If you’ve reached this guide at the end of your research, then you don’t need us to tell you what a frustrating experience it can be trying to figure out exactly how much chimney breast removal costs.
Search online, and you’ll find that most contractors and home renovation experts want to talk to you about demolishing your whole chimney, including not just the breast, but the stack, and all its associated components all at once.
This is great if your chimney is currently a chore to maintain or is causing long-term damage to your property and needs to be demolished entirely. Yet if you simply want to get rid of your chimney breast to create some extra space in your living room or replace that old-looking fireplace with something more modern, then total chimney removal is unnecessary, not to mention expensive.
That’s why we’ve put together this detailed guide focusing solely on the costs of removing chimney breasts and built-in fireplaces or firewood racks. Giving you only the information you really need to create a suitable budget, no more, no less.
Below, we’ll discuss every phase of the project, from taking out the chimney breast to removing refinishing the wall, and outline the costs involved. We’ll also look at those often overlooked parts of chimney removal, such as checking for asbestos in older homes and removing that post-demolition waste, and talk about how much you could realistically expect to pay for them.
A chimney breast may be an attractive focal point in some homes, but in others it’s simply a nuisance that takes up space and should be removed safely by a trained professional.
How Much Does Chimney Breast Removal Cost?
Chimney breast removal costs run from a few hundred dollars into several thousands depending on the size of the project, location of the chimney breast, and the age of the property.
Across the United States, the typical price for a full chimney breast removal costs anywhere between $2,500 and $6,000, though the most common price is around $3,500. Meanwhile, a partial demolition -literally just taking out the fireplace- may run as little as $500 to $2,000.
These prices are fully comprehensive, meaning they cover labor charges plus any equipment or materials that may be required.
Still, let’s face it:
Even $2,500 is still a pretty sizable figure. So why is removing a chimney breast so expensive?
Simply put, it’s because the majority of chimneys -even those in modern homes- tend to be fully integrated into the overall structure of the property, meaning there’s much more to it than simply having at that chimney breast with a trusty sledgehammer.
Instead, it needs the experience, expertise, and essential equipment of a trained specialist to do the job safely, without causing any structural damage to the rest of your property.
It’s also very important to remember that, after the chimney breast has been removed, you’ll need to invest more on refinishing the room, plastering over the area where that chimney used to sit and covering it with a good coat of paint or wallpaper.
Below, we’ll dive into the details of chimney breast removals, looking at the costs associated with each aspect of the job, including fireplace removals and redecorating. As a bonus, you can also install a fire pit in your backyard.
Cost to Remove a Full Chimney Breast: $2,500 and $6,000
Removing a full chimney breast like this one often requires taking out the fireplace and surrounding brickwork, though it still works out less expensive than removing the entire chimney
First of all, the good news:
If you only need to remove the chimney breast, this will cost you much less than taking out the entire chimney. There will be no need to demolish the chimney stack, and this generally helps to keep costs down.
The bad news, however, is that simply removing the chimney breast requires plenty of reinforcement to ensure that the rest of the chimney structure and surrounding walls remain strong and secure. This alone could cost anywhere from $750 – $1,500.
Labor costs are, of course, another major factor determining the price of your project. Unlike jobs such as house rendering or general decorating that could be done solo, demolition-based jobs like this one are at least a two-person task. This is largely due to safety concerns when dealing with heavy brickwork that could potentially compromise structural stability.
Speaking of stability, some projects benefit greatly from a consultation carried out by a qualified structural engineer. Visiting your home, an engineer can inspect the chimney breast -and the larger chimney structure- before advising on the safest and most efficient way to remove it.
Though hiring an engineer will initially add to the cost of your project, they will usually deliver great value for money as they can advise on the most affordable solution and help to avoid costly mistakes.
All of these factors combined typically average out at around $3,500, though prices do vary between $2,500 and $6,000 depending on scale and complexity.
These figures include labor charges, professional fees, and all equipment (including structural reinforcements), but don’t include the cost of plastering, decorating, or hanging an entirely new wall.
Cost to Remove a Fireplace: $500 – $2,000
Removing a fireplace like this one works out cheaper than removing the entire chimney breast, though you’ll still need to budget several hundred dollars
A traditional fireplace can make an attractive addition to any room, but not everyone wants to keep theirs exactly as it is.
Maybe your fireplace is taking up too much room and you want it gone altogether. Perhaps the one you’ve got has become something of an eyesore which clashes with the contemporary decor of your living room and requires an upgrade to a more modern electric fireplace like this stylish example from PuraFlame.
Whatever your situation may be, you’ll benefit from setting aside a budget of around $1,000 for fireplace removal. This is around the national average price, though certain projects could cost as little as $500 and others as much as $2,000.
The actual price you pay will be determined partly by where that fireplace is located in your home, but mostly on the type of fireplace you have.
Cost to Remove a Wooden Stove Fireplace: $500 – $1,000
A wood fire may look impressive, but it’s both inefficient and unhealthy and should be replaced with a modern, electric fireplace
Though old, woodstoves may make a striking focal point in your home, they’re hardly the most environmentally-friendly way to heat up a room, nor are they ever the safest.
