FAQ

  • Where do you get your inventory?
    Most of our inventory is purchased from other antique dealers, although some items are purchased from local estates, and also homeowners and contractors who are renovating or redecorating.
  • Is most of your inventory from the DC area?
    No, because we buy from antique dealers who travel throughout the country. Our items can come from all over the United States, and some pieces are from Europe.
  • Do you buy items?
    Anyone interested in selling an item should email a photo with the measurements and price to info@thebrassknob.com. Someone will respond within a week to advise if the item or items are of interest. Because of the cost of shipping, it is generally not possible to buy large items from people who are not local to Washington, DC.
  • Do you ship items?
    We ship all over the country and to some foreign countries. All of our major pieces are professionally packed prior to shipping.
  • Who are your clients?
    Homeowners, interior designers, architects, builders, restaurants, and set designers.
  • "What is this?"
    There are definitely some esoteric items in the store that are total mysteries to us. Sometimes we just don’t have an answer to this question.
  • How long have you been in business at this location?
    From 1981-1986 we were in the building immediately to the South of this building. In 1986, we moved into this location. Learn more about our history here.
  • Call you tell me the value of my item?
    Because we are not certified appraisers, we do not do valuations.
  • Do you buy your merchandise in this condition?
    Occasionally we purchase pieces in good enough condition for sale. However, in most instances there is a lot of time and labor involved in the restoration and repair of most of the inventory.
  • Do you do repairs?
    We do some lighting restoration and work on some locks. Whenever possible, we give quotes prior to doing the work. At times, however, it’s necessary to disassemble an item before we can tell whether it can actually be repaired.
  • Do you sell sinks and tubs?
    Because we are located in a townhouse we do not have the space to sell large plumbing fixtures. We do occasionally have a decorative sink, but generally we do not sell sinks or tubs.
  • Do you sell vintage faucets and mixers?
    We have some plumbing parts, but mechanical plumbing pieces are not our focus because we do not have the expertise to assemble the parts into working units.
  • Do you sell radiators?
    No, we do not have the space to sell radiators.
  • What types of antique bath fixtures do you sell?
    We sell antique towel bars, vintage soap dishes, vintage sponge holders, and vintage cup holders. We also sell unusual antique plumbing accessories like shelves, antique over the tub soap holders, and hooks.
  • Do you sell bathroom lighting?
    We have a large variety of vintage porcelain light fixtures which are traditional lighting for bathrooms. Over the years, we have sold all types of non-traditional lights which have been used in new and vintage bathrooms.
  • See our selection of Vintage Bath Accessories here.
  • How are antique metal brackets used?
    Some decorative metal brackets can be used to support shelves, sinks, counters, fireplace mantle tops or as console brackets. They can also be used just as decorative items in the corners of shelving and doorways. The majority of antique metal brackets are iron, but occasionally we get vintage bronze or brass brackets.
  • How are antique wooden brackets used?
    Vintage wooden brackets can also be used to support shelves and counters, or as wall art.
  • What are the sizes of the vintage brackets that you sell?
    Antique brackets come in a large variety of sizes from just a few inches to a few feet.
  • How do you clean and restore antique iron brackets?
    Vintage iron brackets can be wire brushed to remove the surface rust and then painted or sealed with lacquer. Customers who want to maintain the antique patina often just add a lacquer finish without removing any rust to maintain the vintage appearance of the iron.
  • How do you clean and restore antique wooden corbel brackets?
    Wooden corbel brackets can be stripped of the paint and repainted or stained. Removing the paint from vintage exterior brackets can be difficult and may require professional stripping if the desired look is totally clean wood.
  • Do you ever have other types of brackets?
    Occasionally we have plaster brackets which generally can only be used for decoration and rarely antique marble brackets that can be used as supports or for decoration.
  • See our selection of Antique Brackets here.
  • Are the antique columns you sell for exterior installations?
    Most of the columns were manufactured to be used on the interior of the house. We have occasionally had exterior columns but this is not typical.
  • Why are some vintage columns more expensive than others?
    The more elaborate columns are more expensive, as well as the ones that have a natural wood finish, rather than paint.
  • Are antique columns structural or ornamental?
    Most of the vintage columns that we sell are used as ornaments, but the ones that are solid wood could also be used structurally, but it would depend upon the architect or builder to make this decision.
  • Can the height of old columns be altered?
    Depending upon the construction some columns can be shortened, but because they are often tapered they would no longer fit the original base. The only way to increase the height is to construct higher bases.
  • See our selection of Antique Columns here.
