We’ve already looked at removing a fireplace in our earlier article on the subject, which you can read here. So what to do with the gaping hole in the chimney breast?
You have two basic courses of action open to you. But before we get on to deal with those, first of all you’ll need to tidy up the floor where the superimposed hearth used to be!
Levelling the floor
This is pretty simple if you’ve got a solid floor or if you’re planning to carpet over a boarded floor. Just build up the constructional hearth to the same level as the rest of the floor, using self-levelling screed or mortar. Easy as that!
If you’ve got floorboards and you’re planning to make a feature of them, you’ll have a bit more work on your hands. Using a hammer and cold chisel, cut back the constructional hearth to where the floor meets the chimney breast, so that you can install a new joist and floorboards.
Covering the fireplace
As noted above, you’ve got two basic courses of action. You can cover the opening with a panel on a wooden frame, which will be easier to remove if you ever decide to fit a fireplace again in the future; or you can brick up the opening.
To cover the hole with a panel, you’ll first need to fit battens inside the opening – 50mm x 50mm (2″x2″) should do the job. They’ll need to be set back inside the opening to the depth of the panel, so that the panel lies flush with the plaster on the chimney breast. (Set it back a fraction further – say, 3mm or ⅛” – if you’re planning to add a skim of plaster rather than papering over it.) Then cut a piece of plasterboard to size and nail it to the opening – ivory side out if you’re papering over, grey side out if you’re plastering. Finally, when you’ve decorated, fit a plastic ventilator above the skirting, to prevent condensation in the chimney.
If you’re planning the more permanent bricking-up, then you’ll need to take out bricks from alternate courses, enabling you to “tooth in” the brickwork. You’ll also need to fit an airbrick in the centre of the hole, just above the skirting, to stop condensation forming. Plaster over the brickwork and allow it to dry thoroughly before decorating.
The final touch is to take off the old skirting from either side of the old fireplace, and replace the two pieces with a single one running the full width of the chimney breast.
Capping the chimney
Actually, that’s not quite the final touch! You’ll need to have the chimney capped too, so that air can circulate without rain being allowed in. There are plenty of cowls or caps designed for the purpose that can be used to replace the conventional chimney pot, or you can simply bed a half-round ridge tile in cement.