend someone who can? I don't even know where to start looking for help.


Kidd Fireplace and Spa in Oakland---(510) 532-7409---installed our gas fireplace and services it. We are happy with the fireplace and the service. Don T.
Can you find a sticker on the unit with manufactur and model? If so you can call manufacturer or find a manual online. Often you have to reset the remote and you definitely have to know how to relite the pilot lite. Usually if you open the cover the wiring and pilot lite igniter is at the bottom. Otherwise take a photo and see if you can email it for ID at a showroom such as Bucks Stove in Walnut Creek or such place. Good luck
You might want to check the batteries in both your gas fireplace's remote (if it came with one) and its control box/remote sensor. The remote will take AA or AAA size batteries and the control box/remote sensor will take C size. I was told by my gas fireplace installer that the biggest problem with fireplaces not starting up after a year of disuse is dead batteries. Who knew?

You can find the control box/remote sensor on the bottom of your unit, just take off the bottom grate and look in the area where you light the pilot. You should see a black plastic box, about 5' x 5'. See if you can slide it out enough (careful, there are wires) to open it and check or replace the batteries. Once you're sure you have good batteries in there, replace the box, turn your fireplaceo to the pilot setting, push in your pilot dial and wait 15- 25 seconds for the gas to start flowing. Then pump your ignitor a few times fast. It should start right up (if not, you may have to click the ignitor more, about 15 times).

Once the flame catches, keep holding in the pilot dial for another 15-25 seconds to let the sensors heat up inside the fireplace (this keeps your gas on). Once you let go of the pilot dial, turn it to the ON position. Your pilot should stay lit (if not, try again). Then set your thermostat on your unit and you should be good to go. Good luck! D. Archer


Repairing loose bricks in fireplace

Dec 2011

Our home was built in the late 1920s (like most in the area). The fireplace looks perfect from the outside, but inside several bricks have come loose & fallen to the area where one would put a fire. Have quit using for fear of proper function & don't want to damage more. Has anyone had this type of repair done? How is the work completed? Would you reccomend the company that repaired your's? Thanks.


Without hesitation, I recommend Jason Wady of International Masonry Specialists, (510) 632-4541. His website is http://www.masonryspecialistsinc.com/. He and his brother are just finishing a MAJOR repair of our circa 1926 chimney that was damaged in an earthquake a few years ago. Jason trained for his profession in the UK and is very well-versed in all aspects of chimney repair and design.

Our brick chimney is a prominent architectural feature of our home. He took it down to the roof line (damage was above that area), rebuilt the chase, replaced the flues, repaired the interior chimney and 2 fireboxes, sliced the original bricks to a thinner size, then reapplied the brick as a veneer on stucco. It matches the original chimney structure very well.

Jason is very professional. He explains everything clearly and thoroughly and returns call and emails promptly. His prices are competitive. I highly recommend him! --Ann S.


Large cracks around our fireplace

Nov 2007

After the last earthquake, we noticed large interior (plaster) and exterior (stucco) cracks around our fireplace. I'd like to have it inspected. Who does this work? Any recommendations? Thanks!


Hi, I had a fireplace I knew to have problems, similar to yours. I used the services of David Montgomery with Montgomery Masonry 510-733-5127. He ended up rebuilding the fireplace, hearth and installing a metal chimney. It looks GREAT and he had a reasonable price. For chimney sweeping (and most probably for an upcoming project installing a gas fireplace in a different house), I've used the services of the Irish Sweep. I think they are very professional, take the time to help educate me and of course, very knowledgable. Indigo

Need contractor to strap chimney, repair fireplace

August 2004

We are looking for a contractor experienced in strapping chimneys. We called a couple people and no one seems to want to do it or aren't experienced in strapping a chimney. Additionally, we need some repair work done on our fireplace. Anyone have a similar experience or a good, responsive, knowledgeable contractor they can recommend? Lori


