A guide to moving a fireplace, including the costs and things to cosider when taking on the job.
It has become increasingly trendy to move fireplaces and is a practice that is now easier than ever before. There are many reasons to want to move a fireplace, including repositioning, to alter the aspects of a room or taking a favourite fireplace design with you when you move house. If you are moving a fireplace, you will need to follow specific rules and work practices.
Removal of a fireplace – the mantle, breast and hearth – is usually a matter of taking down a surround and any supporting features, and physically moving them from one place to another. The cost for doing this will depend on both the size and complexity of the fireplace, so may range between £70 and £1,500 for large, elaborate fireplaces.
This is difficult to answer precisely, since moving a fireplace depends on several factors including, the size of the fireplace, the complexity of its build, new location, and the type of fire. If you wanted to move a small electric fire, it is both easy and cheap to do since it is lightweight and can be done entirely by the homeowner. If, however, you want to move a sizeable stone-surrounded wood or coal-burning fireplace, then the work will be considerable, and you will be limited as to where you can re-site it.
Because of the considerable variation in conditions, this instruction will focus on moving a large wood or coal fireplace breast – the visible part in a room - from one chimney location to another, which could potentially be in the same property or even a new one. This will leave the actual chimney in place, as removal of this is a considerably larger and significant job. On this basis, anything smaller will be a variation of these instructions, and generally easier to do.
If you’re moving a fireplace from one chimney location to another, and not replacing it, you will have a redundant chimney stack which will need proper decommissioning, and provision made to ensure that neither damp nor wildlife can get in and cause damage.
A normal fireplace consists of many components:
All of these will be external to the chimney and can be removed without fear of interfering with a load-bearing feature of the house. These parts can be made from several materials but are typically wood or stone, however many Victorian-age houses tended to have metal fireplaces that are effectively either one or two parts. Any of these constructions will be constructed in distinct parts and removal of them will entail logically deconstructing those parts.
Take several photographs of the fireplace before removal so that you have a good visual reference to go back to when you start to reassemble it. While each part of the fireplace will be fitted together, they will also be connected to the wall in many ways, including, nails, screws, brackets and even strong glue. If parts are glued to the walls, they may be difficult to remove without damaging them. To do this, you may have to soak the parts with copious amounts of water until they loosen. As you take each part off, you should label it appropriately to aid reassembly, alongside the photos.
When reassembling your fireplace, you will need to start at the bottom, placing the hearth firmly and building up from there so that every part placed is fully supported before the next piece is assembled. Mantles tend to be quite heavy, so they must be professionally fitted. Building regulations will apply here. You should refer to your building plans – or seek the advice of an architect – before you reinstall a large fireplace to ensure that it does not become a safety hazard either during fitting or once the job is complete.
The task of taking out and refitting a fireplace is a huge job and will result in a significant amount of repair work that needs to be carried out. Because you are removing a fireplace, you also have a blank canvas that means you can finish it in almost any way that you want to. If you are going to remove something as substantial as a stone fireplace, you may want to take the opportunity to redecorate a whole room or area too, simply because you will have a relatively significant amount of rework to carry out anyway.
Here is a list of commonly asked questions regarding moving a fireplace.
Most unwanted material from removing a fireplace is usually something that can be disposed of at standard council tips, provided that you don’t have too much of it. In older properties, the risk of asbestos being present is much higher, and if this is the case, you will need not only expensive specialist removal but also specialist disposal.
If you are removing a fireplace, you will not need planning permission. However, you will do if you are interfering with a chimney stack. You may need to consider building regulations, depending upon the size of the job.
You should block up the opening using suitably sized thermalites or concrete blocks, and fit a vent at the bottom since you must have an airflow into the stack, or you will have damp problems.
If you have a large, stone or marble fireplace, that needs moving; it should be done so in a flat position to minimise the possibility of cracking or other damage through the transport phase. Since this will be reasonably weighty, you may need to use specialist lifting equipment.