It’s 2022. We are all doing our part to reduce global warming and there are multiple environmental-friendly and affordable cental heating systems. With this in mind, you probably haven’t used your chimney in a while, which is why you are thinking about removing it or, in this case, removing the chimney breast specifically.
If you did remove the chimney breast, you will have extra space you can utilise. In addition, you can stop worrying about maintenance costs for something you no longer need in your property.
However, chimney removal costs can be high. Removing the entire thing (breast and stack) can set you back by about £3000 to £3500. And the actual chimney breast removal alone accounts for most of that amount.
So why is it so expensive? The chimney, especially the breast, is fully integrated into the structural integrity of a house. Removing the chimney is like performing surgery on the house. It requires engineering expertise as well as intense and skilled physical labour.
Therefore, this article will not only cover chimney breast removal prices. It will discuss everything needed to make the entire process go smoothly.
How Much Does It Cost For Chimney Breast Removal?
|Project||Cost (£)||Time frame (days)|
|Entire chimney breast removal minus the stack||2200 – 2400||2 – 3|
|Ground floor chimney breast removal||1500 – 1800||1.5 – 2|
|First floor chimney breast removal||1750 – 2000||1.5 – 2|
- Entire chimney breast removal minus the stack: costs £2200 – £2400
- Ground-floor chimney breast removal: costs £1500 – £1800
- First-floor chimney breast removal: costs £1750 – £2000
These estimates cover supply and labour for every part of the chimney removal process, such as breaking down the brickwork, installing Gallow brackets (for support), stripping, and plastering. However, the only way to know the full extent of the package is to ask the tradespeople for a cost breakdown.
At the end of the day, you can expect 40 to 50% of the costs to go into supply, 40% to labour (at £200-300 per day for each worker) and the remaining 10% on waste disposal.
What Are The Key Cost Factors?
You can expect chimney removal cost to vary depending on the following factors:
Scope of the project: From the table above, you will see that cost of removing the entire chimney breast is the highest, followed by the first floor/bedroom chimney breast and finally the ground floor chimney breast. This is because the project scope (aka the amount of work needed to complete a chimney removal job) decreases between these three projects, respectively. Likewise, entire chimney removal (plus stack) is the most expensive while chimney stack removal (only) is the cheapest at about £1200 to £1400.
Size of the chimney breast: There are two main sizes; normal and larger. You can expect to spend more money when having a larger chimney breast removed due to the work required to be completed.
Build of the chimney breast: There are two things to consider for this factor. It depends on whether the chimney breast is loadbearing or not and whether it has a hearth or not. The hearth is the fireplace opening. If either of these is true, it will increase the scope and cost of the project. For example, working on a loadbearing wall requires more engineering expertise and support beams. Also, a concrete hearth requires more physical labour which will increase the costs.
Your location: The last factor on this list is due to circumstance rather than the chimney itself. Your location will affect prices, especially regarding labour costs. For example, you can expect to spend about £30 to £100 more if the property is in London.
Apart from the main costs, here are some additional costs to expect.
Scaffolding hire: You don’t really need to consider scaffolding costs when having only the chimney breast removed since this is mainly an indoor job. However, you still need to get to the roof, maybe to inspect and cap the stack. This is important to prevent birds or weather elements from entering the house through the chimney. Scaffolding hires cost about £50 to £200 per day. So, here is a money-saving tip; you should wait until necessary before hiring.
Skip hire: Removing chimney breasts is a messy project. You will need to hire a skip to dispose of all the broken bricks, dirt and debris. You can expect to spend about £100 to £200 per day. After everything is done, this aspect of the project will account for close to 10% of your total spending.
The finish: After the chimney breast is removed, the tradespeople will strip and plaster the walls. If you require additional work, you will have to hire someone else to paint the walls and maybe help with decoration. You may also decide that you need more plastering done on the new wall or other areas. All of these will cost about £200 or more. However, that amount can rise significantly for several reasons such as if you decide to build something else to replace the chimney.
Can I remove it myself?
We don’t recommend removing a chimney breast by yourself.
