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Designing and Installing Your Dream Fireplace: An Interview with Matthew Koldewey of M & J Chimney Service

Tell us about your company and its foundation.

Around 1978, my father was at a supply house and overheard a couple construction workers talking about chimneys. (dirty chimneys in particular) At that time there were no chimney companies in the area, so my father did some research and decided to start his own chimney service.

After WW2, then general consensus was that we had unlimited cheap energy; coal, oil, gas etc. Fireplaces were rarely used regularly until the energy shortages of the 1970's. Occasional use with no servicing created many dirty chimneys and many chimney fires. Meanwhile, all the chimney sweeps/services died out. Our industry experienced a rebirth in the 1970's.

What services do you provide?

We are a full-service company. From inspections, minor repairs and sweeping to full installations; we do everything concerning a chimney/fireplace.

What is the general design process when it comes to creating unique fireplaces?

Most of our installation are of the prefabricated fireplace/chimney systems. They are much less costly and more efficient than the traditional brick and mortar systems. We have the client pick the one they like. The surrounds can be finished any way the client chooses: tile, stucco / tabby and even wood. This is often done during a remodel by the General Contractor, although we do our share of the finish work also.

Although we haven't done any standard brick and mortar chimneys, we have highly experienced brick masons on stand-by when the need arises.

How do you make sure your design is what the client wants?

The client usually picks the pre-fab unit they like. We also use pictures of previous chimney/fireplace installations.

What is the installation process?

The installation of pre-fab chimneys is much like the installation of an appliance. We measure, modify existing structure, and/or build what is needed. Then, the chimney is installed.

A brick and mortar chimney requires a footer and slab, and is a much more intensive process. This may require working with the local code official, builder and architect.

How long does it take?

A pre-fab chimney can usually be installed in a couple days. A brick and mortar chimney is a much longer and intensive process and can take upwards of a month depending on chimney size and other factors.

How does the pricing work for fireplaces and their installation?

Pre-fab chimneys, depending on the situation; are usually around several thousand dollars installed. You'd be hard pressed to find the most simple brick and mortar chimney for less than $12,000; but I have seen them go for more than $50,000. Labor and insurance are the main cost factors, but masonry materials aren't cheap here along the coast either.

What is the best way to contact you?

We are on the internet at We are also on Google and Facebook. My email is and our office phone is (912) 264-0846. The office phone is actually the best way to reach us.

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