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  • Clio Domenech

Uncovering the Hidden Dangers of Unsupported Chimney Breasts in Your Home

In the dimly lit attic, as you sift through forgotten belongings, a peculiar sight catches your eye—a sliced chimney breast dangling from the roofline. The unsettling discovery of an unsupported chimney breast in your own home can be a nerve-wracking experience, and it's crucial to understand the structural implications and take immediate action.

A fully intact chimney breast serves as vital support for the chimney stack above the roofline. When a chimney breast is removed on the ground and first floor, replacement supports like steel beams or gallows brackets are installed into the wall to bear the load. These supports are strategically positioned beneath the newly cut bottom edge of the chimney breast to uphold the remaining structure.

Unsupported chimney breast on a party wall

Discovering an unsupported chimney breast doesn't just compromise the chimney stack; it puts the entire wall it's attached to at risk. The load's stress causes lateral pressure, leading to bowing and, sometimes, the collapse of the wall and the chimney stack. Sagging roofs also become a concern as the load pulls downward.

The stakes rise when the unsupported chimney breast is on a party wall. Any damage to the party wall not only jeopardises your property but also poses a threat to your neighbour. The gradual damage caused by the unsupported chimney breast in the attic might go unnoticed until it turns into a sudden catastrophe.

Moreover, any construction work on the party wall without considering the hidden hazard can jeopardise the entire structure. The Adjoining Owner may unknowingly cause further damage when they decide to do works to their property, if they are not made aware of the hazard on the other side of the wall.

Steps to Take When an Unsupported Chimney Breast is Discovered:

  1. Consult a Structural Engineer: Reach out to a structural engineer to design a support system for the chimney breast. This usually involves a steel beam resting on the load-bearing walls of the house. If too much of the chimney has been removed, partial reinstatement may be necessary for it to rest on the steel beam.

  2. Register with Building Control: Whether through the council or a private company, registering with Building Control is crucial. This step ensures that the proposed solution meets safety standards.

  3. Approval from Building Control: Obtain approval for the structural design from Building Control to proceed with the necessary alterations.

  4. Party Wall Considerations: If the unsupported chimney breast is on a party wall, serve a Party Structure Notice (Section 2(2) Notice) to the adjoining owner. This legal notice informs them of the potential risks and allows them to raise any concerns.

  5. Expert Guidance: Seek guidance from professionals like Party Wall London Limited, especially when dealing with unsupported chimney breasts on party walls. They can provide valuable advice and guide you through the necessary processes to safeguard your property.

Discovering an unsupported chimney breast is a serious matter, but taking prompt and informed action can help prevent potential disasters and protect your home. If you find yourself facing this issue, don't hesitate to seek professional assistance to ensure the safety and stability of your property.

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