If you have a chimney breast in your home, you might have eyed it up wondering whether you would benefit from having it removed.
Whether you have an unused open fireplace, or just wish you could have something more sleek and modern, taking out a chimney breast is a big job that needs serious consideration – but it can also come with some big improvements.
So, if you are wondering how to remove a chimney breast, and want to know whether it’s a good idea for your room, read our guide to find out everything you need to know…
What is Your Chimney Breast For?
The chimney breast is the part of the chimney that protrudes outwards into the interior of your home. They are mostly present in older properties with ‘class 1’ traditional brick chimneys.
Back when the fireplace was the main source of heating in our homes, this was a key component in distributing heat throughout the building. However today, with the possibilities of central heating, electric heating, more compact class 2 chimneys and balanced flues, some people view large chimney breasts as more cumbersome than helpful.
Related: What Kind of Chimney Do I Have For My Fire?
Why Would You Want to Remove a Chimney Breast?
Some people love the character that an old fireplace and it’s chimney breast brings to their home – and would probably cry at the thought of removing it!
However, for others, a chimney breast is seen as something that is just taking up precious space in their rooms. Some chimney breasts jut out significantly, taking up floor space that could now be put to better use.
Open fireplaces are also the most inefficient way to burn solid fuel at home, too. So, some people might want to remove their chimney breast to make way for a more eco-friendly fire that is more effective at heating their room.
Taking Out a Chimney Breast – Can It Be Done?
It is possible to take out a chimney breast, but bear in mind the fact that this is not a quick DIY job you can do yourself.
When you take out a chimney breast, you are also removing an important load-bearing wall. Because of this, you will need to ensure the structural integrity of your building isn’t put at risk – which means you need expert guidance and approval from your council to be certain the job is done safely.
This can be a timely and work intensive process. It’s not a job that can be done in a day, plus you may find yourself living in a building site for a week! Be sure that you weigh up how much you really want that chimney breast gone when you research how much work it will involve.
How to Remove a Chimney Breast – Regulations and Considerations…
It’s not just the building labour itself that makes up the work involved with removing a fireplace chimney breast. There is a lot of planning, approvals and checks that need to be done too.
Over the course of removing your chimney breast, you will need to take the following steps:
- To check planning permissions
- Get building regulation approval
- Set out a party wall agreement if you have adjoined neighbours
- Ask a structural engineer to advise on how best to support the chimney stack
- Put a new building support structure put in place
Planning permissions – do you need them to remove your chimney?
For some homes, chimney breast removal might need planning permission granted first – but, this is only if the work will change the outer appearance of the building. If for example you live in a listed building, there may be restrictions on you altering the chimney stack. For most homes this probably won’t be an issue, but it is always best to check before you start with the rest of the legwork.
Do you need to obey any building regulations for chimney breast removal?
As chimney breast removal alters the structure of the building, there are a number of important building regulations you will need to adhere to, covering:
- Structural strength
- Fire and electrical safety
- Sound insulation
- Ventilation and damp prevention
- Maintenance of a neighbouring chimney
- Plumbing work
With all of this in mind, it’s clear that you need someone who is up to the job! The government’s Competent Persons Register is a good place to start, as those registered are certified to approve the work they do themselves. Otherwise, you will need to ask your local council to approve the work after it has been completed.
How about a Party Wall Agreement?
This step only applies if your property is adjoined to a neighbouring property. Chimney removal is covered by party wall regulations, which means you must inform and agree with your neighbours on any work being done on a shared boundary.
It is vital that you treat your neighbours adjoined chimney with care. If it is left damaged, it could result in carbon monoxide leaks. Removal of brickwork could also result in compromised sound insulation, so patching it back up properly is important to keep the peace – in many ways!
What will the structural engineer do?
As we have already mentioned, knocking out a chimney breast is a job for experts only. Before you start work on removing your chimney breast, you will likely have to submit your plans for approval by your local building control authority. Here, you will need the help of a structural engineer to determine how the chimney breast should be removed in the safest way possible.
How will the new chimney support structure be put in place?
Once all the planning work has been signed off, work can begin on removing the chimney breast.
The steps followed here will depend on your particular property, how much of the chimney you are removing and the findings of your structural engineer. There are two main ways this could be done, which are:
- Gallows brackets
- Rolled steel joist beam (RSJ)
Which one is used for your chimney removal will depend on a number of factors, such as how thick your walls are, the size of your chimney breast and the condition of your brickwork. While gallows brackets have been used for many years, many builders and structural engineers now prefer to use RSJ beams.
If any part of the chimney is left intact, it will need to have adequate ventilation fitted to ensure you don’t later run into damp problems.
How Much Does it Cost to Remove a Chimney Breast?
As you could probably guess from how much work is needed, removing a chimney breast isn’t a low cost project. Of course, the total cost of chimney removal will depend on the complexity of the job and how much of the chimney you want to remove. For example, if you wanted to remove the ground floor chimney breast only, this could cost about £1,500 as a minimum. If you wanted to remove the chimney in its entirety, it could cost up to £4,000.
Remember, you will also have to factor in the costs involved with making your building control application and any party wall agreements, which could add up to £1,000 of fees onto the final amount.
Can You Still Have a Fire Without a Chimney Breast?
If you have removed your chimney breast in order to save space, that doesn’t mean that you now have to be without a fire in your room.
There are a number of new options available to you once your chimney breast is gone, such as…
Balanced flue gas fires
Once you have removed your chimney breast, you can still have a gas fire if you install a balanced flue gas fire. These don’t require a chimney and can be fit to any external wall. Balanced flue gas fires are also highly efficient and look great, while still making the most of the extra space you have created.
Read more: What is a Balanced Flue Gas Fire?
Flueless Gas Fires
For even less fuss, take a look at flueless gas fires. These don’t require any flue whatsoever, just an air vent fitted into your room.
Read more: Guide to Flueless Gas Fires
If you want the most convenient fire now that you have removed your chimney breast, how about an electric fire? Again, no flue is required, and you don’t need any additional ventilation either. There are some stunning realistic models of electric fires available now, plus, they can be up and running in a matter of hours.
In the picture above, we also love how paint has been used to create the illusion of a chimney breast.
Read more: 8 Advantages of Buying an Electric Fire
Wall Mounted Fires
You can really make the most of all that extra space your chimney breast was taking up with a wall mounted fire. These can either be hung on the wall or fit in a recess to sit flush against the wall, so you can keep your room as open as possible.
Read more: Guide to Wall Mounted Fires
Looking for a new fire to replace your chimney breast? Shop all of our fires, available with free delivery now.
More from the Direct Fireplaces blog…
Can You Put a TV Over a Fireplace? | Do You Need a Chimney to Have a Fireplace? | How to Have a Gas Fire Without a Chimney or Flue