Firstly, this is a team job; it is not something that one person can do. Secondly, the process affects the structural integrity of the house. It takes the expertise of a structural engineer to design support structures that will help your building maintain its formation both during and after the removal process.
You will need multiple support structures; one as a temporary option to be replaced with a permanent one after the chimney breast is removed. These support structures are usually made with rolled steel joists, aka RSJ.
Finally, the entire project must meet building regulations, so amateur work will not suffice. For your safety and the condition of your property, we recommend getting professionals who have both the right training and equipment for the job at hand.
Why remove a chimney breast?
Removing any part of a chimney (stack or breast) without replacement technically decommissions it. Here are some reasons why you may want to decommission a chimney.
High cost of maintenance or repair: A chimney’s job is not easy. As it ages, the strain of heat and smoke starts becoming more apparent. The mortar and brickwork start to deteriorate, and the flue starts damping, allowing heat to escape. However, the bigger issue is that even if you no longer use a chimney, you will still have to keep taking care of it to avoid further deterioration. Over time, the costs of maintenance and repair add up, and you may decide that it is no longer worth it, especially if you have another heating system in place.
You have another heating system: Gas and electric heating systems are some of the most popular today. They are both relatively easy to maintain and better for the environment. So, you may decide to have a chimney removed because you already have or are planning to install another heating system.
You want the extra space: It is the perfect way to remodel a room or the entire house. Chimney breasts don’t take up a lot of space, even when they have a hearth, but they are situated as the focal point of a room. After removal, that space can go to something else that serves a purpose, unlike the unused chimney breast.
To improve ventilation and heating: Even if you no longer use an existing chimney, it is still a gateway for heat and air. Unless blocked, it becomes a glorified air vent, although the air coming in through the dirty flue will not be fresh. So you may decide to remove a chimney to prevent heat from escaping and stale air from entering the room.
Safety precautions you need to be aware of
The process of having a chimney removed can be dangerous to both life and property. Even if you don’t take on the project yourself, there are still things you can do to make sure everyone and everything is safe. So we have compiled a list of safety precautions for you before the project begins.
Disconnect gas, electric and bumping pipes and lines: You are about to kick off a heavy constitution task. It is better to be safe than sorry, so we recommend disconnecting these amenities, especially if they are connected to or anywhere near the chimney’s location.
Remove or cover all items in the room: Debris and dirt will start flying around when the project starts, so you want to protect your properties by moving them out of the room. Additionally, an empty room will be safer for people too. If you can’t remove an item from the room, covering it or moving it out of the way will be good enough. Finally, you can also enclose the work area to ensure debris and dirt remain just in this area This will also make cleaning up easier.
Ensure the design and execution meet building regulations: All you need for this is to hire the right people and check with the local building control office to make sure everything meets regulations. It is crucial to check with the authorities now rather than wait until later or when they come for inspections.
Get the 1-hour fire protection and prevention plan: This is s standard safety requirement when working on a building and you are legally required to get it.
Any legal considerations?
There are a couple of legal considerations from the beginning to the completion of this project that you need to know about. There are three major ones which are the 1966 party wall act, approved document J and the structural integrity regulations. These regulations translate into the following:
Protecting the rights of your neighbours: The average semi-detached house uses a shared central chimney system. That means the modification of the chimney in one house will affect that of the other. Therefore, if the house you are about to modify falls under this category, you will have to contend with the 1966 Party Wall Act. It states that your project must not intrude on your neighbour’s rights. Before starting your project, you need to see your neighbour and get a party wall notice.
Ensure the room has adequate ventilation: Every room needs a ventilation space of about 800 square metres as this is building regulations. If the room no longer meets this requirement because you removed the chimney, you may have to create another source of ventilation.
Soundproofing: UK building regulations also require that your modifications don’t affect the soundproofing level in a room. It must remain at least equal to the original level.
Is a chimney breast a load-bearing wall?
Only in some cases; it depends on the way it was constructed. A chimney is designed to serve as a central heating system, not as structural support. However, it is deeply integrated into the structure of a building. Therefore modifying it will have an impact on the structural integrity of the building.
