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Chimney breast removal project – What you need to know and do to get the best results

Chimney breast removal has grown in popularity in recent years as homeowners strive to maximise their living space by eliminating this often redundant feature. We guide you through the process including planning and building regs, how to approach the project, and the costs involved.

Removing the chimney breast has become a popular job for homes across the UK. 

While an original fireplace is still a highly sought-after feature for many homeowners, they do take up valuable living space, which is usually one of the big reasons people remove their chimney breast.

However, as a chimney breast forms part of the structure of a house, its removal must be carefully considered.

In this planning guide, we outline what’s involved in removing a chimney breast, the rules and regulations to adhere to, additional considerations, and the costs involved.

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Planning your chimney breast removal project

Careful planning is an essential part of removing a chimney breast. Your chimney breast is a structural part of a property. Therefore, it cannot be removed without first being assessed for safety by a professional.

To remove a chimney breast, you will need to work with a structural engineer. They will determine what permanent and temporary support is required to complete the project safely.

During the planning stage, you should also contact your local authority. They will advise you of any rules and regulations you need to adhere to.

If your chimney breast is on a party wall (a wall shared with a neighbour), you must ask for their consent to remove it.

Once these criteria are met, you can start removing your chimney breast.

The steps to remove a chimney breast

WARNING! Removing a chimney breast is a potentially dangerous job. It should always be carefully planned and completed by a qualified professional.

Step 1

Hire a structural engineer. A structural engineer will come to your property and create a plan of action, determining whether you will need structural supports put in place.

Step 2

If your chimney stack is going to be left in place, the brickwork will need to be supported by something such as a rolled steel joist (RSJ). You may also need your roof timbers extended depending on how much of the chimney breast you’re removing.

Step 3

Once any supporting joists are in place, it’s time to hire a builder. Choose a builder with chimney breast removal experience. They will be confident in removing your chimney breast with minimal impact on the room’s décor and furnishings.

Step 4

Once the work is complete, a local building control officer will inspect the work carried out. If they deem it a satisfactory completion, you will be issued a completion certificate.

Step 5

Now that your chimney breast has been removed, it’s time to start using all that extra space. You may want to change your flooring, add more furniture, or completely change your home décor.

Some ideas to finish your newly cleared living space

It’s likely you’ll need to budget for some remedial work following the chimney breast removal. This could include the cost of:

  • Plastering to make good exposed or damaged brickwork
  • Painting and decorating to blend the new with the existing structure. Perhaps you want a feature wall to replace the focal point you’ve removed?
  • Flooring to cover the area where your chimney breast once was and skirting for a consistent finish around the entire room
  • Internal decor to complete the new space. This might include new furniture, accessories, or storage

If you’re looking for living room decorating ideas, make sure you check out this blog of ours.

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What problems can arise when removing chimney breasts?

A chimney breast is part of the overall structure of a property, so you can’t just remove it without careful planning and preparation.

If you don’t take care when removing a chimney breast, you could cause structural distress to your property, which could even result in detrimental damage and partial building collapse.

Always consult a professional for the job.

Can you remove a chimney breast downstairs but not upstairs?

Considering removing your chimney breast downstairs only? Not only is this totally possible, but it’s also extremely common.

If you’re removing a chimney breast downstairs only, then anything above it, including the stack, will have to be supported. Your structural engineer will come up with a plan for supporting the remaining stack, but often, this will involve inserting an RSJ to sit within the ceiling or floor void.

This is in contrast to fully removing the whole chimney and stack, including above roof level. In this case, you usually wouldn’t need extra structural supports as there would be nothing above for them to hold up – although, of course, your structural engineer will confirm one way or another.

Your best bet is to chat to a structural engineer about the project and see what’s possible.

How much does chimney breast removal cost?

When calculating the cost of removing a chimney breast, remember to factor in:

  • Professional fees
  • The cost of the structural work
  • Waste removal costs
  • Redecoration costs
  • The cost of inspection and certification upon completion

As a guide, removing part of a chimney breast in a single room and having the space made up, can cost between £1,750 - £3,250 on average.

