Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Chimney removal

Steve Nordheus, the City of Norfolk's structural inspector, knows the road between his office and my house quite well. The fact that the two are only separated by five blocks doesn't hurt, but he's been here quite a few times.

The first time he came out, Steve commented on the chimney in my house. The house is a bungalow design—basically a square, prior to multiple additions. The chimney runs up through the center of that square, which determined the location of all of the walls—and, consequently, the doors—in the house. The wall which divides the bedrooms (north) from the living and dining rooms (south) is off-center because it was built next to the chimney. The wall which used to divide the living room (east) from the dining room (west) was built on the west side of the chimney, resulting in a slightly larger living room space.

 However, the chimney was no longer in use. I was going to be installing electric appliances (heat pump, water heater, etc.), so there was no longer a need to have a way to evacuate exhaust from gas appliances. Even if I had decided to go with a gas furnace or water heater, there are high-efficiency units which exhaust via PVC piping directly through the walls or roof of a home, and I probably would have gone with those. So...what to do with that chimney?
You can probably guess where this is going.
Steve recommended something I've recommended to my clients in several cases--removing the chimney altogether. He's seen chimneys in older homes fall over due to houses settling unevenly over time and deteriorating bricks and mortar in the chimneys themselves, among other causes—so why keep the risk if the chimney isn't needed? So that's what my wife and I did—we took the chimney down, all the way to the basement floor.
The old chimney, as it sits today.
The chimney came down pretty easily--almost scarily easy. I didn't even have to use a hammer to separate the bricks above the roof. In the house, the mortar was crumbling in places. In other was a good move to remove the chimney.