Removing a fireplace is a good way of liberating a bit of extra floor space in a room where the fires are no longer in use – for instance, where coal fires have been banned or where you’ve fitted a central heating system that doesn’t rely on a fire to heat the boiler. It may also be necessary if you want to replace an ugly modern fireplace with one that’s more in keeping with the period the house was built in.
- A club hammer
- A bolster chisel
- Safety goggles
- Heavy-duty gloves
- A crowbar or other sturdy lever
- A screwdriver
It’s a fairly mucky and heavy job, so you’ll want to put plenty of dustsheets down. It’d be a good idea to get the chimney swept as well!
First, check to see whether the fire surround is built on top of the hearth. Usually, the superimposed cosmetic hearth is fitted after the surround. If the surround was built on top of the hearth, you’ll need to remove it first.
To remove the hearth, use the club hammer and bolster to break the seal between the cosmetic hearth and the constructional hearth below. Wedges can help here. Then lever the cosmetic hearth free and (with an assistant) lift it out. Mind your backs – it’ll be heavy!
Fire surrounds are normally installed by screwing them to the wall – they’re fitted with metal lugs for that purpose. You’ll need to chip away the plaster around the perimeter of the surround to locate the lugs, then clear away the plaster from around the lugs and undo the screws. The chances are that they may be stuck, so it may be necessary to give them a squirt of penetrating oil and leave them for a few hours or overnight. If they still won’t budge, you’ll have to drill out the heads.
Once that’s done, you can then remove the surround:
- Brick and stone surrounds can be dismantled piece by piece, breaking the mortar joints with the bolster.
- Wooden surrounds are often screwed on to battens fixed to the chimney breast. The screws may be concealed; locate them, chisel out the filler or wooden plug concealers and unscrew the surround.
- Marble surrounds are made in sections; remove the mantel shelf first, then the lintel, then the jambs.
After you’ve removed the fireplace, you’ll need to close up the opening! You can read how to do that in our follow-up article:
Repair Wizard: Covering a fireplace