  • Why would I buy an antique mantel instead of a new one?
    Antique mantels are very good value for the quality of the workmanship. They also come in a large variety of styles which cannot be found in the new ready-made mantels on the market.
  • What should I know when looking for a vintage fireplace mantle?
    Every jurisdiction has fire codes that determine the size of the opening you will need around the firebox. You should check on the code requirements prior to purchasing a mantel.
  • Do the mantels come in different materials?
    Yes. Some of our vintage mantels are wood – usually oak, pine or cherry, but occasionally walnut or mahogany. We also sell vintage mantels that are marble, slate, or some other stone.
  • What types of fireplace equipment do you sell?
    We sell fireplace tools, fireplace tool stands, andirons, and fireplace screens. There are some vintage sets of fireplace tools, as well as some tools that are not part of sets
  • What are andirons?
    Andirons are pairs of decorative fronts in brass, bronze, or cast iron with iron "dogs" that protrude from the back. Originally the wood was placed on the iron dogs that were recessed into the firebox. Today andirons are generally used just as decorative items.
  • Is all of your fireplace equipment antique?
    No, we sell some antique fireplace pieces, but many of the pieces, especially the tool sets and screens, are previously owned but not old enough to be an antique or even vintage.
  • See our selection of Antique Fireplace Mantel and Equipment here.
  • What is included in antique garden ornaments?
    Antique house parts that can be used outside in a garden or as ornament on the exterior of a building, or building fragments out of carved stone as well as terra cotta, and concrete are included in this category. Vintage iron pieces can be used as garden ornaments, but they are in a separate category on this website. Vintage planters, benches, and fountains are also included in this category.
  • Why would I buy a vintage piece of antique garden art rather than something new?
    Antique and vintage garden art pieces show signs of wear and age which add to the charm of a garden as well as making it appear more interesting.
  • Should I paint vintage ironwork if I use it outside?
    Whether or not ironwork should be painted depends upon the installation. Some people want the vintage items in their gardens to look very worn and rusty. Other people want a clean look with very sharp detail. To maintain a clean look with sharp details, new and old ironwork would need to be sealed with paint or a clear finish.
  • Does this vintage fountain work?
    We can determine if there are any obstructions that would keep an antique fountain from being used with a pump, but all of our fountains are sold "as is" because we do not have any way to test them with a pump and water.
  • How would I get something this heavy home?
    We can arrange for a delivery with an outside delivery service. The charge is based upon the size and weight of the piece and the delivery location. We will also help load items into the customer’s vehicle.
  • See our selection of Antique Garden Ornaments here.
  • Can you put antique hardware on a new door?
    Yes. If it is a blank door you can install either an antique or new mortise lock, or a new latch kit that will work with vintage door knobs and plates. If a new door already has hardware, if you have the hardware or the measurements, we can assist you in finding vintage hardware that will cover the holes in your door.
  • Can you put antique hardware on a door that has been pre-drilled for new hardware?
    The main difficulty is the large hole on the surface of the door which needs to be either filled and repainted, or covered with door plates or roses. We sell new door knob roses to cover the holes (if there are no antique plates available) and latch kits that work with vintage knobs to fit the pre-drilled doors.
  • Why are there different finishes on antique door knobs?
    Like modern hardware, antique hardware was available in different finishes. We try to have hardware available in many different tones and finishes so that our customers have the same type of choice. Whenever possible we save original finishes when vintage hardware comes in good condition. Some of our hardware is polished to a bright brass or bronze because many of our customers love the beauty of the polished metal. Hardware can also be plated, for an additional charge, if it is not the customers preferred finish.
  • Do you lacquer your vintage hardware?
    As a rule we do not add any coating to antique hardware. If a customer wants their hardware to maintain a high shine, we will have it lacquered for a minimal additional charge.
  • See our selection of Antique Hardware here.
  • How can you tell the age of vintage ironwork?
    Ironwork is very difficult to date. The type of design and quality of the finishing of the metal is the way to establish the age of antique ironwork. Antique pieces of iron also have more weight than modern pieces.
  • Can rusty iron be cleaned?
    Yes, surface rust can be removed with a wire brush, or by taking the metal to a commercial stripper to have the rust chemically removed.
  • Once the rust is removed will the iron stay clean?
    All iron pieces will rust if they are not coated and are exposed to moisture. Therefore, it is necessary to seal antique ironwork with paint or lacquer to avoid new rust.
  • Is there a way to maintain the look of a piece of vintage ironwork while keeping it from more serious rust?
    Adding a satin lacquer coat will retard the rust process and help maintain the look of an aged piece of metal.
