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Most bungalows, detached, semi-detached, and terraced houses in the UK have a chimney. And, given that semi-detached houses alone are the most common type of home in the UK, this means that most homes in the UK have a chimney.
But do they need one?
It is becoming increasingly common to have your chimney removed regardless of what type of home you have. But why? In this post, we’re going to answer that very question, as well as the question of whether you should have your chimney removed. First, let’s start with the reasons to get your chimney removed.
Many of us have lived in homes that have had chimneys for our entire lives, but the younger members of society may right now be wondering “why?”, and that is a fundamental reason to have your chimney removed.
The reality is that, for most people, the chimney is just unnecessary these days thanks to central heating. The chimney exists to vent harmful waste gases from a central fireplace (or fireplaces across multiple floors) outside and above the roofline where they can’t hurt anyone.
But central fireplaces are used far less these days, and more and more people who do want a central fireplace are turning to modern electric fires that do not require a chimney.
So, once you know that most chimneys are unnecessary, the question becomes “why do I keep it?”, and the answer is, of course, cost. While the chimney may be unnecessary to most people, getting it removed is no small undertaking. But there are reasons to have your chimney removed.
Chimneys require maintenance like anything else, and if they don’t get enough of it, they can start to cause problems with things like insulation, leakage, and even structural concerns—nobody wants a chimney stack to fall on their head. If a chimney has reached a point where it is damaging the property—or is an outright health risk—the cost of repairing it may be close to the cost of removing it. Additionally, a long-term thinker may look at the cost of maintenance over the period they expect to own a property and decide it would be a better financial decision to remove it now.
So, now you know some of the reasons for removing a chimney, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of doing it.
Starting with the pros. If you are considering having your chimney removed, here are some of the reasons you might want to stick with that train of thought;
#1 Less Maintenance
As we mentioned above, removing your chimney means you don’t have to worry about maintaining it in the long run. This can be a good way to think about the cost of having it removed; by offsetting that cost against the amount of money you would have spent on the chimney over its lifetime.
#2 More Space
There’s no getting around the fact that a chimney takes up space. Whether you are looking at the breast in your living room, bulging out of the walls, or the chimney stack on your roof (although it’s probably not in your way up there). Having it removed entirely will create more space in your property, something that is increasingly at a premium these days.
#3 More Efficient
However you look at it, a chimney is a big hole in your property. The very nature of what a chimney is prevents you from doing anything to stop it from letting heat out. Obviously, certain techniques and designs work to minimise the heat loss you get through a chimney, but the fact remains that the most efficient way to stop heat from escaping up your chimney stack is to not have a chimney stack in the first place!
If you properly maintain your chimney, you should be safe from it sliding free and landing on someone’s head. However, in cases of extreme weather or other disasters—natural or otherwise—your chimney is just another heavy thing to fall from on high. If you’re not using it anyway, having it removed also removes this risk, however, remote it may be.
On the other hand, if you were considering removing your chimney but you’re not sure, here are some reasons why you might want to change your mind and keep it;
#1 The Cost
We won’t lie to you; getting a chimney removed is not a cheap endeavour. And, depending on how much of your chimney you decide to have removed and the nature of your property, it can turn out to be an incredibly expensive one. We’ve mentioned offsetting the cost of removal with the saved costs on maintenance, but it can be hard to convince yourself to take on such a big expense when you don’t absolutely have to.
This problem will vary based on how much of your chimney is being removed, but there will certainly be some disruption to your life. If you are only having the stack removed (that’s the bit on the roof), then the disruption shouldn’t be that bad.
However, if you are having the whole thing removed, you will be looking at a prolonged period of your living room (or whichever room the chimney breasts are in) being essentially a construction site.
What looks good is subjective, of course, and this may not be a problem for you at all. But, as we mentioned above, most homes in the UK have a chimney. By the very definition of the word, this makes having a chimney “normal”, and, by default, houses without a chimney “not normal”. Some people may feel a house without a chimney looks odd, and may take some getting used to.
There are two main parts of a chimney that can be removed; the chimney breasts, and the stack.
#1 Chimney Stack
The stack is what comes to mind for most people when they think of a chimney. This is the visible part that sticks out above your roofline and is also the cheapest option for chimney removal.
You might want to do this if your chimney has severe damage and needs repairing or removing, but you can’t afford (or don’t want to) remove the whole chimney.
#2 Chimney Breast
The chimney breast is usually the majority of the chimney. Think of the stack as just the tip of a brickwork iceberg. This is the bit that sticks out into the rooms that the chimney breast passes through. The fireplace (or places) will be inset into the breast.
This is, of course, a much more substantial thing to get rid of. And you can’t get rid of the breast only, since you are removing the thing that the stack sits on. There will undoubtedly need to be some structural work done to compensate for the missing breast, as well.
The length of time it takes to remove a chimney will depend on many factors, including how large your property is, how complicated the layout is, and how much of the chimney you are having removed.
As a rough guide, you can expect it to take around 1 day to remove a chimney stack, with a half-day margin on either side if it’s a particularly small or particularly large stack.
If you want a first-floor chimney breast removed, you will be looking at closer to 3 days, while removing a first-floor chimney breast but keeping the chimney breast above will add at least an extra day to the proceedings. For the entire chimney breast, you will be looking at 5 days to a week.
If you want your builder to plaster everything up so it’s ready to decorate, you can expect that to add at least a day onto the job.
Again, the prices will vary depending on the size of the chimney and the specifics of the property, but, as a rough guide, you are going to be looking at somewhere between £1,000 for a small stack removal and £3,000 for a complete chimney removal. For a typical chimney removal on an average-sized semi-detached home, you will be looking at around £1,500 for a professional job.
In modern homes with central heating, there really isn’t much call for a chimney in practical terms. Of course, homeowners may still prefer to keep the chimney, both for the external appearance and for the comforting look of a fireplace. It may not be necessary, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have one anyway.
However, if you do decide it’s not necessary and you want to get rid of yours, you will be able to look forward to more space in your home and fewer maintenance costs in the future. Just bear in mind that this is neither a cheap process nor a quick one. And there will be unavoidable disruption in your home while the chimney is being removed. Whether or not these inconveniences are worth it is, of course, up to you.