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Remodeling and Home Design

Tim Wheeler Masonry Construction, Stone - Cast, Seattle, WA

Licensed | Bonded | Insured


Tim Wheeler

Seattles Best Masonry

Question & Answers Forum

Ask Tim Wheeler (who has over 35 years of masonry experience) your masonry question.  Once the question has been answered by Tim, come back to this page to see his answer to your question.  Also, see what other people have asked, and see Tim's solutions for all types of masonry projects.  Do you have a chimney that is leaking water into your house? Why does my chimney not draw right?  Can I remodel just the facing on my fireplace?  What type of mortar should I use to lay Stone?

Click Here To Ask Tim

A realtor for many years. My partner has granite tiles coming off center island, It is the ribbon around the edge of the island and some of the back splash. She is in Puyullap, is this a repair you can do. - Linda 2013-06-22 16:55:11

Hi Linda,

Thanks for coming to our web site and asking your masonry repair Question. Granite Tile or Granite slabs are beautiful and really hold up well to wear, but even the best of material can come loose or be damaged. Could you tell me if you have been able to save the pieces, or have some of them been lost or broken. This becomes quite important for several reasons. Granite is a natural stone, and as it comes out of the ground or hill side the color can vary some what. For that reason it might be hard to match up to a older granite counter top with new pieces of Granite. If your partner still has the granite in good condition, it should not be a problem.

Best Wishes TimWmason

Found you on the web and like your work. How much roughly for a Stone retaining Wall?

Remove and Dispose of Wooden Railroad Ties
Retaining Wall with Proper Drainage
1 Set of Stairs (4 feet wide)
3.5 feet tall Wall
90 feet Wide Wall
- Long 2013-06-19 22:28:44

Hi Long Tran,

The price of a stone wall can vary with the type of stone that you use, and also the type of retaining wall that you are building. One of the first things that you would want to consider, is the type of retaining wall that will be holding the bank in place. The two best options are a concrete wall, or a reinforced block wall. Both of these types of walls can be veneered over with stone. This type of stone wall is the top end of pricing, when you are building a stone wall that won't move or give way. I also recommend using only real stone, not cultured stone. The going price per Sq. Ft. in the Seattle area is around $45.00 not counting the wall behind the stone wall.

Thanks Timwmason

Hi Tim, talked with you yesterday. I have the brick stairs which have settled and would need elevating somehow (or rebuilding?)
206-941-4154 - John 2013-06-04 14:00:41

Hi John,

Brick stairs are quite attractive on the front of a house here in the Seattle area. but one of the things that can happen is that moisture get in under the brick, and they start to move around or settled. One way to stop this is to maintain the brick, and mortar between them. This can be done by giving them a good cleaning two or three times a year, and applying a coat of good quality sealer every 3 years. Since your brick stairs have already settled the only way of repairing them is by taking them up and relaying them, this is because brick stairs are many small units that will come apart if you try and lift them a few at a time. If you would like a free estimate for the repair of your brick steps
please click our contact us at the top of the page.

Best Wishes TimWmason

Hi Tim,

i have a question on connecting a metal chimney liner to a masonry fireplace. this is an outdoor fireplace that goes through a pavilion roof. i would like to keep it as a wood burning fireplace but use a metal chimney liner. the flue is around 9 feet tall. Is it possible to use a metal liner with a masonry chimney? if so, where do i find out how to connect them? - mike 2013-06-04 12:01:09

Hi Mike,

One of the things that you have to keep in mind when you want to connect a metal chimney is the fact that it will get quite hot as you burn your fireplace. The metal chimney will transfer the heat to any surface that it comes in contact with, such as your pavilion roof. What you will need to do is use is triple wall pipe so that the out side wall of the triple will not transfer any heat to your roof system. the next thing that you will need to have a metal shop makeup for you is a metal collar, that will slip over your top flue liner, and then attach to the outside bottom of your new triple wall pipe. this chimney flue collar can
be attach with simple metal screws since they only go through the outside layer of the triple wall pipe. A couple of other things to keep in mind is since this pipe is going up 9 feet or more, you will also need guide wires to keep in in place and a flashing collar where it goes through the roof. On last thing is this new triple wall pipe must also have a rain cap at the top so the snow or rain stays out or your chimney, hear in the Seattle area.

