A structural engineer makes drawings and calculations for a Chimney Breast Removal
Are you planning, or has there been a chimney breast removal?
If you don't get a structural engineer involved, you risk serious structural degradation to your property, which might result in the building collapsing. Chimney breast removal building regulations must also be met.

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Chimney Breast Removal: Structural Engineer & Building Regulations

(Last Updated: 02/07/2024)
12 min read
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    Key Takeaways

Is it a good idea to remove a chimney?

If you've bought an older house, you may consider removing the chimney breast because of the gains you can make from the extra space. Older buildings generally have a chimney, breast and fireplaces feeding into the breast so the smoke from the fires can escape. New homes often don't because the space is better used in living spaces like bedrooms.

Does removing a chimney breast add value to the property?

Depending on what you do with the space when you've finished taking out a chimney breast, this might increase the value of your property to tens of £1000s.

How do I know if a chimney breast has been removed?

The best place to check is within the roof space. You can spot where the chimney stack comes into the property and meets the breast, and measure its width. Most removals are visible in the roof and loft space. If not visible there, trace it down vertically through the property to the ground floor, as the chimney breast width should remain the same.

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

You are always likely to require the services of a Structural Engineer if you intend on removing the chimney and breast. A chimney breast invariably forms part of the basic structure of a house, and you have to be careful in your preparations before you carry out work to remove it.

If you don't get an expert involved, you risk serious structural degradation to your property, which might result in the building collapsing and even the risk of death. Unless you're going to remove the whole chimney, from the bottom fireplace right up to the roof stack, you need to incorporate suitable support beams to support any masonry above to avoid structural distress or damage or even the collapse of the building.

In many cases, even where you are removing the whole chimney, you'll still need to add reinforcement to replace the support offered by the chimney breast. As you can see from the diagram below, the breast acts as a hollow pillar from the ground up, which often lends its support to the upper floors and roof.
Chimney breast removal; why you need a structural engineer. A diagram showing the components of a chimney, including (ground up) the hearth, mantle, breast, flue, stack and pot.

Removing Chimney Breast Party Wall

It's also very common that your chimney is on a party wall with a neighbouring property - this of itself is a major process and has to be factored in in terms of costs and time. You might need to get a party wall agreement for chimney breast removal. We can help with this service.

You'll also have to take special care if the chimney breast of an upper floor is going to be removed while leaving a working fire in the room below. Partial removal is possible, but a smaller chimney breast for the fire below must be left in place.

Finally, once you've removed your chimney, you'll need to repair the floor where the breast was - this also takes planning and involves more costs.

How to remove chimney breast?

Once you instruct a structural engineer, they will examine the chimney breast in your property, after which they will draw designs and create an appropriate method of work for the job. They then submit both the designs and the methodology to your local Building Control Office for chimney breast removal building regulations approval.

In the case of removing a chimney breast on a party wall, the Party Wall Act 1996 states that you'll also need to inform your neighbour/s and get approval from them for your work.

Once your structural engineer's proposal has been approved, all work must be carried out to the approved designs, and the local building control officer must be invited to inspect the work carried out. The local Building Control Office will, upon satisfactory completion of the work, issue a completion certificate.

You should safely keep the building control completion certificate for your chimney removal with the deeds/Land Registry documents for your property so that it is available for any remortgage or sale.

What permission do you need to remove a chimney?

Do you need building regs to remove chimney breast?

Your Structural Engineer has to abide by the Building Regulations 2010 regarding chimney breast removal - and these, as stated, entail at least one inspection from a local Building Control officer - to ensure compliance regarding the following:
  • Structural strength;
  • Fire safety;
  • Sound insulation;
  • Maintenance of any neighbour's chimney;
  • Damp prevention; and
  • Ventilation to rooms.

Do you need planning permission to remove a chimney breast?

You are unlikely to require planning permission to remove the chimney unless your property is listed, or in a conservation area because removing the outer stack will change the appearance of the house. You may wish to consult the Government's online planning portal just to be sure.

Can you remove a chimney breast without a party wall agreement?

One neighbour cannot just remove a shared chimney. As stated above, under party wall legislation in England and Wales you need to get written consent from the owners of any affected neighbouring property before any work on removing it starts. Either neighbour may ask for consent to remove the chimney.

Can I remove a chimney without permission from the freeholder?

If your property is leasehold, you'll need to get the permission of your landlord in the form of a licence, for which you may have to pay a fee.

Taking out a chimney breast when you have a gas boiler

Sometimes, your gas appliances make use of a party wall's flue in yours or your neighbour's property. You should ideally get a Gas Safe Engineer to inspect the appliance and get a proof of inspection and safety in writing (this can also be added to your store of essential house documents needed if you choose to remortgage or sell up).

Should you choose to remove your chimney stack where it goes through the roof, you'll need to extend the roof timbers to fill the gap and use matching roof covering.

Why are chimneys such a big deal?
Looking at this ruin in Bodmin and countless others like it, you can see how often the complete chimney is the last thing standing, long after the rest of a building has collapsed. In this case, the large stone chimney has kept the gablewall upright, despite there being nothing else left of the house.

Most chimneys are fundamental to the structural integrity of the building, which is why a structural engineer must be involved in planning the chimney breast removal safely to comply with building regulations.
A chimney complete chimney breast still standing amongst the ruins of a house in Bodmin UK demonstrating the structural importance of the chimney breast in removal projects

How much does it cost to remove a chimney breast?

As referred to above, there are many factors to consider when looking at the chimney breast removal cost. On average, you might look to pay £1,500 for removing a 1st-floor chimney breast, and the job might take three days. You have to add to this the cost of a Structural Engineer, which is likely to be in the £100s of pounds, depending on the work involved.

For an entire chimney breast removal, leaving the stack intact, you might have to pay around £2,000. If you get the stack removed, you can expect to pay a further £1,000 to £1,600 for a professional job.

So, for a hypothetical semi-detached house, if you wanted to get a whole chimney, breast and stack removed and ensure it is done in a legally compliant and structurally sound way (i.e. by instructing a structural engineer to produce drawings), you are likely to have to pay something in the region of around £4,000.

Our fee for a Structural Engineer Survey for a Chimney Breast Removal starts at £656 INC VAT.

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Andrew Boast of Sam Conveyancing
Written by:
Andrew started his career in 2000 working within conveyancing solicitor firms and grew hands-on knowledge of a wide variety of conveyancing challenges and solutions. After helping in excess of 50,000 clients in his career, he uses all this experience within his article writing for SAM, mainstream media and his self published book How to Buy a House Without Killing Anyone.
Caragh Bailey, Digital Marketing Manager
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Caragh is an excellent writer in her own right as well as an accomplished copy editor for both fiction and non-fiction books, news articles and editorials. She has written extensively for SAM for a variety of conveyancing, survey and mortgage related articles.

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