Old brick chimneys add a focal point to the roof line of historic homes, reminding passers-by of an era where every home was heated with wood or coal fires. With the invention of central heat and air, however, many of these older chimneys have fallen into disuse and disrepair. Often when older homes are re-roofed, abandoned chimneys are removed to a point just below the roofline in the attic. This creates a problem for the homeowner who wishes to build into the attic space. The portion of the chimney in the attic can be leveled with the floor with the help of some good friends.
Things You'll Need
- Tape measure
- Circular saw
- Power screwdriver
- 1 1/2-inch-long screws
- Tarp (optional)
- 2 buckets, 3 gallons (optional)
- 2 buckets, 5 gallons (optional)
- 2 strong ropes (optional)
- Ear protection
- Pry bar
- Chipping gun
- Cold chisel or masonry chisel
Inspect the chimney and attic floor structure with the help of a qualified building professional, such as a structural engineer, architect or experienced builder. Confirm that removing the chimney is appropriate, and determine the best stopping point for the demolition, based on how you will finish the attic floor and how much of the chimney will remain intact below the floor.
Wearing a respirator and goggles, enter the attic. Measure the distance between the chimney and the nearest vent or window. Measure the diameter of the chimney. If there isn't a large vent or window, you'll have to take the bricks out through the attic access. Measure from the chimney to the attic access instead.
Cut sections of plywood at least 2 feet wide until you have enough to create a walkway in the attic between the chimney and the vent or attic access. Re-enter the attic with a pocket full of screws and a power screwdriver in tow. Have someone below the attic hand you strips of plywood one at a time. Screw them to the attic floor to create a walkway to the vent or attic access -- this is where you'll be dumping the chimney bricks as they're removed. Run an additional strip of plywood around the chimney for added safety. Remove a large vent or open a window for direct access to the outdoors.
Lay a tarp out on the ground where the bricks will land if you can remove them directly to the outside. Tie a sturdy rope -- long enough to reach your helpers on the floor below -- to each 3-gallon bucket if there is no adequate opening in the attic to the outside. Don sturdy work gloves, ear protection, your respirator and goggles before you enter the attic with the small jackhammer, pry bar and hammer in tow. Position the 3-gallon buckets near the chimney if you cannot throw the bricks directly outside or you have to carry them more than a few steps to throw them out of the vent opening.
Pick any loose bricks off of the chimney with your hands. Remove the other bricks by chipping out the mortar, using an electric chipping gun or a hammer and cold chisel. Try to avoid striking the brick faces if you plan to reuse the bricks. Remove the bricks as they come loose and place them in the buckets. Try not to overfill the buckets -- they will get heavy quickly. Walk the buckets to the nearby opening and throw the bricks onto the tarp, or lower the buckets to a friend below, using the rope. Instruct the friend to empty the 3-gallon bucket of bricks into one of the 5-gallon buckets below and dispose of them in a dedicated area.
Continue removing bricks until the chimney is level with the joists, breaking out any clay chimney liner (flue tiles) with the hammer or chipping gun. Unscrew the plywood walkway if desired. Re-install the vent or close the window if you threw the bricks outside.
Tips & Warnings
- Re-purpose the bricks from your chimney by building an outside grill, flowerbed or patio. If you'd rather get rid of the bricks, you may be able to give them away to someone wishing to complete a project. This will save you significant disposal costs while helping the environment.
- Photo Credit David Sacks/Lifesize/Getty Images