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Removing Chimney Breasts

Updated: Nov 1, 2023


Chimney breasts removal
The paths of two flues as they passed through a chimney breast that was removed

Sometimes it is desirable to remove a chimney breast in order to fee up space. However, removing chimneys is disruptive, dirty and potentially dangerous work. As ever good planning, preparation and communication are key to ensuring the job goes smoothly and disruption is kept to a minimum. We have prepared this guide to help you to understand the work that needs to be done in order to remove a chimney breast.


First we begin with an explanation of the overall structure:

This is a cross section of a typical semi or mid terrace three bedroom house. There are chimney breasts in both rooms on the ground floor and also in both rooms on the first floor. In the loft the two chimney breasts join together to form a single chimney stack which then passes out through the roof. The breasts contain the fireplaces and also the flues (the tunnels which carry the smoke up and out of the chimney pots). The chimney breasts on the lower floor contain just a single flue but the chimney breasts on the first floor contain two separate flues, the flue that serves that floor and the flue that comes up from below, passing by on it's way up towards the roof. The flues follow a path like this:

As you can clearly see chimney breasts are both conduits through which smoke passes and structural elements of the building. They cannot be removed unless alternative methods of support are found for the remaining structure. Also if you remove a chimney breast above ground floor you will cut off the flue of any fireplaces below it leaving them redundant.

If chimney breasts are to be removed then this is typically done in one of three ways:


 

Option 1. Support the Chimney Breasts above within a floor structure


If you want to remove a chimney breasts at ground floor level only, leaving in place a chimney breast(s) above then the most common method of supporting that remaining chimney breast is to install a steel beam(s) at first floor ceiling level or even sometimes within the first floor structure.



 

Option 2. Support the Chimney Stack at Loft Floor Level


If you are carrying out a loft conversion as part of your project then it is likely that steel beams will included in the loft floor structure. The loft floor structure can potentially include extra steel beams to support the brickwork of any chimney above meaning that the chimney breasts below can then be removed and remedial work carried out to make good the rooms.




 

Option 3. Remove the entire Chimney


The third option is to take down the entire chimney from the top down and make good the roof where it used to be. In this example the chimney stack above the roof is shared with the neighbour and so removing it effects both properties. Of course this full removal can only be done if the neighbour wants it to happen as well (for example if they want to undertake a similar project themselves later on or perhaps if they have had problems with water ingress around a chimney they no longer use anyway etc). It is likely that you will have to cover the costs of the work to both properties if this is an option you want to pursue.


 

Whichever option you choose to pursue to remove your chimney breast it is worth remembering that the associated costs can sometimes be more than initially thought because the total cost is not just the demolition work but also a whole bunch of other items which will also need to be done. Typically this would include things like:


- Cost to supply and fit additional steelwork

- Cost of temporary supports whilst the demolition work is carried out.

- Cost to re-site any affected services (electrical sockets, pipes etc).

- Cost to provide temporary protection of surfaces etc.

- Cost of labour to carry out the demolition work.

- Costs of waste disposal

- Cost to put in new hearths

- Cost to re-plaster

- Cost to fit new skirtings, covings etc.

- Cost to re-decorate

- Cost of new carpets/ floor coverings



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