I've got a chimney in my 50's-era house that doesn't do anything. It's a regular brick and mortar chimney but it used to be used to vent the old oil heater (it's been converted to natural gas since). The chimney isn't used any more. I don't believe it's structural. Let's assume it's not but I'll get a second opinion on that before I do anything.

I've looked online and it seems that you just need to get an air hammer, chisel out the mortar and remove the chimney brick by brick. Then patch up the roof and the floor. The chimney sits on its own foundation in the crawlspace, so I'd have to frame and cover the floor as well as the ceiling. The chimney is in the middle of the house and is not attached to an outside wall.

Is that about right? Anything else to it? I understand it makes a massive mess in the house. I'd probably send my family to live with my sister across town for a few days.

I know I'd need a respirator, good gloves and goggles.

Any other recommendations?

  • 5
    Be very carefull!!! Chimneys may look like they are very secure when you start but can have a nasty habit of falling over when you lean against them.
    – UNECS
    Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 9:41
  • Long sleeves, strong shoes (preferably boots) for the inevitable dropped brick.
    – bib
    Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 13:23
  • So .. it's been many years since I asked this question ... but the air hammer worked like a charm! I actually did two chimneys. It took each brick off super easily. Threw them down to the grass below. It was a terrible, terrible mess, but we got it pretty contained and cleaned up.
    – Trevor
    Commented Oct 1, 2021 at 5:10

3 Answers 3


You didn't mention how tall the chimney is. 2 story house or single. Is there or was there ever a displacement for a fireplace, one flue or two? Lined or bare brick interior?

In general, the procedure is brick by brick. A small mini jack/impact hammer will speed up the process, but it can be done with a hammer and cold chisel. Most chimneys are independently supported and not structural to walls or the roof. there may be ties to framing members that you will have to cut or remove as you go through the roof or floor. You definitely want to use basic safety equipment like a dust mask, gloves and good eye protection. You can cut down on the dust and debris spreading in the house by hanging plastic from the ceilings around the work area. Use some painter's tape to hang lightweight plastic from the ceiling creating an enclosed area around your work area.

One cool trick on chimneys with a large flue opening and a clean out on the bottom is to drop the bricks one at a time to the bottom and have a helper remove them and stack them at the bottom. This is a bit neater and saves bringing bricks through the house.

  • 2
    I'd definitely go with an air hammer over a cold chisel. Much faster. A hand held air hammer is also light and easy to work with. After using one of these for roughly a week, I found that while the el-cheapo model will work, I replaced mine after I wore it out mid-way through the job.
    – user558
    Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 11:42
  • I have an electric DeWalt that is the size of a recpt saw, it works great. I have bored hole through 8 inch concrete with no problem. Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 12:14
  • I'll admit it would work. But how heavy is it? Would someone enjoy holding it at head level and above for a period of time to break up a chimney? A great virtue of an air powered tool is the heavy parts stay at the compressor.
    – user558
    Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 15:02
  • One story home. I actually don't know anything about the chimney b/c the previous owner framed and drywalled completely around it.
    – Trevor
    Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 16:10
  • I screwed a sheet of plywood down on my roof and rolled everything down in the yard until below the ceiling less tracking through the house that way. A window fan pointing out of the room will help the dust to be moved outside other than that I agree with the answer.+
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 18:56

We had our roof replaced due to hail damage. I asked the guys to take the top of the chimney down below the roof line and replace the deck. It only cost an extra $100. Then I took it down at my leisure when no one was around. using 5 gal buckets. You only need a small sledge hammer to release the old brick. You will end up with almost as much mortar debris as bricks, so be prepared for that. The old brick is pretty much useless as it is not high fired brick. In other words, it will disintegrate if you use it as a garden border outside. Give a brick a good solid hit and it will release, then the others at that level come off easy. I'm using my newfound space as a new furnace return from the second floor, and a new register in the bathroom. make sure you cover the remaining hole with fire grade drywall or 3/4 inch plywood to ensure the fireblock between floors. And, enjoy your newfound space! It is a lot of heavy work so be careful and use proper lifting methods. The dust is mostly heavy dust. When you go to remove a section of liner, if it has heavy soot inside then place an industrial plastic garbage bag over it before removal, that will help keep the dust down.


Homes built in the 50's may have used asbestos in the mortar mix. It was a commonly used fire proofing material back in the day. As a precaution, I would encapsulate the area in plastic, use rated respirators, and vacuum the dust using HEPA filter. You can keep the dust down by wetting the bricks and mortar. If the mortar is bright white rather than dull gray, I would have it tested before demo. My chimney had what appeared to be one piece square cinder blocks, about 40lbs each, 3 floors of block is a lot to move, and dispose of properly.

Be Safe! Good Luck!

  • Very good to know. Thanks!
    – Baodad
    Commented Apr 21, 2021 at 22:00

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