Can I remove the Chimney Breasts in my house?

Chimney breasts.

A beautiful original feature which adds character, or a complete waste of space which gets in the way?

The answer varies, depending on your point of view.

In an older house, the chimney breasts can be an asset, particularly in the living room, with an original period fireplace, and of course they are essential if you still have an open fire, a living flame gas fire, or a wood burning stove, as the flue which runs up inside the chimney breast removes any smoke or fumes safely to the exterior of the house.

On the other hand, removing the chimney breast will provide more space, and create a more regular shaped room, which may be particularly useful in smaller houses.

Have you ever played Jenga? Then you will know that the more you remove at the base of the stack, the more unstable the Jenga tower becomes. Well, it’s the same with a chimney stack. Removal of the chimney breast is possible, but it is essential that the remainder of the chimney stack, in the roof space, and visible above the line of the roof, is properly supported.   Why is this important? Because you do not want several tonnes of masonry falling through your house while you are sleeping – you will not wake up.

To ensure the safety of you and your family, structural support in the roof space is required by the installation of an I-beam, also known as an RSJ (Rolled Steel Joist). This is a specialist job for a builder. Care should also be taken to establish if your adjoining neighbour has already removed their chimney breasts, and what support has been provided for the remainder of their part of the shared chimney stack.   You should definitely retain the services of a structural engineer, who will advise if the chimney breast can be removed safely, and will calculate the correct dimensions of the RSJ required to support the remainder of the stack in the roof space. Structural work such as this will also need to comply with building regulations, and certification provided by your local authority, and this paperwork will be essential when you come to sell the house, as your buyer will require it before they can proceed.

For more advice, contact us on 01923 230302

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