Our house was originally built with one chimney (the white chimney in the center of the roof), and a second chimney and fireplace in the living room was added later. The original chimney hasn’t been used for many years and is in disrepair:
Strangely, this chimney comes down from the roof and ends up in the downstairs bathroom:
The hole to the left of the chimney was where the heat duct came in from the living room on the other side of the wall. It was most recently connected to the gas wall heater that we removed, but at some time in the past (probably before there was a bathroom here), it would have been connected to a woodstove.
When we first bought the house and I saw this chimney, my first thought was:
“What the hell is holding this thing up?”
More to come on that later.
This chimney goes up from the downstairs bathroom to the second floor, where it inconveniently sits in the small hallway in front of the upstairs bathroom:
The location of the chimney in the middle of the house made it extremely unlikely we would ever use it. In addition, its location in the downstairs bathroom wasn’t ideal, and would undoubtedly interfere with our bathroom plans somewhere down the road. Finally, the mortar in the bricks towards the top of the chimney was in poor condition. For all of these reasons we decided to take it down.
I grabbed my sledgehammer and headed up to the roof. The first bricks at the top of the chimney came off very easily, and the other bricks didn’t require too much effort. As I removed the bricks I dropped them onto a pile on the roof…the roof shingles were in bad condition and would need to be replaced anyway, so I didn’t care if I tore them up a bit with the debris:
When I had gotten all the bricks down to below the roofline I was able to pull out the old metal stovepipe that went down the chimney. The large hole left in the roof looks in to the attic crawlspace and was fairly satisfying to see…
I then moved inside to the second floor to continue the brick removal. It seems like seeing the sky through the holes in our house is getting to be a habit…
The mortar in these bricks was in better condition so took more effort, but the removal went pretty quickly. As I removed the bricks I tossed them up through the hole onto the roof.
The mess of dust and little brick and mortar pieces was starting to accumulate, but would soon get much worse…
Once I got down below the level of the floor I moved downstairs to the bathroom. I removed the elbow connecting the chimney to the vent pipe in the living room closet:
Still curious about how this thing was supported, I started removing the mortar covering the bricks. At the base of the chimney I found some steel mesh:
Removing the steel mesh took some effort, but finally I was able to see how this thing was supported:
The builder fashioned two steel brackets and bolted them to the wall. The brackets were heavy and substantial (about an 1/8″ thick.) Pretty ingenious, and obviously it worked, but I’m honestly surprised that this held up thousands of pounds for as long as it did without a failure.
The last few bricks came down pretty easily…
After unbolting the brackets from the wall the chimney was officially down.
Now, I get to deal with the aftermath:
I had forgotten to close the bathroom doors to help contain the mess, so the dust migrated out all over the kitchen with a vengeance:
Everything in the kitchen was filthy: the stove, the floor, dishes, countertops, everything.
Needless to say, my wife was not impressed…
And I also would have to deal with the large number of bricks currently residing on the roof and ground:
I spent the next three hours cleaning up the mess and cleaning up the edges of the hole in the roof.
The roof shingles surrounding the hole were in very bad condition, so weaving replacement shingles in to cover the hole in any standard, effective way wasn’t possible. I nailed in a piece of plywood and put in some temporary shingles to seal the hole as best I could. The shingles weren’t properly staggered and would likely leak a bit, but the rest of the roof wasn’t in any better condition. This should last until next summer when we replace the roof.
So, this project is finished. The whole thing only took about a day, and removing all the bricks to the dump site took another half a day. I patched the floor up on the second floor with some temporary planks, and eventually we’ll replace the patch with something that matches the rest of the floor.
It’s good to have this chimney gone, and now we can start planning how to move the bathroom around without having to work around it.