I recently had a very good experience with the Fireplace Restoration company (it's really one man named Tony). He took down about 10 feet of 100 year old brick chimney and custom made me a damper. He was fast and professional and I think did a great job. Unfortunately, I cannot locate his number. He is probably listed in Berkeley. Lisa
For chimney strapping and cleaning, try the Chelsea Company in Emeryville, (510) 597-0333 -- very courteous fellow who did a nice job on our chimney. Morris

Someone to fix exterior cracks in chimney

May 2004

Our Chimney has exterior cracks above the roofline (we have been told it is safe to use the fireplace). We would like to have someone fix the Chimney cracks. We received a bid from a contractor who recommended taking down the brick to where the cracks start, and then re-building the brick. However, we have heard that some Chimney contractors will do a stucco facade over a stovepipe -- the advantage being that it would be less likely to come down during an earthquake. Does anyone know of a contractor who specializes in this? We asked first contractor but he does not do any other type of chimney building -- he will just re-build the brick. Murphy


A friend of mine just finished the chimney of my neighbor and it looks really great! In fact he's putting in bids for a couple of other folks on our block because they were so impressed with his work. His name Jason Wady and the company is International Masonry Specialists, Inc. and he can be reached at 510 632 4541. I believe he does other kind of contracting work as well. He's hard working, dependable, honest and he does a good job- what more can you ask for! Juliette

Fireplace Exterior


Want to update look of brick fireplace

March 2013

We have an old red brick fireplace that we'd like to make look contemporary by covering it with some other type of material (not paint). We're thinking about concrete or tile but not sure who to talk to or where to go. Please let me know if you've done this, how it turned out, and if you have any recommendations. Thanks!


Rehab Right, available from the Berkeley Public Library, and Amazon persuades old house owners to become old house aficionados while preserving the value of their old homes. Please take a look at it, and also Old HOuse Journal (on-line) for the beauty and value of retaining the original features of your old home. Years ago I ran across this book, which saved me from regretful 'remuddling' errors. BAHA Member and Old House Enthusiast Lynn

Need a custom glass door for fireplace

Dec 2011

Hi We need a custom fit glass door for our fireplace. I'm having trouble finding a company that does this. Do you know of a company or person who can do this? Have you ever ordered custom fireplace doors online? Thanks


You might try putting an ad up on the bulletin board at The Crucible in Oakland, that you're looking for someone to fabricate a fireplace door. I did that when I needed a custom security screen door, and a metal artist answered my ad and fabricated a beautiful door at a very reasonable price. The Crucible teaches industrial art classes, including metal and glass. thecrucible.org Jane

Refinishing a red brick fireplace

Feb 2010

I'm looking for someone who can create an antique brick faux finish for a big red brick fireplace I have. It's one of those large hearth fireplaces that people used to cook on (complete with an iron pot hanger) but I need to lighten up the dark red brick with a faux antique finish. Thanks for your suggestions.


I'd call Joey Brite if I were you. Take a look at her beautiful website: http://thecoloreffect.com/ Especially her portfolio. Her email address is somebriteideas@earthlink.net I've seen her work at a friend's house, and I doubt there's anything she can't do. Laura
I have a huge old fireplace too. When I was researching ways to preserve the crumbling mortar, I discovered something that might be of help to you.

All the DIY websites said that you must thoroughly clean the brickwork using a rather strong solution of TSP before applying sealant to both the bricks and mortar joints. (Strong means eight parts water to one part TSP.) I did this - using appropriate caution with the stuff - and WOW, what a difference it made in the color of the bricks! Most of the dark color was ancient soot and grime.

So I suggest you try this first to see if you still want to apply a faux finish. If you still do - here's another tip. I wanted to darken parts of my fireplace to create contrast. The experts I consulted said that only way to do this is with paint - you can't really stain brick. Get some masonry paint in the color you want, then thin it with solvent to a 1/4 concentration (or less). I applied it with a combination of sponges and brushes, and dabbed with rags to get the effect I wanted.

