Structural report on chimney breast removal and gallow brackets


Most of the houses in London were built before central heating so fireplaces in each room were essential.

Now, though, the chimney breasts from those fireplaces take up space in our homes and many homeowners choose to remove them.

Removing a chimney breast is not always the simple task it is sometimes considered.  A builder may advise you it can be done easily, without the input of a structural engineer but this is not the case.  You will need advice from a structural engineer and we have seen many chimney breasts that are not reliably supported or are actually unsafe.

As well as enclosing the flue from the fireplace, the brickwork of the breast is likely to also be supporting an area of the floor and roof around it as the floor joists or rafters span onto it.  Additionally, the hearth needs proper support as it is often stone or rough concrete.  So there is a lot more to support than just the brickwork.

It was common practice in the past to support the reminder of the chimney breast by adding steel brackets, almost like a shelf, onto the party wall.  These brackets, known as gallows brackets due to their shape, put the weight of the remaining breast onto the party wall.  However, this approach is not allowed nowadays by most London boroughs since the party wall cannot usually safely support the extra weight.  The design of the support for the breast requires more than such brackets, so advice is required from a structural engineer.

The first thing to consider when considering removing your chimney breast is on which floors to remove it.  Structurally, the simplest and therefore the cheapest approach would be to remove it at all floors, including in the loft and the chimney stack, as this would leave nothing requiring resupport except the floors locally.  Planning restrictions in London or party wall matters, though, mean the stack above roof level typically needs to be retained. 

The chimney breast is therefore often retained in the loft space to provide the support for the chimney stack above roof level.  The new structure to support this short height of breast and the stack would be in the loft space.  If you decide to retain the breast on upper floors, though, then the new beams required to support the remaining breast would be within the floor depth below.

Structures-Made-Easy would visit your home to get an understanding of the existing structure and the size of the chimney breast, including taking measurements.  We would then produce our design for the new structure to support the breast.  These drawings and calculations will provide information for costing and construction by your builder, but also to obtain Building Regulations approval for the works.   Your chimney breast will therefore be safely supported.

If you would like to discuss further please feel free to contact us using our email or call us on 0207 965 7376  

Case studies

View Project

Acton 02 Ealing West London W3

Domestic conversion and extension.

View Project

Chiswick 01 Hounslow West London W3

Domestic conversion, extension and loft conversion.

View Project

Acton 01 Ealing West London W3

Domestic refurbishment and extension with internal alterations including Chimney removal

View Project

Brent 01 London NW10

Domestic ground floor side extension to outrigger of a terrace house.


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