Opening up fireplace slightly

11 Jun 2005
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United Kingdom
Hi there,

I'm in a bit of confusion. I have read through a lot of posts on this topic, but none seem to fit the bill.

Basically I used to have a gas fire which I have removed and I want to open up the fireplace opening slightly to make a feature and put my sky box (the TV's going on the chimney breast higher up). I intend on putting pieces of staggered plasterboard above the opening to block it off, but still allow ventilation.

My problem is that there seems to be many more bricks than I thought there would be in an 1890's house.

I have included a few pictures which should explain things a bit better...

The red lines are the top and bottom of what appears to be a very large stone lintle.
The blue is the outline of where I'd like the opening to be.
The green is the bricks inside the current opening
The yellow is where the chimney changes direction inside.

Closeup of the lintle

Inside the chimney
Red is the front wall
Yellow is the left and right
Green appears to the a metal plate where the chimney changes direction
Purple looks to be a different surface (not just brick more smooth like in appearance)
Blue is the back

It appears that the back and sides are different, I can't imagine that the chimney would be what appears to be solid brick all the way up.

Any advice?


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Chimneys and flues were formed almost entirely from brickwork then. The smooth parts are where the parging hasn't fallen off.
Ian - in Victorian houses it was common to have a 'high-level' lintel below which was the 'tall' recess for a cast iron range. Generally, you need to forget about separate kitchens in those days (unless it was a nobs house) as these small/medium sized ranges were sited in the chimney breast recess of the living room.

The "change in direction" of the flue is also common; this allows for the flue to be diverted to one side of any fireplaces in the rooms above.
Thanks for the replies.

I guess the only way to be a bit more certain would be to remove more plaster. I'm just a bit concerned about how narrow the chimney seems on the inside. I really only want to open up a small amount but don't want half the internal brickwork of the chimney to come crashing down into the room.

Do you think the stone lintel is a later addition then with it being quite low. What's the steel plate for near the direction change?


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The flue will be even narrower as it gets higher, roughly 9x9 inches. What you can see is the gather which should reduce in size as it goes up.
Ok I've removed some more plaster (quietly as the other halfs asleep)

At the edges it looks as though there is a stone structure, I was a bit surprised, is this normal? It's highlighted with a purple arrow in the pic...
Ian - you need to look at the interface between your newly discovered 'stone structure' and the adjoining brickwork. It appears (from the pic) that the bricks have a clearly defined vertical joint all the way up, in other words the brick courses don't go the full width of the chimney breast. If this is the case your newly discovered stone structure could to be a pillar (check the opposite side of the chimney breast for a matching pillar) to support the high-level lintel ... all this confirms my earlier view re. a range recess. If this is the case then the brickwork is a later infill.

Of course your newly discovered stone could be sand/cement render from an earlier adaption ... you may have to chop more away to solve the mystery.

Anyway, all of this is academic (solving old building quirks is interesting???) - I reckon you'll be OK to proceed with your project as the structure looks 'solid enough' to cope with your adaptions.

But I would still like to know what lies beneath ....
Thanks for the reply,

I did what you suggested yesterday and discovered an identical pillar at the other side. With this knowledge I then proceeded to remove more and more bricks.

There is a large stone lintel supported by the two pillars. After this was built the chimney was narrowed inside along each side and the back up to about 7ft (where the original curve began. The gap between this narrowing and the original walls was infilled with a combination of broken bricks, rubble and ash/soot.

After much mess and collapsing brick towers I now have an open fireplace which is quite large. It's amazing the sheer amount of bricks that I have removed! I also uncovered the original fire base and back which I've removed now. From inside the stone lintle is supported on the stone columns so alls good!

All I need to do is make good :)

I'll post some more pics when I manage to remove the many layers of soot on the camera.

Thanks for all the help.

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