How You Can Remove Chimney Breast Yourself
A chimney breast is the brickwork that is around the chimney and often takes up a lot of space inside the main living area. If you’re no longer using the chimney for fires and want to regain this space and are asking yourself, “Can I remove chimney breast?” The short answer is yes. Here’s why you may want to remove it and the best way to go about it.
Why Would You Remove a Chimney Breast?
The main reason home owners choose to remove the chimney breast is to re-purpose a wall and free up much needed living space. Chimneys used to be used to heat the home, and inside the main living area was the portion of the chimney called a chimney breast. Now that homes are heated more efficiently, many home owners decide to make better use of the space along the wall where the chimney breast sits taking up much desired wall space.
Simply knocking out and removing the bricks may sound like a do-it-yourself DIY weekend project. But, be careful to understand what is involved before you jump into knocking down the brickwork.
Remove Your Chimney Breast in Two Steps
There is more than meets the eye with chimney breasts removal. Take these two important steps to do the work, or else the whole chimney stack may come crashing in through our rooftop.
First, make sure you have any necessary planning permissions and that you follow building regulations especially when it concerns an adjoining property of a neighbour who may share the other side of a wall.
Second, before taking on the task, remember safety always comes first. Make sure you have plans to install a steel beam or other appropriate support to be inserted to the area you are removing, especially if the chimney stack is involved.
Be Prepared with the Touch of an Expert
Ultimately, chimney breast removal is not that hard if you are equipped with the right tools and knowledge. Learn from the experts how it’s done. Or better yet, hire a skilled craftsman to get the job done well.
Get Permission Before You Begin the Work
Make Sure You Have the Proper Permissions
Ultimately, taking the first step to ensure you have the proper building permissions in place will save you plenty of time down the road.
It will also help you avoid a huge headache and slew of other potential hassles.
Know what steps to take to gain the necessary permissions and follow building regulations.
Obtaining Permissions Is Usually Not a Problem with Two Exceptions
For a single family home, depending on where you live, taking the proper steps to start demolition and construction may merely mean getting building regulations approval. Most internal alterations are not considered to be building development, so they do not require additional permissions. If the work involves removing an external chimney, it usually falls under Permitted Development PD. Of course, if you live in a Conservation Area, obtaining this permission will be far more restricted than those who are outside of the Conservation Area.
If You Share a Wall, Consider Your Neighbours
If your home shares a wall with an adjoining home, you will need to follow the Party Wall Act procedures which involves you notifying your neighbours.
All work needs to comply with building regulations and is ‘notifiable’ meaning that you are responsible for informing the local authority building control department to complete an application.
This can also be done by hiring an independent approved inspector to do it for you.
Party Wall Act
Some semi-detached and terrace properties are built with the chimney breasts back to back between individual properties, sometimes sharing up to four fireplaces that appear as two rows of four chimney pots on the stack. Properties that share one or more walls with adjoining homes, where the chimney stack rests, will need to follow the Party Wall Act of 1996. The reason for this is because any construction or demolition you do will affect their living space as well. This consideration goes beyond the initial project as there may be ongoing chimney maintenance issues as well. This Act states that before removing a chimney breast, you will need to first obtain the written consent of the owners of the neighbouring property.
If you are leasing your home, you will need to obtain the permission of the landlord. Properties that you do not own but are leasing will require a landlord licence giving consent to the construction project. If your leased building shares a wall with an adjoining tenant’s living space, you will also need to have them agree to the work as well.
Bring in the Expert
Since removing a chimney stack or brickwork could impact the support and strength of your home, a load-bearing wall, or attic and roof, you will want the advice of an expert. Before beginning any work that involves the home’s structure, you will need to consult a structural engineer.
Also, special attention needs to be given when a chimney breast in an upper floor is being removed while leaving a working fire place in a room below. This expert will be able to look at how the project may put the building at risk if not properly supported while giving advice of how to properly go about the chimney breast removal project safely without putting you or your home at risk.
Can I Remove Chimney Breast? Yes, but Safety Always Comes First
Safety issues to take into consideration for a chimney breast removal project include structural as well as some additional construction concerns.
Also, make sure your building regulations comply with fire safety, sound insulation, maintenance of any neighbouring chimney, damp prevention to avoid moisture damage, mould, or staining from remaining soot, and ventilation of any chimney breast left intact at both the top and the bottom.
To remove the chimney breast from the lower level, you must first support the chimney stack. In some cases, gallows brackets are used. However, making sure the chimney stack is secured properly is never a step that should be taken lightly or overlooked. Using Rolled Steel Joist RSJ beams is the safest, most structurally sound method used to shore up the void left behind on the load-bearing wall, attic, or roof after a chimney breast or chimney stack is removed.
When Gallows Brackets Are Used
Gallows brackets should only be used under certain specific conditions. One such situation is if the stack is not completely vertical. Another situation where Gallows brackets may be used is if the chimney breast is less than 1200 mm.
If the chimney breast does not project more than 340 mm into the room or the building is no more than two storeys high plus roof space, and the neighbours’ chimney breast on the other side of the party wall has been partially removed or has not been removed, gallows brackets may suffice. Also, always make sure that the party wall supporting the Gallows bracket is a minimum of 215mm thick, in brickwork, and is in sound condition.
Steel RSJ Beams Provide Strong Support
Additional Safety Concerns
During any home building or reconstruction project, you should always wear proper clothing to ensure your safety. Always wear long sleeves, thick work gloves, safety boots with steel toes, a mask over your nose and mouth, and eye protection. Whenever you are doing construction or demolition, dust will be kicked up. So, be prepared with masks and proper safety precautions to protect your lungs. Also, protect your interior furnishings and décor. First cover the surrounding area with plastic so dust doesn’t get into crevices and furniture that you will be cleaning up for weeks.
Make Sure Your Neighbours Are Safe
If your chimney was along an adjoining wall, you will want to notify your neighbour. It is not always something people think about, but your construction may impact their living space as well. Let them know so they can try to alleviate any dust that may come down into their living space as well through the flue of the chimney breast on the shared wall.
Don’t Take Chances with Gas and Electricity
If your chimney used gas, consult with an expert to make sure everything is turned off and properly vented. Also, if there is any electricity running through the wall, you will first need to make sure this is turned off as well.
Let the Redecorating Begin
The main purpose of removing a chimney breast is often to gain needed wall space. Once the renovation is complete, it’s time to put your touch on your new interior design. Once the structural issues are tended to and the chimney breast has been removed, you will now need to fill in the gaps left behind. This entails re-plastering the wall and then painting or finishing the way you want. Make it your own and express your individual style.
Regain Floor Space
Since you will probably have new floor space as well where the chimney breast once covered, you’ll want to determine how you want to cover this newly opened area. You may want to lay new flooring on the entire room so it seamlessly flows.