Chimney breast removal: too cheap?!?

20 Feb 2012
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United Kingdom
Hi all

I've posted a similar question in another part of this forum, but I'm posting it again here as this seems to be the appropriate place.

I've recently bought a victorian terraced house. It has a rather ugly and obstructive chimney breast in the bedroom at the back of the house, over the kitchen. It extends about 45cm in to the room, and is about 70cm wide. The chimney below, in the kitchen, was removed years ago. It is on a party wall and shares a chimney stack with the neighbour. The neighbour's corresponding chimney breast was reomoved years ago - he bought the house more than 10 years ago and the chimney breast had already been removed. He does not know how the stack is supported on his side.

I want to take out the chimney breast in my back bedroom. I'm new to the area and do not know of any good tradesmen, and I don't know anybody in the area to ask for recommendations. Therefore I've asked a number of builders from the council's approved list to come and quote.

Three have come around. All have said that they would knock out the chimney, and put in gallows brackets. Two of them said it would be easy and quoted about £1k, another said it was a really difficult job, and quoted £700. My concern with all of the quotes is that all of the builders said they would knock out the breast from the bottom up, and then install the brackets. Also, one of the builders said that lime mortar had been used so bricks would come out easily.

My concernis that I would have thought that the best way to do it would be to install the gallows brackets to support the stack first, and then knock out the breast underneath. I raised this concern with one of the builders who said he would put in some temporary support overnight if necessary, but that the best way is to do it from the bottom up. Also, I didn't think you could use a gallows bracket where lime mortar had been used.

Am I being too fussy, and it is actually fine to knock out the breast and then put in the support for the stack? My overriding concern is that the quotes are actually a bit cheap (quote is to remove breast, support stack with gallows bracket, remove waste, and make good walls and ceiling). I do wonder how they can do 2 or 3 days work, plus getting all the necessary approvals, for something like £1k.

Any advice or comment would be welcome!

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You might need to inform bco if its structural works.
Also you may need steels designed by a structural engineer, our local bco wont allow gallows, and I cant see them being allowed, bolted into unsound masonry.
The prices do sound under priced, there could be a large skip needed, and a lot of making good afterwards.
Those chimneys at the back are piddling little things. Let them get on with it and stop complaining about it being too cheap. It's quite OK to remove from the bottom - they are keyed into the wall so can't go anywhere.
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local building inspectors don't generally like gallows brackets, particularly in old lime-mortar structures.
However, in practice, most work because they are only supporting a few bricks, the bulk of the brickwork above being generally bonded-in to the wall and largely self-supporting due to the 'corbelling' effect.
Many people do this without informing the bco but if you sell the house, you may have a problem if there is no certificate for the work

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