Best wishes TimWmason.

Hi Tim,

Just bought a house in north Edmonds and found out the stucco is the dreaded synthetic type, EIFS. There's only a few stucco areas on the face of the home. Looks okay visually and the inspector didn't see swelling, etc. Is there a way to electronically or otherwise examine the back of the stucco for moisture or mold without boring a hole to get a sample? My guess is that the stucco was applied about 1999.
Thanks Much,
Alan - Alan 2013-04-07 13:13:11

Hi Allen,

Thanks for asking us about your EIFS, or as I call it fake stucco. Real stucco holds up quite well here in the NW, but the synthetic EIFS Seems to have many problems in our area. You can use a moisture prob to check the back side of the synthetic stucco, but this requires a small hole to be placed in the stucco so that the prob can reach the backside of the EIFS. The good news is that if no moisture is found the small hole can be repaired very quick and easy with a small amount of colored caulk. As for your time period your EIFS seems to be holding up better then most. I have seen many problems after as little as 5 years I wish you the very best with your project.

Thanks TimWMason

Hi Tim,
Buying a home in north Edmonds The fireplaces look great (28 years old) but there are some areas of moss on the fireplaces. What do you suggest for cleaning it off and is there a spray that I can apply from my garden sprayer that would inhibit future moss growth.
Thanks Much,
Alan - Alan 2013-04-07 12:57:49

Hi Alan,

Congratulation on your new home. I use to live in Edmonds and it has some of the best sound views in the whole Seattle area. As a Seattle masonry contractor that specializes in cleaning and repairing brick and stone masonry, I always tell my customer that the very best results come from doing a good job of cleaning the masonry well. If the masonry has a lot of moss and dirt film on it that the place to start. You can use the same moss cleaners that most home stores sell for cleaning decks and driveways, by simply spraying them on with your garden sprayer, letting it set then rinsing it off with the garden hose. If the grim and moss are bad you might have to apply more then one applacation.
This is all you may have to do if the masonry is readdy for the next step. Once you have a clean surface to work with you need to make sure that all the mortar and brick are in good repair, crack brick and failed mortar joints can now be seen since the masonry is not covered in grim and moss. If your masonry is good to go and does not need tuckpointed, you can let it dry out from the cleaning and buy a good quality masonry sealer. This I do not recommend you buying from the home club stores, as the are mostly poor quality sealers. Go to a masonry material supply yard for the best quality sealers. If you follow these steps your masonry will look great and hold up for 5 years or more, but even the best sealers need to be redone aprox. every 5 years or so.

Best Wishes TimWmason.

Hello Tim,
We have a house that was built in the late 70's we have a fireplace with an insert in it, but we are wondering about converting it into an indoor
Pizza oven.....have you done this and do you think it is possible to utilize the existing fireplace structure.
Thank you
Julie - Julie 2013-03-26 14:55:34

Hi Julie,

We have converted quite a few over the year,and as a rule there is room to convert, but you wont still have a fireplace since the pizza oven will take up the area that the fireplace was using. This is not always the case once in a while the fireplace shell is large enough to install the pizza oven, and still keep the fireplace. Is your fireplace on an inside wall or out side wall and is it built of brick or stone? If you would like a free estimate for converting your fireplace let me know, and I come out and provide you with a free estimate.

Thanks Tim Wheeler.

I'm dreaming about having fireplace in our back yard, and looking for options. I've looked at fireplace kits, and found your web site.
How much it would cost to put an outdoor fireplace?
I'm also thinking of extending current 10x12 concrete patio to 15x15 or so, and do some stone tile. Could you give me some idea of cost?
- Kumi 2013-03-16 21:23:00

Hi Kumi,

One of the thing that you will want to consider is the value and quality when you are thinking about a Out-door Fireplace for your back yard. Many of the pre-made unit don't seem to hold up for very long before something goes wrong with them. They are much like the outdoor B/Q that only last a few years and then need to be replaced. The cost for building a quality masonry out-door fireplace can vary quite a bit, depending on the material that is used, and the size of outdoor fireplace that you want to build. We like to come out to our customers place and go over their idea and provide them with options, so they can make an informed dicisions. Please give us a call, and we will provide you with a free estimate.