If you have sealed your bricks first, it's easy to wipe the paint off (while it's still wet) if you don't like the effect. So experiment! Good luck, Becky


How to put in a new fireplace mantle?

Oct 2009

Help! We recently had to demolish our stone fireplace mantel because it was unsafe. Now we are starting from scratch. We have a 1911 Berkeley bungalow with a lot of painted white wood trim in the living room. We are trying to figure out if we should just buy a simple white wood mantel from a dealer or if we should have one built for us? Does anyone have any recommendations on style, places to buy or carpenters to hire? Rattled about a new mantel


Whether you decide to go with a prefabricated mantle or have one custom built, your best bet is to have a licensed, insured finish carpenter install it.

Fireplace tiler needed

June 2008

We have two fireplaces in our 1908 craftsman home that have been sadly mistreated. We have some DIY amateur masonry repairs and horrible paint jobs. We'd like to cover the brick with tile and are looking for a recommendation of a ''tiler'' to do the work. Can you recommend a contractor to do this work? I'm not actually sure what the trade is...am I looking for a tile guy or gal or something else? Thanks!


Try Pacific Tile & Marble (http://www.pactile.com/). I used them recently for my newly remodeled bathroom and kitchens. They were the most reasonable bid and they did a very professional job. Lots of tilework

Custom fireplace surround

March 2008

I'm looking for someone that help me design and build a wood fireplace surround for my existing fireplace. The existing surround is the original from 1940 but is very plain and simple. I have an idea of the style that I would like but need someone that's good at design and can build the surround and mantle. I wasn't able to find any recent postings. Has anyway done this? Thanks for your help. Karen


Call Tri-Point, 925-427-1459. I am an architect and had designed a new fireplace surround for a client last year. The project was nearly finished and the contractor did not want to take on one more thing - somehow I got Tri-point's name. They can make your design or have many of their own. They do fireplace surrounds all the time and their price was great. Arch
Call Carl Gaard. His cell phone is (510) 410-0489, email is Bugsy7gaard@yahoo.com. Ask to see his house if you want to see his work. (He gutted and renovated a beautiful old victorian in Oakland, and it's just beautiful) He can do anything with wood, charges very reasonable rates, and has a great eye for design. Kate

Carpenter to Design/Build Fireplace Mantel

November 2006

We need fireplace mantels/surrounds on two new fireplaces. We are looking for a carpenter who is not only a fine craftsman but who is good at design as well. There have not been any posts for carpenters in the past 2 years. Any current recommendations?


Hi- I have two great recommendations for you. First, Kevin Riley at Goddard and Riley is fabulous. He's smart designer and a wonderful carpenter, and he works within your budget. He also knows his design history so that whatever he makes- it will fit with the rest of your home. He and his business partner Gary created and installed our kitchen and a new front door for us, and we look forward to working with them again on a new project. You can visit his website at: www.goddardandriley.com or call him at 465.4626. Second, Rich Sorenkson is a real craftsman who loves designing and creating cabinetry. He created the most wonderful fence for us, along with a pretty amazing remodel on our garage. Currently he drew the plans for the same project that we are working on with Goddard and Riley, and his phone number is: 415.828.0570. Either one would do an amazing job. Kevin is on vacation at the moment, (until the end of October '06,) although Gary may be available. Your welcome to e-mail me with any more questions that you may have. Best, Michelle
I highly recommend Tri-Point Industries in Pittsburg, who built us a new mantel and installed it. Our general contractor suggested they would do a better job at a cheaper price than having one of their carpenters build it on site. Our architect actually designed it, but I believe they do design work as well. (And you can get lots of ideas for different designs by looking on line at the various on-line mantel companies). We were very pleased with the quality, price and the speed of their work. Phone number is (925) 427-1459, and they're located at 548 Bliss Ave. in Pittsburg happy customer

Someone to repair cracked mantle

October 2005

So I've checked the archives, but can't seem to find quite what I'm looking for. The interior of our fireplace needs work ... basically the marble that runs between the fireplace opening and the mantle is cracked and needs to be replaced, and the bricks that are inside the actual fireplace need repainting and cleaning. Can anyone recommend someone who specializes in this? Standard chimmey cleaners/repair people don't seem to quite fit the bill. Thank you!


