What is a Chimney Breast?
A chimney breast is the part of a chimney that projects forward from the wall to create space for a fireplace. It consists of the brickwork that encases the chimney as it rises through the property and is typically found on the inside of the property, taking up space within the rooms that it passes through. It is typically found on the ground floor of a building, with masonry that extends upwards and contains a flue to carry smoke out of the property through the external chimney stack.
The appearance and construction of chimney breasts can vary according to the style and function. In England, most builders will treat the chimney breast and the fireplace area as architectural features in the home.
False Chimney Breasts:
A false chimney breast can sometimes be constructed around a wall that is pierced by a flue or twin-walled flue. They are often sometimes constructed where there is no chimney present, for aesthetic purposes. These are usually custom-built with a timber frame that is then covered with plasterboard and skimmed with plaster. If a false chimney breast contains a flue, lining it with a refractory material may be required. Additional cosmetic features such as overmantels, fireplace surrounds, or cosmetic beams are often added.
Removing a Chimney Breast:
With the growth of modern heating methods such as central heating, chimney breasts have become redundant in terms of their function as a chimney. Removal of the chimney breast is a common alteration to homes to provide more floor space in the room. However, many chimney breasts serve an important structural function and will therefore need to be removed with plenty of care and preferably by a professional. The removal of part of a chimney breast can lead to uneven loading on the wall if it is not done correctly.
Factors to Consider When Removing a Chimney Breast:
Removing a chimney breast often falls under work that is covered by building regulations, and in some cases might invoke the Party Wall Act. You will need written consent from the owners of the neighbouring property if the work is likely to affect their home. There are various important factors to keep in mind if you are removing a chimney breast including fire safety, the effect on the neighbour’s property or chimney, noise insulation, ventilation, structural strength, and damp prevention. Planning permission is unlikely to be required for removing a chimney breast unless your property is in a conservation area or a listed building, but it is always worth asking to make sure.