Thanks TimWmason

Tim -

You asked about the curing/break-in process I used for the pizza oven you recently built for us. Here are the notes I have (all temperatures were measured with an infrared laser thermometer, usually about half-way up the arched part of the vault.

February 16
small fire with lumber cut-offs, lots of steam, about 3 hours of burning
maximum temperature on walls 320-350

February 17
small fire with some hardwood (cherry and madrone), about 3 hours of burning, maximum temperature
measured on walls about 460

February 18
small fire with hardwood (cherry and madrone), about 3 hours burning, maximum temperature high on
vault walls about 550-570

February 19
fire with hardwood (cherry) larger than before, about 3 hours burning, maximum
temperature high on vault walls about 650

February 20
2-3 hours of hardwood (cherry) fire, maximum temperature top of vault 690

February 21
Bought 1/2 cord of apple wood, 2 hours of fire, maximum temperature top of vault 800

February 28
Apple wood fire 2 hours, maximum temperatures 650

March 1
Apple wood fire 2-3 hours, maximum temperatures 800

March 2
Apple wood fire 2-3 hours, maximum temperatures 700

March 3
Fire started 2:30
Temperatures 500-600 for 2 hours, then put on smaller diameter split wood to
burn hotter. Wall temperatures at 800 by 5:30, hearth at 800+ when fire moved
to side of oven for pizza. Did not maintain fire after first pizza placed.
First pizza at about 6:00. Judged totally successful.

March 10
Fire started 2:00, used smaller diameter split apple throughout.
5:00 wall temperatures 700-800, hearth temperature 800-850
First piza at about 5:30, continued past 8:00.

In every case, the oven was still warm 24 hours after the fire went out!

Thanks for a great job and helpful hints on use. - Dan 2013-03-16 20:03:14

Thanks Dan

This is some very good information about the curing in of a wood-fried Pizza and Bread oven. Every Masonry oven needs to be cured before it can be used to bake in. This keeps the oven from spliting from a high temperature before it can handel it. For everyone reading this post Dan did a great job of curing in his new wood-fired pizza oven. It takes time and effort, but you can see the results that he obtained. If you are needing to cure in your Bread Or Pizza oven,then please feel free to use this article as a model to go by. Happy baking to you. Great job Dan.



I spoke to you today about a rock retaining wall that needs to be repaired. Our house sits on a hill and the retaining wall runs down the side of the hill and around the back of the house basically holding up the pad the house was built on. 2 years ago about 12 to 18 ft of the wall failed and the rocks slide. Since that time the area has been trapped. I think the wall is over 6 ft tall. I need to have this repaired in the least expensive way possible. Probably the best days for me are Monday or Fridays to meet.
- Kim 2013-03-07 18:16:57

Hi Kim,

What we will need to do is come out and provide you with a free inspection of the entire retaining wall. That is a large section of wall to fail, when it is holding up the slab, and the foundation of your home. The area having a tarp over it is probably a good idea , but the waters hydrostatic pressure is probably coming from up the hill above the tarpped area. In any case we will need to make sure that the retaining wall is able to drain water from behind it so that it won't build up water behind it. This is why the first retaining wall failed. please take a look at this site for more information.




I\'m considering an outdoor pizza oven. For budgetary reasons, I\'m wondering what it costs to have one built. thank you for your help

- Colby 2013-03-03 15:03:09

Hi Colby,

Thanks for inquiring about an out-door pizza oven. There are severial differant types on the market. The kind of Pizza ovens that we do are the real wood-fired pizza and bread ovens, that are built out of all masonry materials. The cost for building one can vary depending on the size and style you want. This type of bread & pizza ovens will last for many years with a little maintenance and care. As a budgetary cost for you, our ovens start at about $7500.00 dollars and can cook a single pizza in about 5 min. this would be an outside smaller brick oven.

Thanks TimWmason.