For the person who needed repair to the exterior of the fireplace and the firebox, I'd recommend Pendergrast Masonry. We used them about 3 years ago to completely rebuild the outside of our fireplace and repair the firebox. They were reasonable, very professional, and it looks beautiful. We get compliments on it all the time. We did the design (in tile) ourselves, and they installed it. They can be reached at 510-562-6400. Mimi

Someone to inspect fireplace & chimney, replace mantle

July 2004

We just bought a very old house that has fireplace but we have no idea what the condition is and unfortunately, the previous owners did an ''upgrade'' back in the 70s and put this really ugly fake brick facade around the mantle. We need someone to come in and inspect the fireplace, the chimney, etc. to see if it's in operable condition, remove the insert, repair and clean the stack, and also replace the mantle with a more decorative wood one. The responses in the archives are dated. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks so much! Smokin' in Albany


I have to respond because Nick of Berkeley Chimneys is the nicest contractor person I've ever worked with. (And his bid also came in as the lowest.) He's so helpful, friendly, and just plain nice! When we bought our house last year he came out and looked at our fireplace and told us what we needed to do to make it safe (for free). We hired him to do the work, and have had him come back annually to clean the fireplace and check for cracks, etc. I highly recommend him! His number is 528-1002 candace

Building a New Fireplace


Thinking about building an outdoor fireplace

April 2004

Does anyone have any experience with building or erecting an outdoor fireplace, either wood-burning or gas? We live in Oakland (flatlands, not in the hills) and are currently redoing our backyard and would love to have an outdoor fireplace, but don't even know if that's allowable. Any advice, recommendations, etc. would be appreciated. Js


I would recommend against it, (unless it is propane) because of the air pollution. It would extremely annoying to your neighbors, especially in the summer, when people tend to open their windows. If you decide to go ahead with your outdoor fireplace, please warn all your downwind neighbors in advance, so they can shut their windows and seal them with duct tape if necessary. If the weather is hot, they would also need air conditioners to offset the loss of the windows' breeze. Or invite them over each time you use the fireplace, so they can at least partake in the fun of the fire instead of just being victims of the smoke. Sorry for being pessimistic, but perhaps you can tell this is an issue in our neighborhood. HTH!

Installing a new fireplace

I can't recommend a contractor (ours moved far away). I can recommend a type of fireplace. We got an EPA Phase II "woodburning device" (Fireplace Xtraordinaire is the brand) that looks pretty much like a fireplace (nice view of the flames) and is about 75% efficient (lots of heat). There are other types of high-efficiency fireplaces out there, They all have some form of pollution control, also. Tubmakers on Ashby sells what we got and some other brands; other places have other brands.

Construction costs and air-pollution regs make rebuilding a brick fireplace quite impractical.

Two considerations:

- You'll be doing a retrofit and manufactured fireplaces are largely designed for new construction. You can get around the problems this causes if you're flexible, imaginitive, etc. It's critical to get the installation instructions in order to design the installation. The directions come with the fireplace. What we had trouble communicating was that we couldn't decide whether to buy the unit without getting the instructions first.

- The pictures that came with the brochures, and at least one installation we saw in a Bay Area store, included installations that are potentially unsafe and illegal. We found this out when we were halfway into the intallation and after the City of Berkeley had approved our plans. The only hint of a potential problem was one line in the 30+ pages of installation information. In the end, based on advice from a contracting engineer (my dad), we rebuilt part of the wall with metal studs and fireproof sheetrock, This was a total pain; nevertheless, we love the fireplace!


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