How to remove an exterior brick chimney the easy way
Remove an exterior brick chimney effortlessly and effectively.
Building regulations and safety advice for exterior brick chimney removal.
Expert advice from professional builders on exterior brick chimney removal.
Remove an exterior brick chimney the practical easy way
If your outside chimney has fallen into disrepair, or you simply don’t like the way it looks, it’s probably time to look into exterior chimney removal the easy way. Maybe you want to regain interior floor space and are no longer using the fireplace inside the home, so you have no need for the brick sculpture that runs up the entire side of the house. Either way, it’s time to deconstruct it, take it down, and patch up the holes left behind so you can reclaim your home as your own with a new sleek look on the outside and more floor and wall space on the inside. You will want to know the steps of how to remove an exterior brick chimney in the most practical yet expert way. The following explains how.
Is the chimney attached to the outside wall?
Chimneys are designed in a number of different ways. When you are taking down an exterior chimney, you will need to know that it may have been built alongside your house and only attached in a few spots, or it could be part of the actual structure of your home. When it comes to removing an exterior chimney, sometimes the entire brick chimney is built separate from the house and attached alongside the exterior wall with brackets leaving an opening on one storey wall that opens up into the living space. This inside section of the chimney is called the chimney breast where you enjoy the warmth of fires. Or, it may be visible along the outside wall but has been built somewhat intertwined with the home’s construction making it a bit more complicated, but not impossible, to remove. Here’s how to remove an exterior brick chimney the practical easy way.
Determine if the chimney is intermingled with the home’s structure
Is the exterior chimney separate from or attached to the home’s construction?
Assuming that your house is a frame construction and not masonry, you may be able to determine how intricately the chimney has been built with the structure of your home by knocking on the inside wall above the fireplace but below the ceiling. When you knock, do you hear a hollow sound. Or, does it sound more solid? If you can’t tell for sure, you will need to get a professional contractor who will be able to determine the difference. Even so, the expert might still need to punch a few holes in your wall before being able to know for sure. There is a specific sound and feel to knowing which often requires skill.
Remove an exterior chimney along a hollow wall
If the sound you hear when you knock is hollow, chances are that the chimney was built entirely on the outside of the house’s frame, only opening through a wall for the fireplace section. This is good news for the sake of taking the chimney down. No structural damage will be done to your home by bringing the exterior chimney down. Though, the siding on the house may show fading from the sun beating down on the building over the years. There may also be staining on the outside walls that will need to be cleaned and repaired or new siding installed or brickwork done to flow seamlessly with the exterior already in place. If the wall is hollow, you can probably remove the chimney and seal off the opening by insulating it and safely remove the rest of the outside chimney with no issues.
Usually any work done on the inside of your home won’t require special permits. However, work done to the outside may, and if you share a wall with someone else, you will need to understand and abide by the Party Wall Act of 1996. Basically, this will merely entail your informing the neighbour of your intended renovation work and sometimes it will require that you obtain their permission to complete the work.
Remove an exterior chimney built into the structure of the home
A more challenging, lengthy, and costly job will need to done if the chimney was built into the structure of the home. Determine this by knocking like you did before. If there is solid masonry when you or the expert taps on the wall or ceiling, the house was most likely framed up to the masonry chimney running not only on the outside of the house but also possibly even partially supporting walls, floors, and ceilings. If this is the case, the chimney removal is going to be a lot more extensive work since it is possible that without the framed wall, the chimney may be holding up the first storey ceiling rafters, the roof, or the second storey joists, all a structural part of the building. At the very least, when it has been removed there will be a large hole left behind that will need to be framed and filled in.
Don’t be afraid to get dirty and protect yourself to keep your helpers safe
Taking down a chimney is a messy job. Mainly, be ready to get covered in soot. There is a lot of soot inside that chimney, and when you begin to knock it down you will be displacing it into the air and all over everything in its way. Cover up the best you can by wearing long sleeves, eye protection, gloves, safety boots with steel toes, and a mask to prevent inhaling it into your lungs. Also, make sure any furnishings left in the house are properly covered to protect them from the black grit. In addition to these safety precautions, be protective of the people and things below the work area. Be careful not to let a wayward brick, for instance, crash through your window. And, be especially cautious not to let any bricks or debris harm anyone below. Also, never work in wet weather that can make surfaces slick especially if you are working on the second storey or above. You could slip off of the ladder or scaffolding or all the way down from on top of the roof. Use caution and common sense during such weather conditions.
Besides wet or damp weather, a couple of the major dangers of working on the outside exterior chimney is the potential of the ladder or scaffolding giving way causing you to fall and the potential of those underneath the ladder or scaffolding being hit by a brick or debris. Remove an exterior chimney from the top down, brick by brick, one brick at a time. It sounds tedious, but once you get into a proper rhythm of the work, it tends to go fairly quickly. It will just require time and patience as well as proper tools to make the job easier. You will need to block off the area below and have a designated spot to toss the bricks from the roof using extreme care not to become a safety hazard to those underneath the work. Afterwards, be sure to collect the bricks and debris to place in a dumpster for removal or proper disposal. This step is often costly as the bricks and debris to be hauled away tend to weight quite a bit. Cleanup is just as important part of the job as the actual work at taking down the exterior chimney.
Get ready for a workout
Taking down a chimney is hard physical work. It’s not necessarily a job for the weak and certainly not for young children. Properly removing an entire chimney is hard physical labor. Those who do construction for a living have, over time, built themselves up to being able to handle the strain. If you are doing this chimney project as a DIY, be prepared to have sore muscles for a few days after work is complete.
Be sure to follow ladder safety rules as you rest upon the ladder for support while you move down from the roof line. To be extra safe, tie the ladder to a sturdy support structure, and wear a safety harness when working on the roof. Don’t ever place the weight of the support ladders that you will be standing on and relying on to hold you up a storey or two directly against the gutters, chimney stack, or the exterior chimney that is coming down. If you do, chances are you will come tumbling down with it.
Finish the work
Once the exterior chimney has been removed
Once the exterior chimney has been removed, you will be left with a hole in the roof and a hole in the main room where the fireplace opening was. If the chimney was intertwined with the architectural structure of the home, you will also need to repair and shore up anywhere that the chimney once took up.
Benefits of exterior chimney removal
What can removing a chimney do for your home?
Removing an old, deteriorating or unused, outdated chimney that is seldom if ever used for fires can give your home a huge makeover. When the chimney has come down, you will be surprised at the huge amount of design options and limitless possibilities your home will now reveal, not to mention the added floor and wall space. But, it must be done well. The extra space you gain on the inside and the fresh new look you gain on the outside will be very well worth the work and expense, but you will first need to patch up and repaint and such.
Know when to call in an expert
Whether you decide to tackle the project yourself or hire a contractor will depend on a lot of factors such as your skill level, your tolerance for soot and grit, as well as your time frame of when you need it done. Safety is also a consideration that you won’t want to take lightly. When you want to know how to remove an exterior brick chimney the easy way, find out the most practical steps from the Diligent Development Team.