Hello, I have two masonry fireplaces in my home. Have you ever heard of them being converted to gas?

- Scott 2013-02-12 17:08:23

Hi Scott,

There are two way to convert a masonry fireplace to gas or propane. The first way and the least expensive is to install a gas log inside of the masonry firebox, you will also have to install a glass door as well, because of code requirements. The damper in your fireplace will have to be locked open, so that there is no chance of the gas log being used while the damper is shut. The next way is to install a gas insert into the opening of the fireplace. There are quite a few different types and models on the market but most of them cost over $2500.00 dollars plus insulation. The good news is that they are highly efficient and will come with the sealed glass front, and blower fans to warm the room, making them a much better value for the money then a gas log setup. I hope this is of help to you, feel free to ask any other questions you may have.


Need help for a 2-sided fireplace that is not functioning properly (too much smoke in the house). It\'s newly built (remodel) from 2010! Any help you could provide would be appreciated! - Khadijah 2013-02-10 21:40:21

Hi Khadijah,

It sounds like you have a problem with your fireplace not venting right. I notice in your email that you say that the chimney was remodeled in 2010? Was it a chimney with one side open only, or was it a see through fireplace before they remodeled it? I ask this questions because there are a lot of people doing retro fits on fireplace, who do not know the rules that you have to follow in order to open up a fireplace on both sides. The good news is almost any problem can be fixed. Shoot me an email or give me a call and I will be happy to go over this with you for free.


Hi Tim....I am following up with you on this....and discussions we have had with Rich's about the fireplace. We have had them out to the house twice to check on the issue we have been having with the glass on the door. It gets covered in brown "creosote " each time we use the fireplace. Rich's is suggesting that the "cap be raised" two feet for better draw. Though when the rep from Rich's left after the second visit, he said he would replace the door as part of the warranty ...but then I got a follow up call from Madison at Rich's saying they wouldn't do that until we got the cap raised first to see if that solved the problem.

I will try and call you later today....will need your assistance.

- Gloria 2013-02-04 21:53:15

Hi Gloria,

It sounds like someone is passing the buck here. Your chimney is of proper height and should draw the smoke in side a wood insert with no problem. As you know a chimney has to be 2 feet higher then any portion of the roof, with in ten feet of it. On the other hand all fireplace inserts are design to burn with the door shut with out smoking up the glass. What I am thinking is there is a problem with the outside air intake. I will give Rich's a call on your behafe and go over your problem, a new wood insert should not have this problem


Name: Steve Davies
Company Name: residence
Phone Number: 425 308 4044

How Did You Hear About Us: Other
3319 159th dr se snohomish,wa \r\n\r\n past client project, all chimneys and fireplace upgrade.
preparing to reroof You recommended that I alter the house side of the south chimney to include a peak to deflect the water from sitting on the north side of the chimney in the valley. (coaching to prep for such a alteration.\r\nalso am replacing my patio and carport slabs, as well as all of the adjoining sidewalk. and adding footing around carport, eastside of garage a footing and slab, also slab and footing wall common to the north side of the barn. for equipment storage. Would welcome any recommendations, lastly the face brick along the front of the house is set atop of the existing sidewalk that is to be removed ? can I save that brick if so How do I do that.\r\n\r\nthx Tim and Andrew \r\n\r\nps I see this to be a spring/early summer project.
- Steve 2013-02-04 21:01:14

Hi Steve,

What You need behind your fireplace is called a cricket,and it is placed on back side of a fireplace chimney as it come up through the roofline. They keep water and snow from piling up in back of the chimney. In some cases water or snow can get by the flashing when this happens. Cricket are not to hard to build and a handy homeowner should be able to install one in a days time. Here is a web page were you can get step by step instruction.

As for brick that are setting right on the sidewalk, it may just look like that.
when you get ready to remove the walkway you might find that the brick are seting on the brickledge and the sidewalk is just running under the very front of the brick, making it look like the brick is setting only on the sidewalk. If this is not the case then plan 2 would be to take out the sidewalk in section of 4 feet at a time, under pin the brick wall then take out the next 4 feet and so on it takes a little time but it's better then tearing down the wall. Let me know when you ar getting ready to start.

