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Q: Is it safe to restore our old chimney to its original condition?

Cracked chimney arch

A homeowner wanted to revive the original 1870 features of a fireplace. The inglenook had been filled in at some point to create a smaller fireplace and the brickwork showed cracks, which gave him concern. After examining photographs,  we could see that at some time the aperture had in fact been enlarged and reinforced with vertical columns , probably to accommodate a cooking stove, and that the main arch had dropped a little causing the cracks.  However, the structure was sound. We recommended that much of the lower section be reconstructed in matching second-hand bricks and lime mortar and cautioned that the builders ensure the upper section of the chimney breast is appropriately supported while the work is done. 

Q: Do I need to heat, rebuild or even demolish my porch to solve damp problems?

Leaving his porch door open was not solving condensation issues, to the consternation of this home owner. However, having answered a few of our supplementary questions about the construction and condition of his porch, he was delighted to find out that the right ventilation would solve his problem. It was improving ventilation in the house, the source of the warm moist air moving into the relatively cold porch, which was required.  So, instead of spending £1000s on a new porch, he needed only to install some extractors in the kitchen and bathroom and use the existing, secure ventilation settings on his double glazed windows.

Q: Which builder’s solution is right?

This customer was concerned that removal of an unused kitchen chimney breast on the ground floor of his property had left the one above it unsupported, and he had been getting different advice from every builder he spoke to. We were able to confirm that the less expensive options of RSJ or gallows brackets were sound in his case, while cautioning him that that a bulkhead for the supporting downstand  would probably lead to a small loss of space in the kitchen.

Carl Vener BSc, MRICS

Carl Vener BSc, MRICS

Carl has worked as a Building and Quantity Surveyor since 1997 and before that worked for an architectural practice preparing technical drawings and measurement surveying on a wide range of domestic and commercial development projects.

Robert Desbruslais BSc, MRICS

Robert Desbruslais BSc, MRICS

Robert qualified as a Building Surveyor and member of the RICS in 1986 and has over 25 years’ experience in the industry. He is the founder and director of Ask A Surveyor and Desbruslais Chartered Surveyors.