Removing a chimney breast

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Fireplace in situchimney breast exposedFormer chimney breast wall being decorated

Removing a chimney breast is particularly worthwhile when you are trying to create more space in a small room.

Fireplace in situ

Why remove a chimney breast?

In this case study, our clients’ teenage son was outgrowing his bedroom. We produced a series of 3D visuals to show how the room could be used both with, and without the chimney breast. The extra space from removing the structure offered more scope; once the floorplan was agreed, we set about arranging the work.

We obtained quotations to ensure that the overall project was affordable. We then engaged a structural engineer to design the support structure and calculate steel sizes. We also engaged building control to sign off the work for our clients; both for their peace of mind and for certifying the work for any future sale.

Party wall agreement, and the neighbours

Because part of the new structure relied on support from the party wall, we drafted a standard party wall agreement. We explained what was planned and the neighbours were happy to sign. Before start of works, we checked that there were no pictures on the neighbours’ adjacent wall as vibration can cause them to fall off. Similarly, if neighbours have open fireplaces, vibrations can cause debris to fall down onto their floor. In such circumstances, it is important to fit the required protection.

Chimney breast support structure

Steel supports for a chimney breast in a loft space would usually pass between remaining structural walls to either side of the brickwork beneath the front edge. In this case however, such a steel would have passed across the loft hatch. The engineer therefore designed two steels running from front to back, with a further steel to pick up the front edge.  In the photo below you can see the two main steels picking up the sides before the third steel was installed between them. All three steels were L-shaped, to sit snugly within the mortar joints of the brickwork.

Removing a chimney breast - steel supports in loft

intumescent paint

Building control required the steels to be fireproofed. Here, we used intumescent paint, which expands when exposed to high temperatures.  This creates an insulating layer which protects the structural members. Below is a view of the structure after painting with the intumescent product.

Intumescent painted steels in loft space

removing the brickwork

Having supported the remaining chimney breast in the loft space, it was then possible to remove the bricks from the bedroom below.  The following gallery shows the chimney breast being dismantled, and the room made good. It was interesting to see the flues exposed with their historical soot marks, continuing up to the loft space, and also from the ground floor below.

You will need to board the hole in the floor, and plasterboard and skim the hole in the ceiling.  The exposed brickwork will be sealed, then hardwalled, skimmed and rubbed down in preparation for decoration. Don’t forget the extra length of skirting which you will match closely to the existing woodwork. You may also choose to replace the carpet, as this will also have a section missing.

cost of removing a chimney breast

Before VAT, the cost of building work (including the skip) was £3250, with decoration £600 and carpet £650.

What about the old fireplace?

We are always reluctant to remove original period fireplaces – the benefits for our clients must outweigh any sentimentality we harbour. However, you can always recycle the original fireplace, giving it new life in a home of reinstalled period features. The contractors were careful in extracting this combination fireplace, but cast iron is brittle and the mantle did crack.  However, I repaired it as good as new using Evo Stick Hard and Fast – a two-part metal “weld” adhesive putty with a metal plate across the joint for extra strength. A salvage yard might offer half its value or so, as it needs to be shot blasted and sprayed, but it should reach £125 or so sold privately.

Repaired combination fireplace

Removing a chimney breast

Before deciding, make sure that removing a chimney breast will actually improve the way your home works. Draw the room to scale and create the new floorplan. When you are satisfied that the investment is worthwhile, carry it out professionally. A structural engineer should design supports for you and building control should certify the work formally. Keep your neighbours informed and check during the works that they are still happy. We have written separately on choosing contractors, so with all the right steps in place you should look forward to a successful project.

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