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I am buying an old home (~130 years). I had the home inspection yesterday and the chimney is essentially a death trap. It is the victim of both poor maintenance and bad DIY work.

  • The chimney on the roof needs to be removed and rebuilt.
  • The water heater and boiler in the basement vent into the chimney entirely incorrectly, exhausting in the the home.

To maintain it, I need to pay an expert to rebuild the chimney, and a plumber to fix the hot water situation.

Taking a step back and looking at the big picture, I am wondering if I can or should just remove the chimney outright.

First, I'd move the water heater and boiler away from the chimney in the center of the house and power vent them straight outside. This has the added advantage of opening up the center of the basement a bit, where they are currently located.

Then we'd simply remove the chimney. That would also leave us with a shaft through the center of the home to run central air in the future.

The only complication is that my wife likes the current fireplace in the living room. Can we attach some form of smaller, non-brick chimney to the existing fire box? We'd be willing to change it to a gas fire place in the process.

As a follow on, the bricks for the chimney extends all the way to the basement currently. If I want to leave the first floor fireplace in place, do I need to leave the bricks under it in place, or can I support them some other way?

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If I was doing this I would remove it down to the basement put in new flooring and start out with a free standing stove. My current home has a river rock hearth & chimney in the center of the house. No fire brick lining the chimney, It will come out to the ground level within the next year. You could use an insert and run pipe through the roof. Make sure to get a permit for the new unit and have it inspected. I know in my state fireplaces installed without permits are not covered by home owners insurance if a fire occurs. This includes inserts as some sales folks don't know the code and provide single wall flex pipe for inserts and this is not legal in Oregon even inside an existing chimney.

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You can only remove a chimney if it isn't being used and won't be used in the future.

Heating system and hot water can be replaced with Direct Vent unit(s), which can take in fresh air and exhaust combustion gasses through PVC tubing running out the side of the building. Or you can switch to electric heat.

Fireplaces (if they persist after the chimney is gone) can be switched over to gas flames (which in this application don't present much more hazard than a gas oven and stove do), or candles. Or they can be left as merely decorative, or closed off.

Woodstoves similarly: can't remove the chimney until those no longer need it.

(Since I had already switched to direct vent, I removed the top of my chimney and closed that penetration when the roof was redone. I need to check that what's left of it isn't helping to support the house -- it originally was -- before deciding how much more can be removed and if those few cubic feet are worth the effort.)

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