Important Considerations Before Removing a Chimney

Chimney

A chimney can be a romantic feature of a home that makes you think of curling up next to a hot fire on a cold day. But, chimneys require maintenance and aren’t as practical as they used to be, so you might be thinking of getting rid of yours.

Before removing your chimney, you need to consider if it is a structural component of your house, how much work the job will be, the costs of removal, how your house will look without a chimney. If you want to remove the whole chimney, or just the top, also consider how you will repair the hole in your roof and the costs of repairing your chimney.

Removing your chimney seems like the obvious thing to do if you don’t use it. This article explains the realities of removing a chimney so you can decide if it is the right choice for you.

Chimneys Explained

Chimneys carry toxic exhaust from a heating source out of the living space. They have been a part of homes for centuries, but their popularity is in decline because of changes in home heating. 

Chimneys made of brick or stone are called masonry chimneys. Metal stove pipe is another option for chimney construction. A chimney made of brick or stone will be more difficult to remove than one made of metal.

Chimneys protrude through the roof. A metal skirt around the chimney, called flashing, blocks rain from getting into the house.

Parts Of A Chimney

Outside Wall Chimney

A chimney has a section above the roof where the smoke vents out. The majority of a chimney is below the roofline to the heat source and ground. It may be on the outside of the house or inside and visible in the rooms it passes through.

There are two parts of a chimney to know:

  • The Stack- The part that sticks out of the roof.
  • The Breast- The bulk of the chimney below the roof that can be in the house, or on an outside wall.

The breast is the largest part of the chimney and can take up a lot of space if it is inside the house. The breast insulates the flue and other parts of the chimney. 

Reasons To Remove a Chimney

Changes in lifestyle or maintenance problems are the main reasons people want to remove a chimney. Some reasons to remove a chimney are:

  • The chimney suffered damage from weather or aging, and repairs are expensive.
  • To improve insulation in the house.
  • To get LEED certified.
  • The chimney is no longer in use.
  • The chimney is causing the roof to leak.
  • The chimney takes up too much space inside the home.

Many people switch to electric heating these days, making their chimneys obsolete. Chimneys take some maintenance, so it makes sense to want to get rid of them.

Unused chimneys make insulation worse by transferring warm air out of the house. Getting rid of the chimney can make your house more energy-efficient, especially if it is no longer in use.

Reasons Not To Remove A Chimney

Many people realize it’s not practical to remove their chimney after consulting with an expert. The reasons that you should not remove your chimney include:

  • Too expensive
  • Makes the house look less beautiful
  • Structural repair is impossible

A chimney could be part of the character of a historic house. Removing the chimney could lower the value of a historic home or any home where homebuyers expect to have a chimney.

Chimney repair is an affordable alternative to removal that keeps a beautiful part of your home in place. Chimneys are often an architectural element of a home that is too difficult to remove without damaging the building. 

Chimney Removal

Removing a chimney is not as easy as it seems. A chimney might be a structural component of the home, which would require repairs so the house doesn’t collapse.

Removal of the breast leaves interior damage in the house. Removing the stack will require you to fix the hole in the roof. 

Removing A Masonry Chimney

Masonry Chimney

Masonry chimneys are often a structural component of the house, and removal is a delicate operation. If the chimney is structural, you need to: 

  • Reinforce the house with temporary supports 
  • Remove the chimney
  • Build permanent structural support to make up for the missing chimney

Each brick or stone from a masonry chimney comes down individually. Recycle the bricks or stones into a wall or path in your garden. Or you can donate them to a used building supply store.

If you are removing parts of the chimney breast from the interior of your home, you need to reinforce the holes left behind, build new floors and patch walls and the ceiling where the chimney was. 

Removing A Metal Chimney

Metal Chimney

Removing a metal chimney is much simpler than removing a masonry chimney. Be prepared for a dirty job because soot from inside the chimney will fall out during removal. The steps are:

  • Disconnect the stovepipe from the heat source
  • Take off or cut any brackets holding the chimney in place
  • Pull the stovepipe piece by piece down from the roof

Metal stovepipes shouldn’t have any adhesive between joints and should wiggle apart with force. If the chimney won’t come apart, use a saw or other cutter to get it down.