For further information on the costs involved, take a look at our fireplace removal cost guide.

The rules and regulations for removing chimney breasts

When working with a professional, they will ensure you meet all of the rules and regulations for removing a chimney breast. These include:

  • Planning permission – You may not always be required to have planning permission, but you should always ask the question
  • Building regulations – You must be compliant with building regulations to ensure the safety and structure of the work being carried out
  • Party Wall Act – This is only necessary in England and Wales if your chimney breast is connected to an adjoining neighbour’s wall, i.e. a party wall
  • If your property is a leasehold, you will also need a Landlord’s Licence

Do you need planning permission to remove a chimney breast?

Planning permission is not normally required for the removal of a chimney breast as it doesn’t constitute development. It usually falls under ‘Permitted Development’ (PD).

PD rights only apply to dwelling houses and not to flats and they can carry restrictions and conditions. Always check before you commence any work.

If you live in a listed building or a conservation area, separate rules will apply. Please contact your Local Planning Authority in advance.

Building regulations for removing a chimney breast

Even if your plans to remove the chimney breast fall under Permitted Development Rights, i.e. you don’t need planning permission, you will still need building regulations approval.

Building regulations outline the required standards for safety, structural integrity, insulation, fire safety, and accessibility.

Removing a chimney breast involves several of these elements, therefore, you will need to ensure your plans adhere to your local regulations.

Plans will need to be submitted well in advance of the project commencing (up to 8 weeks in some cases) and a Completion Certificate will need to be obtained when the work is done. This typically costs around £200 +VAT.

If you use a tradesperson registered with a Competent Person Scheme, you do not need to get approval yourself.

Landlord’s Licence

If your property is a leasehold, you will also need permission for alterations by way of a Landlord’s Licence from the freeholder. If you have a shared freehold, the other freeholders will need to agree to the work before it starts.

Gas safety

If a gas appliance uses a party wall flue – either in your property or a neighbour’s – you will need to instruct a Gas Safe Registered Engineer to alter the appliance or its components.

Once the work is complete, you’ll receive a certificate for safekeeping.

Find a qualified structural engineer to plan your chimney breast removal properly

Chimney breast removal can transform your living space and enhance the aesthetics of your home. It does, however, require careful planning with the help of experienced professionals.

Enter your postcode into our leading directory to find the approved, trusted and reviewed tradespeople needed to complete your home renovation project.

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FAQs

What is a chimney breast?

A chimney breast is the brickwork that surrounds the chimney as it rises up through the property. Usually, the chimney breast is inside the property, leaving two alcoves on either side.

With terraced and semi-detached properties, chimney breasts are often built back-to-back and will have multiple chimney pots on top of the stack that will be shared by adjoining properties.

Why do people remove chimney breasts?

Removing a chimney breast can help to free up significant space in a home, which is especially valuable in built-up areas, such as London. Many people simply don’t need a fireplace anymore thanks to central heating, and they just consider it wasted floor space.

While an attractive feature for many, there are several reasons for the removal of a chimney breast:

  • More space – Chimney breasts can take up valuable space in a home
  • Improves aesthetics – Removing the chimney breast can create a more modern and streamlined appearance. It could even open up a space for a new feature in your room
  • Enhanced interior design – The absence of a chimney breast provides a blank canvas for creative interior design and greater flexibility when decorating
  • Increased property value – If you live in an area where square footage comes at a premium, increasing your living space can add value to your property

Chimney breast in a living room

Is it worth removing a chimney breast?

If you need extra space in your bedroom or living area, removing your chimney breast is a great way to open up a room.

If you are thinking about selling your home, however, chimney breasts are often viewed as attractive features, especially in period properties. In this case, removing your chimney breast could reduce the value of your home.

Do I need a structural engineer to remove a chimney breast?

Yes. A structural engineer is the first person to contact when considering removing your chimney breast. They will assess the project and recommend the steps you need to take.

Do you need neighbours’ permission to remove a chimney breast?

If your chimney breast is on a shared wall, you will need your neighbour’s permission. This can be obtained through the Party Wall Act.

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