Sometimes it is necessary to remove a chimney breast in order to make a Loft Conversion feasible. Sometimes people remove them just to create more space. Whatever the reason there is no avoiding the fact that it 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 chimney 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 ground floor contain just a single flue but the ones on the first floor contain two separate flues, the the flue that serves the first floor fireplace and 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 Stack at the Loft Floor Level
Extra steel beams are included in the loft floor framework to support the brickwork above. The chimney breasts below can then be removed and remedial work carried out to make good the rooms.
Option 2. Support the Chimney Stack at the Flat Roof Level
If your loft conversion includes the construction of a dormer it may be possible to remove part of the chimney in the loft also. The dormer is usually a timber frame construction but in this scenario that will change to include extra steelwork.
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