You are likely dealing with a load-bearing chimney if the building has multiple floors with several chimney breasts. In this case, always assume that a chimney breast supports the structure above it, whether that structure is flooring or another chimney breast.
This is why you need a structural engineer for this project. You should let the professionals sort this whilst you focus on something else.
Do you need planning permission to remove a chimney stack or breast?
No, because chimney modifications fall under the category of the permitted development rule. So you don’t need planning permission to remove a chimney breast, stack or the entire chimney.
However, you need permission when dealing with a listed building or one in a conservation area.
We recommend contacting the local authority because the rules may differ in your location. Remember, the department you want to talk to is building controls. They will help with safety regulations and approval for your designs.
How can I save money when removing a chimney?
We understand that chimney removal costs are expensive and you may want to cut costs. Fortunately, we have some tips, but first here are some things that you shouldn’t do instead:
- Don’t hire the cheapest company.
- Don’t settle for lower quality supplies.
We recommend trying to save costs by doing some of the work yourself that doesn’t require a specialist skill. By this we mean plastering, stripping, painting, waste removal and redecorating. As you can see from our estimates, labour accounts for 40% of the total budget. By taking on smaller tasks, you can reduce labour costs by 20% to 40%.
If that is not enough, you can also try the following options:
- Reduce the scale of the removal job: You could remove only the ground floor chimney breast and leave the first-floor chimney intact, or vice versa. That way, you will save some money and complete the second part of the project another time.
- Do the removal yourself: We don’t recommend this, but we also can’t deny that it is a viable option. If you decide to take on the project yourself, we recommend that you still hire a structural engineer, even if it is only to help design and install the RSJ support beams. We also recommend that you wear protective gear when taking on the project. Get your safety boots, gloves, eye protection etc.
How do I find and hire a tradesperson?
The best way to find local and reliable tradespeople is to ask the people around you for recommendations. Look for those who have done similar projects among your friends, neighbours, family and colleagues.
Remember that as well as asking how the company handled the chimney removal job, you should also ask other related questions like the cost and duration of the project and their experience with the company.
If the “ask for recommendations” approach doesn’t work, the internet is the next best option. The problem with using the internet to find a service is that you can’t trust the credibility of your sources. Just make sure you research thoroughly before taking on a company.
Whether you find a company by recommendation or through the internet, you still need to do your homework before hiring. So, here are some tips:
- Speak to at least 3-5 different companies before choosing one
- Make sure they provide written quotes
- Ask for a full breakdown of their quotes
- Ask how they intend to handle your project
- Ask about their experiences with similar projects
- Ask for references, pictures and videos of their past projects
- Make sure they have an operating licence and public liability insurance coverage
- Make sure they have professional equipment and staff
- Go with your gut
Do I need a structural engineer to remove a chimney breast?
Yes. The role of a structural engineer is the most important aspect of this project. Remember that he is like the specialist surgeon whose expertise is needed to perform this surgery while ensuring the health of the patient aka your house.
A structural engineer’s job is to help design the new support structure and give tips to make sure everything meets building regulations. Sometimes, it also involves submitting and getting the designs approved by the local council.
While the cost of hiring a structural engineer will bring up the project’s total costs significantly, it is necessary.
Does removing a chimney breast devalue a house?
No, unless it’s the only heating source in a home. A chimney’s main function is to provide heating. So removing the chimney won’t devalue a house once you have another appliance to perform that task. It is more likely to increase its value.
However, some people may prefer the classic Victorian look that a chimney gives a house. So in that case, chimney removal will cause devaluation. But this is rare; it just depends on the preference of the potential buyer.
What can I replace a chimney breast with?
Finally, now that you have that extra space, here are some ideas of what you can do with it. Remember that chimneys are usually located in the focal point of a room. So now that you have that vintage spot back, you want to ensure you make a statement. Think of something that will tie the room together and make you and your loved ones spend more time around that space. Some prime examples include
- An electric fireplace
- A TV console
- Home cinema space
- An alcove
- A painting
- A wallpaper
- A shelf
- A workspace
- A pet house
- Or leave the space empty. The possibilities are limitless.