can i remove my chimney breast to create space?
Renovator Michael Holmes advises
Why remove a chimney breast?
A working fireplace makes a great feature, but if you have central heating, most chimneys will be redundant and just taking up valuable space.
Should I remove the whole chimney? An internal chimney breast can be removed at ground and/or first floor, without having to remove the external stack – avoiding the need to alter the roof or external appearance and character of the building. If you only remove sections of the chimney, anything remaining above, such as the stack, will need to be supported.
What does the process involve?
An external chimney stack can be removed from outside the building and, if done with care, need not cause disruption to internal decoration. Removing an internal chimney breast will create lots of dust and debris, so the room should be cleared and sealed off from the rest of the property as best as possible.
Any gas, plumbing or electrical services for existing or old heating appliances running on the sections to be removed should be isolated and altered first. If upper sections of the chimney are being kept they should be supported using ‘strongboys’ on steel ‘acro props’ before removing the structure below, and this support retained until the new permanent support, designed by a structural engineer, is in place.
The ground floor stack should be taken down to ground level and you must ensure damp prevention measures are in place to suit the type of sub-floor structure e.g. concrete or timber. Any voids in the wall, floor and ceilings will need to be filled and made good. Once the structural work is complete, the wall will need to be replastered and decorated, and it is likely the flooring will need updating to fill the newly reclaimed space.
Do I need any permissions?
As the homeowner, there are certain rules of building you must adhere to:
The work should comply with the building regulations and is ‘notifiable’, meaning you must inform the local authority building control department and make an application, or use an independent ‘approved inspector’ who will do this on your behalf. The fee is around £200-£220 plus VAT.
Planning permission and Listed Building Consent
Planning permission is not required for internal alterations as they don’t constitute development, however, it is an offence to make alterations to a listed building without first obtaining Listed Building Consent. The removal of an external chimney will usually be classed as permitted development (PD) and automatically have planning permission. PD rights only apply to dwelling houses and not to flats. PD rights can be removed or restricted for properties in a Conservation Area or National Park, so check before undertaking work.
Party Wall etc. Act (England and Wales)
If any part of the work is on or close to the boundary with a neighbouring property, including shared party walls or structures, you must serve notice on your neighbours under the terms of the Party Wall etc. Act. Budget £700£800 plus VAT per neighbour affected.
Permission from freeholder
If the property is leasehold, permission for alterations will usually require a landlord licence giving consent to the works. In the case of a shared freehold, the other owners will need to agree to the works.
Alterations to gas services must be undertaken by a competent person, and the best way to find someone is to use the Gas Safe Register – search online at gassaferegister.co.uk.
How much will it cost?
The cost will vary depending on the extent and scope of the works and the location of the property.
Ground or first floor chimney breast only – £1,400-£2,400 plus VAT.
External stack – £1,000-£2,000 plus VAT.
Full chimney in a two-storey property – £2,800-£3,800 plus VAT. Cost includes plastering and making good skirting etc. Additional allowance should also be made for making good decoration and floor finishes. Work will usually take one to two weeks, depending on the project’s scope.
Michael holmes is an experienced renovator and director of content and product development for Real Homes @Holmesmike