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I have a no-longer-in-use brick chimney running from basement to attic (roof was closed over it), left over from earlier heating systems. The space alongside it is being used for plumbing and electrical, so it would probably be a pain to actually recover those few square feet... but it has me wondering:

How would one extract a brick chimney embedded in the middle of a house? Open up one of the adjacent walls and attack it with rotary hammer? And would the years of combustion residue -- gas and oil most recently, but I suspect there were one or more woodstoves originally -- be a significant health hazard, or just a mess?

(If I don't extract it, I'll probably want to cap it off to make sure it isn't breaking my air-sealing. Thoughts on an easy/cheap way to do that also welcome.)

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    "How would one extract a brick chimney embedded in the middle of a house?" presumably, the house must remain after the procedure. – imallett Nov 10 '14 at 7:46
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    @imallett: That is why I said "extract"; I'd like to pull the chimney with minimal other damage. Ideal would be to just have all the bricks reappear neatly stacked in a pile on the back lawn and the mortar in a dumpster for easy disposal, but my teleporter isn't that selective yet. – keshlam Nov 10 '14 at 15:27
  • Great info, folks. I'm waiting a bit longer to see if anyone else chips in, so to speak... – keshlam Nov 10 '14 at 15:33
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We removed an old brick chimney to install a modern (well, 1970's modern - stainless steel is more common these days in your better chimneys) block and tile chimney by simply hammering and removing bricks. If you do it top down it's "apparently more tedious" but actually less time overall than anything involving "knocking it down" and then clearing up the mess, when it's inside an occupied, normally clean house. A wide mason's chisel may help. Bricks are actually pretty easy to get apart when you learn how, and that won't take long if you pay attention to what works on the first few layers.

Incidentally, if you drop the bricks down the chimney they pile up in short order and become a relative pain to remove. Take it from a former teenager who thought that was a great way to get rid of them until we hit the pile coming up as we were tearing down.

  • Thanks. Masonry is something I don't have enough experience with, though I've done other kinds of demo and construction, working with APO and PMD. – keshlam Nov 10 '14 at 4:02
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    "coming up as we were tearing down" -- obligatory song cue: Why Paddy's Not At Work Today. (Followed by The Gas Man Cometh and Right, Said Fred) – keshlam Nov 10 '14 at 4:09
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    +1, I did not mention the poor sap that gets to remove them for you, as you go. – Mazura Nov 10 '14 at 4:12
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    If you have a helper or two remove the bricks as you toss them down the chimney, the removal can move along quite quickly. – Tester101 Nov 10 '14 at 11:41
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    @keshlam or use a shovel to move them out of the drop zone before hands come into play – ratchet freak Nov 10 '14 at 16:51
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Just wanted to make sure this was recorded: Be careful to look at what else the chimney may be supporting, In my 1880's house, the base of the chimney used to help support the ground floor's main beam; that eventually faled which is why the beam now has columns under it (and why the dining room, and the bedroom above it, have tilted floors). It is possible that the corresponding beams for the second floor or the attic floor are still resting on the chimney; if so, I'd have to bring in someone to advise on whether that support is needed and how else we could achieve it.

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Bricks and mortar...

Anecdotally, I removed an embedded brick chimney from a 1900's era house. It was (floating above for a stove) resting on a 2x4 frame, supported by two 2x4's at a 45. Amazingly even once removed, someone had to go in the attic and pound on it a little. KABOOM! -and then we took a nice long lunch. We first removed what we could from the attic. -by throwing it down the chimney.

If you're removing it to regain wall space, then the old soffit is in the way anyway; open up the drywall/knock the wall down. The respirator (not a dust mask) you should be wearing for demolition will protect you from all that stuff.

Surgically?

  • Remove as much off the top as you can get to.

  • Notch out an area of the lower section to install temporary bracing.

  • Remove the lower section.

  • Remove the bracing.

  • Kaboom (protect the floor appropriately).

  • Take lunch.

  • Interesting. Wouldn't have thought of using it as its own disposal chute... Yes, proper respirator; one of the best $20ish investments you can make. My place is 1890ish, but chimney goes down to basement floor; used to actually act as a support column but subsided long ago and was replace with lally columns. Can't do kaboom, I think; new boiler is too close to it. (Should probably have relocated while I was doing that; 20:20 hindsight.) – keshlam Nov 10 '14 at 3:54
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    "Kaboom" is not a place I like to go. Dropping a ton of bricks on a wooden floor rather stretches the extent to which "protect the floor appropriately" would have to be taken. It's quite easy to disassemble the chimney through the hole the chimney passes through the floor in, until you can continue from the floor below. – Ecnerwal Nov 10 '14 at 3:54
  • Yeah, a ton of bricks falls like, well, a ton of bricks. I'd be dropping it onto the basement floor if dropping at all, which is concrete, but there's enough Other Stuff adjacent that I still don't think this is a viable option. No immediate rush in any case, mostly "sizing" the job for future planning. – keshlam Nov 10 '14 at 3:58
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    The building was a gut job but as I remember now, we were able to take it all the way down to the 2nd floor level, leaving 6~8 feet floating there; 5' above the 1st. It was deemed unsafe to work under/about it. – Mazura Nov 10 '14 at 4:17
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    I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the idea of setting up a chute along side the house. Hang it off the roof near the chimney and drop bricks down the chute into a dumpster. Once the chimney is below the roof line you can move it to be hanging from a window on a lower floor and keep working down. That way you just keep dumping bricks down the slide until you use a wheel barrow to move bricks outside. – Gandolf989 Aug 24 '15 at 16:16

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