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Partial removal of chimney, will I be able to do it?

thegiz | Posted in General Questions on

Hope everyone is doing well, so I have an unused chimney, I recently converted to gas and no longer use it to vent oil burner.  I want to remodel and insulate my kids room but chimney is taking up some prime real estate in middle of second floor.  I got some prices for chimney removal ranging from 4500-8000.  I also got a price for 900 to remove the chimney to roof level, then seal and shingle over it.  Getting up on roof and ripping it down is what I think will be hard for me to do myself. Also want roof professionally sealed.  If I get that done, I’m thinking open up wall on second floor and remove chimney from second floor.  Close up floor and leave rest of chimney for when I’m ready to remodel 1st floor and basement.  Can I leave rest of chimney for later work or it has to come out all or nothing?  By just removing second floor I can spend my time and energy remodeling upstairs.  I’m a teacher by trade so only have a few weeks to really get work in. Thanks for everyone’s help as usual.  Joe

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  1. ohioandy | | #1

    Joe, you can absolutely do this yourself, but if it's the first time you've worked at height with roofing, it's a tough place to learn. Of course, everything depends on ease of access. If it's 25 feet to the eave and then a steep roof, this is a tough job, and safety is not to be taken lightly. Could be you're better off having the pros take it down to the roofline and repair the roof; from there it's child's play. Well, it's still heavy, miserable, filthy work but at least you don't risk death.

    If you split up the job, just plug any holes in the chimney, top and bottom, to prevent convection drafts and keep bats out of the house.

  2. thegiz | | #2

    Andy it is 25 feet and on a steep roof so yeah I probably will get that professionally done. Taking chimney down on second floor will be a messy job but worth the savings. I will probably have to build one wall to close off existing hole and I will need to build a small patch in floor. I don’t have a demolition hammer, can the job be done with a masonary chisel and hammer. I also have a reciprocating saw is that enough tools for the job or will I need to rent a demolition hammer. Thanks

  3. the74impala | | #3

    At least a 3 lb hand hammer.

  4. charlie_sullivan | | #4

    This is a brick chimney? How hard it is to pull apart will vary a lot according to the type of mortar and bricks and their age and condition. I'd go at it with the tools you have before deciding what you need. But if you need some tools the money spent will be well worth it.

  5. Expert Member
    Peter Engle | | #5

    Certainly a job you can do yourself, but it is messy, heavy work. +1 on having a pro do the roof part. A 3lb hand sledge should work, and it will give you a workout. An alternate is a mason's hammer and cold chisel. Lifting the hand sledge all day will wear you out pretty fast if not used to it. You might want to set up a chute or something outside so that you don't have to carry the bricks downstairs through the house. A demo saw is more than enough to break open the wall. If you work carefully, it won't even be too hard to put it back together.

  6. thegiz | | #6

    So thanks everyone for the encouragement. I’m going to get the pros to seal roof and then I’m going to hammer away at the wall and chimney. I’m going to have to send wife and kids out of house for I’m assuming at least 2 days for house to air out. I’m closing all second floor vents and sealing any holes in basement so dust doesn’t fly in HVAC system. So just wondering this house was built in 1903 and I’m assuming chimney was there all along unless it was added later. Mortar has to be pretty weak by now so should come out easily. Will I encounter anything in middle, will there be a metal flute I have to pull out? I’m expecting animal skeletons at least, or just a ton of dust. What do you think I will need in terms of rebuilding any walls, a few 2x4s, how thick of a subfloor should I use?

    1. ohioandy | | #7

      Joe, if you've got some time before the project starts, and if the chimney is even a little bit open to the sky above, consider a Bat Exclusion Door. Google it. It's a wire box that serves as a one-way valve allowing bats to escape but not return, in the hopes that they'll set up a homestead elsewhere. Also take the opportunity to buy or build a bat house close by. Green building excludes pests but includes beneficial animal friends!

  7. thegiz | | #8

    I’m a little confused here, am I guaranteed to have bats fly out when I open this chimney. I have never seen a bat, I’m in the suburbs of nyc so nothing rural. How would they even get in a chimney when I have a cap? The basement has a hole in chimney from when they removed exhaust pipe for furnace and nothing has flown out of there. Also why do I want a bat house, what do bats do? I’m sure they have benefit not sure if I want to become Batman.

    1. the74impala | | #9

      Not sure if you want to become Batman???? What is wrong with you? A billionaire, with cool toys and the title of "The Worlds Greatest Detective"? What could go wrong?

    2. _jt | | #12

      Yes, you will have bats. I am in the same area, I sealed the top and presto a bat flew into the basement. Mine was had the top dismantled but was in a mostly sealed attic. Those guys find a way in.