  • Do antique floor registers fit modern HVAC systems?
    HVAC systems have different size requirements than older systems. If a customer wants to use antique floor and wall registers we suggest purchasing the grills in advance so that the HVAC contractor can fabricate the duct work to fit their grills.
  • See our selection of Antique Ironwork here.
  • How old is the antique lighting that you sell?
    Our lights generally date from 1850 to 1930. There are some vintage lights in the store which are more contemporary, but still previously owned.
  • Is antique lighting safe?
    All of our antique lighting is rewired with new electrical parts so that they are as safe as any new lighting fixtures. Occasionally we will get a contemporary light with relatively new wiring which we test carefully prior to putting it out for sale.
  • How difficult are your vintage chandeliers and sconces to install?
    All of our lights are wired to install on new electrical boxes, so they are easy to install. Occasionally a customer with an old house has special wiring needs and we will supply upon request the appropriate parts to install on a vintage electrical box.
  • Why do your brass lights range in color?
    Some antique chandeliers and antique sconces can be cleaned up to have a natural patina and some have so much paint or dirt they have to be cleaned down to the bare metal. It is always possible to change the finish depending upon customers decorating needs. Silver and nickel are generally a plating over another metal and saving these finishes is rare, but it is always possible to silver or nickel plate brass.
  • What style of vintage chandeliers and lights do you sell?
    Our inventory contains a large variety of styles including, Classical, Victorian, Edwardian, Arts and Crafts, Tudor, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Moderne, and Mission. We try to have examples of all of the styles in stock, but because these are antique lights there are times when we do not have certain styles in stock.
  • Do you sell new lights?
    We sell new lighting in order to make some of our older vintage lighting pieces more marketable. In addition, we make custom lights for customers who do not see what they want in the store, or need multiples of the same design. We also sell one line of custom order new lights which are available in a number of different metal finishes.
  • Are your antique brass lights lacquered to keep them high shine?
    Many of our customers prefer to have their polished vintage brass lights tone down to have more of a natural patina, so we do not as a rule put any coating on our brass and bronze lights. However, if a customer wants a light to maintain a high shine, the light can be lacquered for a minimal additional charge. We do generally lacquer antique silver plated lights since the silver tends to tarnish much faster than the brass.
  • If a vintage chandelier is too long for my ceiling can it be shortened?
    Most of our lights can be shortened or lengthened. There are some exceptions, but we will try to adapt a light to the ceiling height necessary. There is generally a minimal charge for this service.
  • See our selection of Vintage Lighting here.
  • How old are the windows that you sell?
    Most of our inventory dates from 1870-1920. We occasionally have contemporary pieces that are previously owned, but not actually antique.
  • Do your stained glass windows come from the DC metropolitan area?
    No, most of our inventory comes from other antique dealers who travel around the country looking for items to sell, so they can come from all over the U.S.
  • Do you import any vintage decorative windows?
    Most of our antique stained glass windows are American, rather than English or continental. Occasionally a window is purchased that is not American, but it is not imported by The Brass Knob.
  • Do you repair stained glass?
    No, we do not have a stained glass artisan on staff.
  • Have all your windows been restored?
    We sell our windows in "as found" condition because some of our customers need to have them framed to fit specific spaces or do not mind minor damage.
  • See our selection of Antique Stained Glass here.
  • How do you date vintage tiles?
    Most of the antique tiles that we sell have designs on the front of the tile. The age of these tiles can generally be determined by the design and construction of the tile. We also do research of the decorative tiles, if it is an unfamiliar design.
  • Do you know the name of the manufacturer of the antique decorative tiles?
    Many vintage decorative tiles have the manufacturer’s mark cast into the back of the tile. Some other antique tiles have a pattern on the back that can be referenced to a specific fabricator.
  • How old are the antique tiles that you sell?
    The age of the decorative tiles that we sell range from approximately 1870 to 1920.
  • How do your customers use vintage decorative tiles?
    Some of our customers use vintage tiles to surround the opening of their fireplace boxes, while others use them in kitchens and bath rooms as back splashes or decorative inserts in a tile wall. Tiles can also be framed as artwork for walls or to be incorporated into a piece of furniture.
  • See our selection of Vintage Tile here.
The Brass Knob sells a number of vintage and antique items which do not fit into the general categories listed above. These include prints, candle sticks, bookends, plant stands, ceramic pots, umbrella stands, the occasional piece of furniture and much more. There are also many miscellaneous pieces of metal to be repurposed into a multitude of artistic designs.