Can I remove my chimney without planning permission?
Property Clinic: Your property questions answered
I own a semi-detached house in Knocklyon, it was built in 1975 and the chimney goes up the centre of the house and does not attach to my neighbour’s house in any way. I’m planning on removing the chimney from the top all the way down. Do I need planning permission for this work?
Also, I’m planning on engaging a structural engineer to carry out a survey for this work – I assume I’d need him to survey the chimney stack and breast before work commences and then afterwards to ensure all is okay. Is this correct?
Planning permission is only required for removal of chimneys if the property is a protected structure. Your property is a typical suburban, semi-detached house and therefore the removal of the chimney is considered exempt development. There are a number of factors which you should consider and should discuss with a structural engineer/building surveyor prior to commencing the work.
Chimneys placed centrally within the floor plan of a house can in some cases offer stability to internal walls by providing a buttress. It would be important to ensure that the chimney in your case provides no structural stability to other building elements.
You will need to review how floor joists at first-floor level are supported as these may be partly supported on the large chimney breast you propose to remove.
Fireplaces generally provide a good focal point in a room. Estate agents generally point out fireplaces as being a main feature within rooms when they offer a property for sale. Therefore, if removing the chimney, you should give some thought as to how the room will look and feel when this feature is removed.
An open fireplace offers a dual function in that the open flue provides important permanent ventilation to the room. This helps in the reduction of condensation by improving the number of air changes in your house.
That said uncontrolled air changes are now deemed to be poor practice in modern design and passive type houses. The modern approach to house design eliminates open fires or flues. This is because valuable heated air can quickly be lost through the chimney and open fires offer extremely poor return in terms of efficiency. Flue balloons provide a simple remedy for those who wish to retain a fireplace for occasional use but want to limit ventilation or air changes.
In summary, planning permission will not be required for removal of the chimney. Your structural engineer/building surveyor should advise with regard to alternative support to internal walls and floors. It would be prudent to get whoever you engage to carry out a survey before and after the work is carried out.
You should ensure that permanent ventilation is maintained to the completed room while also considering the overall impact in terms of the loss of a focal point to the room.
Noel Larkin is a Chartered Building Surveyor and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, scsi.ie