  8. thegiz | | #10

    There is a long list that could go wrong, the joker, years of solitude, life devoted to crime, guano everywhere. I do have this cage on top of my chimney now, picture attached, would that have stopped them from entering.

  9. Expert Member
    Michael Maines | | #11

    Joe, I suggest having professionals take the chimney down below roof level and sealing the roof. $900 is probably reasonable for that work. Ask them to cap the chimney with rigid foam so it does not bring moist air into the attic space. We did just this at my mom's house a few years ago, but the roofers "forgot" to cap the chimney. Just a few months later there was already mold forming on the new sheathing. So the cap is important.

    After that's done, you can pick away at tearing it down the rest of the way. It's heavy, slow and messy, but very DIY-able.

  10. spenceday | | #13

    2nd what everyone else is saying but really suggest setting up a chute down to a dumpster and then rent a demo hammer or look on Facebook or CL and buy a used one. Even the Harbor Freight $100 one will be lightyears better/faster than a big hammer.
    Also note the weight limit of whatever dumpster you get or tell the company what you are putting in it. Watched someone load most of a brick patio into a 10 yard dumpster a few years ago only to have to remove about half when the company wouldn't pick it up.

  11. Expert Member
    Akos | | #14

    Masonry that old is typically lime mortar, which is very soft. You can just knock the brick with a hammer and it will crack loose. You shouldn't need any big power tools. The nice part is that you can easily clean up the bricks and reuse them elsewhere that might need patching.

    Definately set up a chute, makes things much easier. A wheelbarrow is also handy. With two people a chimney should take about a day.

    It does make a mess and very abresive, protect any flooring that you'll want to keep.

  12. thegiz | | #15

    I think I’m ready for this project. Def going to cover any floors I want to keep. Going to start with 2nd floor if it’s going well and quick enough I will take whole chimney down at once instead of just one floor. Only concern is bats flying out as I’m knocking it down. From the posts above sounds like it’s a guarantee I will have them. I will ask roofers who are sealing roof, they are coming today to look at job. Not sure how to deal with that. Don’t know what I would do if a bat flies out into house.

  13. walta100 | | #16

    I recall seeing an old house taking down a chimney they were dropping the bricks down the chimney. They must have had a way to get them out at the bottom. Maybe they had opened one side of the chimney so they had somewhere to go. I would expect a lot of very black dust as they likely burned coal.


  14. mec231 | | #17

    I've been dismantling a chimney in my 1910 house this week. The actual demolition goes quickly with just a 2 pound sledge--I've been doing a floor an afternoon--it's the prep that has taken more time as I had to tent off the sections I was working (closet on 2nd floor, stairwell on first, basement). I also bought an inexpensive ventilator (SKU 97762) at Harbor Freight and rigged it from my basement containment area with flex duct out the back yard. With the work areas sealed off, the ventilator creates enough negative pressure to keep the dust from getting everywhere.

  15. thegiz | | #18

    So you have a very similar situation since my house is built in 1903, did you have to do anything about bats? I know the inside will have heavy black dust from years of oil burning. There is a hole in basement level where exhaust pipe use to enter from old furnace. It’s a round hole about 4-5inch for a round pipe. I could drop down bricks and pull them out from basement level and carry them outside. Basement is unfinished so nothing but concrete floor can get stained. I can tent off plastic around HVAC and area I’m dismantling upstairs and tent off a path to get bricks outside from basement. I was thinking that once I get to floor level on second floor I can continue working my way into first floor and removing as much as I can from above. If I can get a least 2-3 feet down, I’m assuming I can start dismantling the chimney from basement level and letting rest of chimney come down.

    1. mark_be | | #19

      There is no guarantee bats have taken up residence in your chimney. If you are concerned they might have, go outside before dusk and watch the chimney top. If one or more live inside, you should see them leaving by the time it is dark.

  16. mec231 | | #20

    I had no bat issue, though my chimney did have a flue retrofitted to vent a gas furnace and water heater that included a chimney cap.

    I dropped bricks down the chimney after enlarging the old vent hole at that level.

    I would be hesitant (though it's tempting) to undermine the chimney and let it collapse rather than opening an access hole in your first floor to continue dismantling from the top since it could be a literal ton of bricks landing on your head.

  17. ohioandy | | #21

    Joe, that was me who brought up the bat thing--don't worry about bats. You had a cap on the chimney all along. (FYI, if you HAD bats it's hard to miss them flying around in the early evenings. Bats are cool and welcome in my neighborhood because they eat tons of mosquitoes.)

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