Thanks TimWmason

Hi TimWmason,

We have an older masonry fireplace in our home. When We first try to light the fire it will back up a little smoke into the room. Once the fire gets going it seems to work a little better, but I can still smell a stronger scent of smoke then we should. We both love a nice fire to sit by once in a while. We like any help that you could give us please.

Thank You


P.S. Our last homes fireplace worked beautiful and did not have this problem. - Ron 2013-02-03 12:19:52

Hi Ron,

Your question is one that we hear quite a bit in the chimney repair business.
The main reason why a masonry fireplace works and draws well is in how it was constructed, and since there millions of fireplace chimneys out there that we are talking about there are also thousands of different masons that built them.
While there are rules and good practices to be followed, every mason does things a little different. Here are a few things you can do for your fireplace since id does burn pretty well after you get it going. AS you know warm air want to go up and out better then cold air so before you light the wood, roll up a new paper and light the end holding it above the wood and warm up the flue area, to start that heat moving up and past the damper. And to make a fireplace burn well after you start the burn, try adding these two items, Glass doors, and a out side air vent. These two item can over come a lot of other problems that your chimney might have.


Hi Ken, I took additional pictures and measurements of the chimney stack and looking down as you advised. I'm not certain how to add pictures here at your Q&A, but let me give you the measurments the inside diameter of the chimney box at the roof looking down is 15" x 10 1/4" the cap that sits on top measures 16" x 12 1/2" im certain this cap is also the result of the fireplace incert that was installed and later removed.

I will fwd pictures to the email you provided me

Thanks: Geoffrey Motzer - Geoffrey 2013-02-01 17:35:56

Thanks Geoffrey,

The picture of the inside of the chimney are a little dark, but from what i can see your masonry flue liners are still in place in the chimney. These masonry flue liners were how the chimney was built to start with. and should be good burn with. The only parts that are missing is the butter fly damper blade, and it looks like they broke of the tops of the masonry flue liners where they are suppose to stick out and above the masonry crown on top of the fireplace. If those masonry flue liners that I see, are in good shape you do not need any other liners in order to burn the fireplace. You can drop a light down the flues to see just what shape the masonry flues liners are in, check for crack or missing piece, then if they are in good shape all you will need to do is repair the fireplace top or crown, and place a new piece of masonry flue liner so that it sticks up above the new chimney crown, about 6" or so. then install a new top damper over the new piece of liner, this will take the place of the missing butter fly damper blade that was removed. and works much in the same way that the old damper did. It just sit on top of the flue instead of under them, where the missing damper blade was.


Hi Ken, Jeff Motzer here. Thank you for talking with me today. Per your advise here is what I'm looking at. A double sided fireplace. I have already located new doors too install once I have the necessary flu repairs done. The picture of the first picture is looking straight up the shaft of the chimney. All masonry appears to be intact and in good condition the square box leading into the shaft of the chimney appears to be of steel construction, and the hole where the flu has been removed has dimensions 16" x 15 1/2" x 15 1/2".. this steel hood has a flat surface around its perimeter. And so it appears to me that a flu can be attached fairly easily.

The fireplace box itself measures 42" deep and 36 12" wide inside edge to inside edge. I am also interested in any recommendations you may have regarding smoke ventilation.

Look forward to hearing back from you.

Thanks Again: Jeff Motzer

- Jeff 2013-01-31 20:54:24

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for the pictures of the chimney damper area. The steel square box that you see in the pictures is called a butter fly damper. Yours has had the damper blade removed, so it looks like a steel box. This type of damper is use in double sided fireplace only. The reason for this is that they allow double the emissions out the chimney that a regular fireplace damper would. This is necessary because smoke takes the path of least resistance, so if you have two opening to the fireplace then you need double the damper and flue area for the smoke to go out. What I will need to see next is a picture of the top of the chimney, and then pictures shot looking down from the top. Please use the Q&A area on the top of my home page right hand corner for discussing this issue more. I am able to keep track of all my questions better there, as they are automatically saved and categorize for me. Any pictures still need to be emailed.

Thanks Tim Wheeler.

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