Can You Remove a Chimney Breast Wall?

Category: Chimney

What is a Chimney Breast Wall?

A chimney breast wall encases the chimney and physically juts outward to accommodate the fireplace.  You can find the chimney breast wall on the ground floor of a house or building, with its masonry extending upward that houses the flue.  Eventually, the smoke from the active fire will travel up through the flue and outside through the chimney stack. Chimney breast interiors are comprised of either brickwork or concrete, but homes can also sport false chimney breasts that are made of less durable materials like plaster board or plaster skim.  False chimney breast walls are cosmetic in construction, concealing a thin-walled flue, or perhaps are simply there just for design purposes and not to contain a flue at all.


Why Remove a Chimney Breast Wall?

The problem homeowners face with chimney breasts is that these walls eat up living space.  Sometimes in older homes, living space is a commodity that cannot be sacrificed, especially in awkwardly designed rooms that don’t quite live up to our modern means of usable space.  A chimney breast wall is bulky, so the removal of these walls has become a popular demolition project in recent years. Removing a chimney breast wall also removes their redundancy.  The wall essentially does the same thing as a chimney, and so removing it can save space in the area the fireplace is in while still maintaining the chimney flue and its same affects.  Homeowners may also prefer the function of central heating, an easier, cleaner, and arguably a more modern method in heating a home.

Take Caution Before Demolition

Removing a chimney breast wall is what contractors call a messy job.  You can expect debris and dust to go flying, so if this project is slated on your next house project task list, you should seal off and empty the room that the chimney breast is located in.  Otherwise, you can expect furniture, area rugs, carpet, and surfaces to be coated in dust.  To prepare, get plastic sheets to seal off open doorways and tarps to lay across floors to protect the room you’re working in.  Be sure to ventilate as best as you can by opening windows while you work. Other preparations involve putting your safety first. This is a renovation that does involve demolition, you’re going to want to take precautions with any involved electrical, plumbing, or gas sources before swinging the sledgehammer. You also won’t want to just decide on ripping out the chimney breast wall on your own free will—you’ll need to consult a contractor first.  Chimney breast walls, although sometimes there for cosmetics—are often constructed for structural support.  If you want to rip out the wall, you’ll need a professional to give it a once-over, so you won’t cause irreparable damage to the rest of your home.  Professional advice will guide you in how to safely tear out this wall (or better yet, hire a contractor to do the job so you won’t have to worry about tearing out a structural support). Rustic fireplace.

How to Remove the Wall

Removing a chimney breast wall calls for the help of a structural engineer.  With their advice, you’ll be given the designs that will serve as the new supports if the old wall was indeed a feature that was structurally significant to other parts of your home. The upper sections of the chimney will need to be supported (if you plan on keeping the chimney but just removing the chimney breast wall) before taking out the ground floor chimney breast.  The stack is then taken down to its ground level with the contractor implementing water prevention methods throughout the construction.  Gaps and voids in the wall, ceiling, and floor are filled in to keep moisture, debris, and other elements out. Replastering, spackling, and touch-ups will be needed once the demolition of the wall has been completed and the interior of the chimney flue has been repaired and patched.  Because you’re removing a portion of your home’s wall, there will likely be a need to address the floor beneath it.  If you have hardwood floors, you will more than likely have to refinish the portion that sat beneath the wall. Cosmetic touch-ups and demolition included will take the removal of the chimney breast wall about one to two weeks from start to completion.  This depends on how involved the wall is with the surrounding structure of the chimney and your home.  The timeline also will depend on how much of the chimney you plan on retaining, as you’ll need a structural engineer to help design supports for the upper portions while the ground level’s chimney breast wall is being removed.

Should You Remove the Chimney Breast Wall?

Removing the chimney breast wall is expensive because of it calls for the aid of professionals.  Ultimately, taking out the chimney breast wall is a good idea if you’re short on usable living space, plan on living in your home for some time, and have the extra funds to fuel the what could potentially be an expensive home improvement project.

Chimney Inspection, Cleaning, and Repair

Your fireplace is not safe to use if you have large amount of creosote buildup inside your chimney. Creosote is a fire hazard and it’s found inside chimneys. To prevent chimney fires and creosote buildup, we recommend a chimney inspection. With a chimney inspection, you’ll prevent major problems from occurring in your fireplace and chimney. Next, chimney cleaning is essential for keeping your home safe. We thoroughly clean your chimney so there won’t be any traces of creosote left inside your chimney. Chimney inspection also determines the integrity of the mortar joints on your chimney. If we find structural damage in the mortar joints on your chimney then it’s time to repair it by doing some chimney tuckpointing. Altogether, a chimney inspection, cleaning, and repair is a good start. Speak to a specialist and contact us today.

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