A metal stovepipe can be used in another house. If you can’t find someone to buy your old stovepipe or take it for free, you can have it recycled as scrap metal.

Removing External Chimney Stack 

If your chimney stack is damaged or you don’t like how it looks, you can remove it alone. Removing the stack could help prevent leaks in the roof and improve your homes insulation.

For masonry stacks, take down each brick or stone individually. For a metal stack, pull the stove pipe off and remove all the components from the chimney’s connection to the roof.

A stack removal will not normally affect the structural integrity of the house. This might be the best option if you can’t afford a repair, and can’t afford a full chimney removal.

Chimney Removal and Roof Repair

A proper roof repair keeps rain from getting into your building. This repair takes roofing skills and working at dangerous heights. It is best to hire a professional to fix any hole in your roof.

The steps to fix the hole in your roof left by stack removal are:

  • Install rafters that span the hole
  • Install roof sheathing 
  • Install a moisture barrier
  • Install roofing material to match the other roofing

If your roof is visible from a room in the house, you might consider installing a skylight where the chimney was. You can discuss with your roofer what your best options are for repair.

Removing A Chimney Cost

Costs to remove a chimney range from $1,000 to $10,000. The costs of a chimney removal include:

Type of RemovalCost
Metal Chimney$1,000+
One Story Masonry Chimney$2,000+
Two Story Masonry Chimney$3,000+
Three Story Masonry Chimney$4,000+
Structural Engineer Survey$500

Chimney Repair Cost

Several repairs can keep your chimney looking and functioning well for many years or decades. Common chimney repair costs are:

RepairCost
Sealing (cracks repaired with mortar)$140 to $350
Flashing repair$100
Flashing replacement$260 to $350
Leaning chimney repair$3,000
Large crack repair$500 to $1,500
Repair less than 10 cracked bricks$180 to $500
Repair more than 10 cracked bricks$740 to $1,600
Crumbling brick repair$300+
Spalling repair (Missing bricks)$1,000 to $4,000
Repointing (replacing worn-out mortar)$700 to $2,500
Chimney inspection$90 to $500
Painting$400 to $1,500

Do I Need Permission To Take Down A Chimney?

In most urban and suburban areas your building department will require a permit for chimney removal. If you hire a contractor to do the work, they will take care of the permits.

If taking down the chimney requires structural repairs, there will be more permits and inspections from the building department. The permits could cost from $50 to $200 for chimney removal.

Who Removes Chimneys?

A masonry company can inspect a chimney and remove it if that is the best course of action. During their inspection, they will determine if it would be best to repair a chimney or remove it.

Demolition companies can remove chimneys, but it is best to hire a company with chimney removal experience. As you have learned, chimney removal is complex, and you don’t want inexperienced workers doing the job.

You might need other specialists during a chimney removal. Roofers, framers or foundation workers could all help in a chimney removal.

How Long Does Chimney Removal Take?

Demolishing a chimney can take from two days to two weeks. It’s a slow process because each piece of a chimney must be removed carefully to avoid damaging the house.

A partial chimney removal could take one day for the teardown. Patching the hole in the roof takes another full day of work.

Why Are Chimneys On The Outside Of Houses?

Chimneys were built outside of houses to save space inside and prevent house fires. Another reason is that fires used to be the source of cooking heat and were used year-round. Having the fireplace on the outside of the house prevented the interior from getting too hot during the summer.

The look of the fireplace outside of the house became a tradition and continued even after it was no longer practical. Having the chimney on the inside of the house is much more energy efficient because the entire chimney radiates heat inside the house, rather than into the atmosphere.

Having a chimney on the outside of the house is an aesthetic choice that makes your home less efficient.

David

David has been an avid DIYer for years. Recently he's really taken to home security, but he has a lot of experience with all sorts of projects from Plumbing to Electrical and Framing to Tiling.

Recent Posts