Removing a Chimney Breast – All You Need to Know

 

When you buy a house, there’s always a few key things you look out for. Whether it’s an en suite or lots of precious floor space, everyone is looking for something different.

One way to make the most of the space in your house is to remove the chimney breast. With the move from open fire and wood burners to gas fires chimneys are less of a necessity, and more a decorative choice. For this reason, many people decide to remove their chimney breast, giving them more space to work with.

A chimney is made up of 2 key sections, the breast and the stack. The stack is the part of the chimney protruding out the roof. The chimney breast is the brickwork of your chimney that projects forward from an internal wall, encasing the chimney itself. This is typically seen on the ground floor to accommodate a fireplace in a living room or in upper floor bedrooms.

Another reason homeowners may decide to remove the chimney breast in their property is because the chimney is ageing and starting to collapse. In this instance, it is much easier to remove the entire chimney than to try and rebuild the structure.

Chimney Stack

Will Removing the Chimney Breast Devalue My House?

During any renovation, it is important to consider how the renovation will affect the value of the house. And it’s no different with chimney breast removal.

While there is no clear-cut answer, in general removing a chimney breast will not devalue your house, as you will be adding space which is an equally important asset, especially in smaller houses.

However, some potential buyers may be looking exclusively for a house with a chimney, especially in periodic houses, meaning you could alienate these buyers.

Also, if your chimney has unique or quirky features, removing it could take away from the character of the property, ultimately devaluing it.

Before you decide on the renovations, think about whether the chimney breast adds to the character of your house, and whether the extra space will be more tempting to potential buyers than an old-fashioned fireplace.

Living Room Chimney Breast

Do I Need Planning Permission to Remove a Chimney Breast?

In short, no, you don’t need planning permission to remove a chimney breast.

This is because it’s an internal alteration and planning permission is only required for external renovations that may affect the people around you. The only instance in which you need to gain planning permission is if you live in a listed property or conservation area.

That being said, you will need to submit a Building Regulations application. This will ensure your renovations won’t cause wider structural damage to the property or affect the gas and electric in the property.

If you live in England or Wales, you will also have to abide by the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. This act requires you to seek permission from your neighbours if you own a terraced house and share a common wall or the wall is in close proximity to another house.

If you are unsure about any of these permissions or how to move forward, talk to your local authority.

 

How Much Does It Cost to Remove a Chimney Breast?

The cost of chimney breast removal will depend on how you decide to do it.

If you choose the DIY route, it will only cost as much as the materials you decide to use. The higher quality the materials you use, the more expensive the DIY job will be but also the better job you will do.

It’s important to remember this is a particularly challenging DIY project that requires a lot of physical effort, so may not be suitable for everyone.

If you decide to use a structural engineer, a chimney breast removal will cost between £1,400 and £2,500 depending on the size of the job. This usually takes the structural engineer up to 2 weeks to complete with extra time for redecorating needed.

Removing a Chimney Breast

How to Remove a Chimney Breast

Before you start, you will need:

  • Lump hammer
  • Scraper
  • Safety goggles
  • Face mask
  • Work gloves
  • SDS drill (optional)
  • Skip (optional)

If you don’t want your chimney stacks removed for aesthetic purposes, it’s really important to make sure the stack is adequately supported with steel beams or gallows brackets before you begin.

  1. Start by removing any wallpaper and the mortar on the brickwork. This is done by chipping away at the mortar with a scraper. An SDS drill can be used to speed up this step.
  2. Once the bricks are fully exposed, remove the bricks one by one starting at the highest point. As you remove each brick, check it is not supporting adjacent bricks to prevent injury.
  3. To remove the bricks, you will need to loosen the mortar that holds them together using the hammer or drill. This process can cause lots of dust, so it is important to wear safety goggles and a mask. Do this until all the bricks in the chimney breast are removed.
  4. Now you have removed the breast, it is time to clean up the area and redecorate the area to match the rest of your interiors. There will be lots of debris after removing a chimney breast, so it is recommended to hire a skip for safe and easy removal.

 

Advantages of Removing a Chimney Breast

  • Increase usable space – the most common reason to get a chimney breast removed is to create more space in a room. This will give you a greater area to work with in your house and can increase the value of your house if a large space is freed up.
  • Easy fix for mould or damp – the chimney can be a difficult place to remove mould or damp. So, when it is found, many people choose to remove the entire chimney, saving time and effort.
  • No planning permission required – while you do need to check local regulations and submit a building regulation application, removing a chimney breast doesn’t require planning permission. This means it’s more likely to be approved than other space increasing renovations, like an extension.

 

Disadvantages of Removing a Chimney Breast

  • Price – removing the chimney breast can be expensive for the amount of space you free up. While the price usually corresponds to the size of the chimney, other factors, such as the structure of the house, can increase the price too.
  • Highly disruptive – chimneys are usually located in a main room of the house, such as the living room. During the renovation, access to this room will be limited, preventing you from using it.
  • Messy – as the brickwork needs to be removed, chimney breast removal can be a very messy job, creating lots of debris and dust that will need to be cleaned.
  • Structural issues – often, especially in older properties, chimneys make up part of the structure. This means the breast will be much more difficult to remove, requiring structural reinforcements that can be expensive. If you are unsure whether removing the chimney breast will affect the structure, you may need to ask the previous owners or your local building control team.

Overall, removing your chimney breast is a relatively easy way to increase usable space in your property or solve a problem with damp and mould. However, there can be wider structural issues when removing your chimney breast that could vastly increase the price of removal.

Of course there are benefits as well, which one of the benefits are why so many people do it and that is the space. You can gain extra space within multiple rooms depending on the layout, especially in the loft if you are looking to do a loft conversion as your next home project. With the chimney gone this then lends itself to being free to install a roof window within the loft to gain some light within your new spacious room.

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