You want to take out a first floor bedroom chimney breast. That means a simple gallows bracket in the loft. There’s no ceiling coving, he will lay a new concrete hearth that will be level with the floor, there’s no wall or ceiling paper to remove before plastering and he will fit a new skirting right across the whole wall. You will do the decorating and will have cleared the room for him. He is “skipping” the carpet!
All the rubbish is being bagged up and passed out of the window to Dave who will take it straight to the skip on the driveway.
This will take 2 men 3 days + a skip etc.
Materials £275, Building regs. £150, Labour £780
Total is £1205.00
Same job in the dining room. He will have to support the bottom bricks of the bedroom breast properly and it’s hearth will disappear in the process so there will be a bit of disruption there.
This will take 2 men 4 days..
Materials £250, (no gallows brackets), Regs. £150, Labour £1040
Total is £1490.00
Obviously this is the whole job leaving only the stack in the loft. This will take 5 days.
Materials £325, Regs. £150, Labour £1300
Total is £1775.00
If he is removing /returning furniture, stripping loads of wallpaper so that he can plaster, etc. you must expect to pay at least one more day's money - £150.00.
A Price Guide and Information Sheet on Removing a Chimney Breast
Now there’s a dirty job for you. But the smaller your home the more rewarding the result (space wise), providing you never want a proper fire of any kind ever again of course.
Also you have to consider resale value. An otherwise well preserved Victorian house may not appeal to so many buyers if half the chimneys are gone.
Firstly a bit of info. regarding chimneys….
A “chimney” is the whole brick construction from ground floor to sky.
Different parts of it are the “breasts” which are found in each room, the “hearths” which are where each fire is positioned, the “flue” (which you can’t see) is the (usually) square tube inside the chimney which carries the smoke out of the house. The “stack” is the bit which begins in the loft and carries on outside and finally the “pots.” are the bits on top of the stack!
Each hearth has it’s own flue and unless the house is 200 years old, these are never connected, even if chimneys are. Count the number of hearths, (including those blocked up) in the house and there will be the same number of pots on top of the stack unless some have gone awol!
If you live in a semi detached house from the 30’s onwards, the chimneys for each house will back onto one another with the front and rear room breasts converging in the attic and emerging as one stack in the centre of the roof. Once again at no point will any of the flues connect with each other.
Detached houses tend to have their chimneys at the sides. Every now and then there’s one in the middle but this is usually a Victorian kitchen chimney or a very modern “architect designed” house. What a stupid phrase that is. Who else designs houses then, Kylie Minogue?
When constructed, each flue was rendered internally. This simply meant smearing the mortar with which they were laying the bricks, all over the inside faces of the flue as they went along. Unfortunately (in Victorian houses particularly) 60 years of smoke (and sweeping) quite often causes the render to deteriorate. This, combined with a bit of movement can sometimes allow smoke to pass between the bricks and emerge in an adjacent flue. In shared or “party” chimneys, this can often upset your neighbours!
The point about the position of the chimney is relevant. You can’t just go ahead and remove a bedroom breast in a detached house because the exterior stack will fall down. You can though in a semi. because the combination of the “party wall” which divides the two houses and the chimney breast in the neighbour’s house, constitutes a very solid mass of brickwork which is self supporting.
For the same reason, you can remove a ground floor breast without anything untoward happening to the bedroom breast above.
Just because its possible though, does not mean it is either sensible or in fact legal. Removal of any breast requires the involvement of the local authority “building control” department and this will have to be paid for. They will require the builder to show them how he will support any breast or stack remaining in the room (or loft) above the one from which you want him to remove a breast.
This is annoying because it adds to the price of the job and as every builder knows, the brickwork above isn’t going anywhere anyway!
However, building control have a longer term view than the average builder. They anticipate that the neighbour may also (or may already have) removed the odd breast and the whole thing just could get a bit precarious. Also it’s not entirely unknown for a couple of bricks to eventually decide to fall from the bottom of an unsupported bedroom breast. They don’t do any damage though as a new ceiling (section) has been fitted by this time but I imagine the more timid among us could find it a bit disconcerting just as “Crossroads” is getting exciting. (Isn’t that where Kylie started out - wasn’t she Shoey McFee’s love interest)?
So, how will he support what’s above? If it’s the stack in the loft he has to support, that’s relatively easy. He can buy a couple of “gallows brackets”.
One bracket is fixed on each side of the loft stack, a length of steel is fixed between them and any brick which feels like dropping …can’t. It all shows, but who cares in the loft?
Supporting a breast left “hanging” in the bedroom should usually be possible by utilising the adjacent joists. The ones on either side of the breast should be thicker than the rest (sounds like a “Brucie” song), because they have been supporting the ones that were directly in front of the breast. A noggin can be fitted and a sheet of ply fixed under the breast then everything filled in. This creates no more weight than the old hearth and the breast was never going to fall anyway and the odd bottom brick that might have done…. can’t.
On larger jobs (loft conversions for instance) where chimney brickwork may have to become load bearing, brackets are no good and steel beams will be used but that’s another story (and another storey)!
If you want to remove a chimney, built not on the flat face of a party wall as they usually are but into the internal corner of the room(s), then beware. This will very likely be a party stack with your neighbour but it all connects not in the loft but at ground level. These can be built differently to normal chimneys. The flues still don’t connect but the obvious party wall separation between you and your neighbour just wasn’t as apparent (or necessary) when the chimney was being built and as a consequence, the flues can “wander” a bit and we have known rubble (and in one case actual bricks) fall down into neighbours hearths and this is a bad thing! The problem is, you just don’t know what will happen until you start!
Don’t be persuaded by your builder that building control aren’t necessary. It’s likely he will support the bricks above on nothing more than the flooring joists. You will want to sell one day and any surveyor worth his £750 (+ VAT) will find out!
Questions to ask the builder during his quotation visit.
How do you intend to get the ton of bricks and soot safely out of our beautifully decorated house?
How will he prevent dust and soot permeating into every fibre of the rest of the house?
Who will consult with the neighbour?
They won’t be best pleased if they come home from work and all their decorative Spanish plates and little glass bambis have been vibrated off the shelf by your builder’s Kango hammer. I’ve also known tiling fly off neighbour's walls. It may be necessary to remove the bricks in a more gentle manner!
Who will organise building control?
How’s your plastering?
Is it good enough to make good the horrible scar left in the wall without leaving any sign at all that a breast was ever there? Or will he replaster the whole wall and put a new skirting board right across, rather than stupidly try and fit a section in?
The ceiling will pose the same problem and there’s those lovely covings to consider.
What about the hearth?
Will he need to re lay it flush with the floor boards so it doesn’t show through that new carpet you are going to have to buy?