The chimney: to stay or go?

As a home renovation and home extension specialist, we, at Home Tales, frequently remove or refurbish chimney stacks in our projects. The chimney is a staple feature of traditional Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian residential architecture. They were originally designed to be practical. They were built to keep homeowners warm in the winter months. As central heating systems took to the mass market in the 1970s, the original purpose of the chimney became redundant. It is very rare to find them as a primary heat source in a home today. People do often have working chimneys or gas fires in addition to a central heating system. This is more for personal preference and style rather than to be used a primary heat source. They do make wonderful features. 

In cities like London, where properties are expensive and space is incredibly valuable, homeowners want to utilise every inch of the space that is available to them. Chimney stacks not only take up a fair amount of floor area, but they also protrude into the room, creating a difficult shape to work with when it comes to furniture placement. For this reason, homeowners often chose to remove them completely. If you like the chimney design (like many do), you can work them into your design. If you are still undecided, here are some ideas to consider when thinking about whether or not to keep your chimney stack. 

Removing your chimney

If you want to remove your chimney stack, you should consider how much you want to remove. Remember that chimney stacks span the entire height of the property, right up to the external stack above your roof. For our clients who own the entire house, if we are removing the chimney, we typically remove the entire stack and support the external stack in the roof. If you have a ground floor flat, and want to remove the chimney, then it might need to be supported within the first floor. You might want to consider approaching your neighbour above, to see if they too want to remove the chimney. In this case you can undertake a joint project and support the external stack like you would do if you owned the house (in the roof). You can remove the external stack if you prefer, although this will be subject to gaining the relevant planning consent from your local council.Removing a chimney will require structural support. There are a few ways to go about this, and your structural engineer will be able to advise on the best solution for your property. This particular image shows gallow brackets being used as a structural solution. These are steel brackets which support the external stack.

If you do remove your chimney, you should consider the implications it might have on your build. If you are in a terraced property, party wall notice may be required. If you have an existing floor material that you wish to maintain, you should consider how you will adapt this to the new design. This image shows some floorboards that we used from elsewhere in the property, which we matched to infill the gap where the chimney originally lay. 

If you are undertaking a home extension, or home renovation works, it’s the perfect opportunity to undertake a chimney removal. It’s a relatively small job for a contractor and as a result, it’s quite expensive to undertake on its own. If you were looking to undertake a chimney removal on its own, you would be looking at prices upwards of £5k. If you bolted it onto a job such as a ground floor extension, the cost would likely be more like £2.5k to £3k. The ultimate cost relies heavily on the steel specification recommended by the structural engineer, so once you have this completed, contractors will be able to firm up on a cost.

Using your chimney 

If you like the chimney design or perhaps want to save money, you can always embrace the feature. Shelves either side of a chimney can look wonderful and help balance the overall shape of the room. Adding a mantlepiece makes the chimney look more intentional and adds a wonderful sense of character to a room. You can always calve out a space at the bottom and use it to house candles, flowers, or ornaments. Gas fires are becoming increasingly popular, as some homeowners want to embrace the original function of the chimney. We installed this gas fire in our project in South West London. The fire runs on gas, so it’s easy to light and requires very little maintenance. 

If you aren’t sure about your design options, get in touch with our team today. We would be delighted to answer any initial queries and book you in for a site visit to meet with a member of our architectural team. Call us on 0207 043 2378 or email us at hello@hometales.co.uk.


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