Party Wall Matters, Part III: Chimney Breast Removal
One of the most common pieces of work that requires a Party Wall Notice is the removal of a chimney breast. However, despite this, its special status in the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 means it can be difficult to serve if you are not aware of the regulation.
This article is part of a series on Party Wall Matters, in which we have also touched upon what a Party Wall is, the obligations of a Building and Adjoining Owner, and mistakes in Party Wall Notices.
Why is chimney breast removal so common?
Most houses built before the Second World War, particularly those of Victorian and Edwardian style, came with a chimney stack, or several, that passed through at least the living room and bedrooms, as, before gas and electricity, hearths were used to heat the house.
These days, hearth fires are associated with archaic, ye olde times, given how much we know about their environmental impact, but it may come as a surprise that “real coal fires” were still being advertised on British TV as late as the 1980s, one of the most famous showing a dog, cat and mouse curling up in front of one.
In the 21st Century, more and more homeowners, landlords and building owners have decided to remove their chimney breasts altogether and convert would-be fireplaces into decorative “open” fireplaces. One benefit of this is freeing up space, as a hearth can, on average, take up a square metre of a room.
Why does chimney breast removal require a Party Wall Notice?
Removing a chimney breast involves cutting into the bricks that are bonded in the Party Wall, and, as such, comes under Section 2 of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 as a work that “has a direct effect on a Party Structure”, therefore a Notice must be served on the Adjoining Owner.
Are there special requirements for a Notice concerning chimney breast removal?
In addition, it is covered by Section 3 of the Act, as a work that requires “special foundations”. Under a Section 3 Notice, there is a requirement for plans, sections and details of construction, including sketches / drawings. “Special foundations” are defined further in Section 20.
If a chimney breast is removed to make space for an open hearth in a living room or bedroom, the remaining chimney stack in the loft will need to be supported. This has often been done in the past using gallows brackets, but more recently, structural engineers will probably recommend steel beams, given their longer durability, as well as weather and damp resistance.
It is important to note that, even if your Party Wall works do not require “special foundations”, it might be useful to include sketches / drawings of the proposed works, for your neighbour’s benefit, and if they are available, although it is not compulsory if the works are fully and clearly described.
Prince Krofa & Sons has extensive experience in all Party Wall matters. If you live in London or the Home Counties, are planning on removing a chimney breast and would like further guidance on Party Wall regulations and procedures, visit our Contact page.