Wood stoves can often be a major source of air pollutants and allergies in the modern home. If you find yourself using your air purifier more than usual when you’ve had that fire roaring, this is why.
Fortunately, wood stoves are fairly inexpensive to remove. Most homeowners will pay around $600, though in some areas this may be as little as $500. More complex projects such as those where the wood stove is installed on a second floor may run as high as $1,000.
What’s more, if you loved the aesthetic charm of your old stove but not necessarily it’s negative impact on your health, you can achieve the same look with none of the consequences by swapping it for a modern stove-style electric heater.
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Electric and Gas Fireplace Insert Removal Costs: $700 – $2,000
Electric fireplaces are very easy to uninstall and may be one of the very few instances where you could safely get away with doing the job yourself if you’re confident that you know what you’re doing.
If you decide to hire a professional you should set aside at least $300 – $500 for a qualified electrician, plus $100 – $200 to dismantle the mantelpiece and hearth.
Gas fires, on the other hand, are much trickier to take apart and, since there’s carbon monoxide involved, should always be left to the experts. A gas fireplace will run on either natural gas or propane, both of which require a gas line connection which must be first switched off and safely taken apart. Only then can the rest of the fireplace be removed.
For this, you’d be wise to hire a professional gas fitter, setting aside $1,000 – $2,000 for the whole project.
Ventless Fireplace Removal Costs: $750 – $1,500
Much like gas fireplaces, ventless fireplaces run on natural gas or propane, but emit much lower levels of carbon monoxide and therefore don’t require the same level of ventilation.
That said, gas is still dangerous stuff if it leaks, so it’s always wise to bring in an expert who knows what they’re doing.
This should cost an average of $750, though if removing your ventless fireplace requires some additional demolition work to take out the surrounding brickwork, this could send the costs up to around $1,500.
Cost to Redecorate After Removing a Chimney Breast: $150 – $1,000
After removing the chimney breast, you’ll need to spend some time painting and redecorating the wall against which it used to stand
Whether you’ve taken out that chimney breast because it was affecting the structural integrity of your property or simply to free up some space, it’s going to leave a pretty noticeable blemish on the interior design of your room.
Left untreated, that prominent part on the wall where your chimney breast once stood may prove to be more than just an eyesore, it could also be a potential cause of damp and other problems, so it needs to be taken care of.
In most cases, this part of the project could cost you as little as $150 – $500 if all you need to do is replaster the wall and add a fresh coat of paint.
This is especially true if you’re taking this on as a DIY project, as you’ll only need to buy some quality interior paint and put the work in.
On the other hand, if you need to damp proof that wall, this will increase your budget by a significant amount, and could mean that you end up spending anywhere from $600 – $1,000.
Costs to Dispose of a Chimney Breast: $150 – $800
Disposing of the post-removal waste can cost several hundred dollars, though you can always save money by doing this part of the project yourself
After all the hard work has been done and your chimney breast has been successfully dismantled, there’s still one very important part of the project left:
Removing all of the rubble, debris, and other waste.
If you’re lucky, your contractor may offer this service at no extra cost, bringing a dumpster with them at the start of the project and simply hauling it away when the work is done.
In most cases, however, this is a service you’ll have to pay extra for.
If your contactor offers waste removal as an add-on service, they should charge around $200- $250 for this, though costs could run up to $600 – $800 if they have to rent a dumpster.
Speaking of which, if all the responsibility falls on you to remove all of that post-demolition waste, then it’s reasonable to expect to pay between $290 and $400 to hire a dumpster for a week. Usually, these prices will include gate fees and removal costs, though occasionally these will be added onto the total in accordance with your local rates.
Of course, if you already own a decent truck or a similar vehicle that is well suited for disposing of heavy waste, you can forgo the majority of these costs and do the work yourself, paying nothing more than gate fees at your local landfill.
Asbestos in Fireplace Construction and The Cost to Remove It
Though it may seem shocking today, asbestos was a common material used in the construction of fireplaces all the way up to the late 1970s and only stopped being used in the 1990s.
Fortunately, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission banned artificial fireplace ash and embers containing asbestos back in 1977. However, asbestos was also used to create Transite, a brand of cement that was eventually phased out by the mid-80s but was never officially banned, meaning it could have been used to build new fireplaces as recently as the early 1990s.
If your fireplace was originally built this side of the year 2000, that obviously isn’t going to be an issue, but if you’re thinking of removing a much older one, then asbestos removal is something you’re going to have to consider.
Since it is such a dangerous product (responsible for thousands of deaths and diseases every year), getting rid of asbestos isn’t something you should do yourself.
Instead, set aside a budget of around $500 for professional asbestos testing and removal. With this service, a qualified contractor will survey your property to check if there’s any asbestos there to begin with. If not, you’ll pay only a small call-out fee. If so, they’ll get to work on removing and disposing of that hazardous asbestos in a way that is completely safe and harmless.
Key Questions to Ask a Chimney Removal Specialist
Not all contractors are created equal, so when it comes to choosing the right one for your project, there are a few key questions you’ll need to ask.
This not only ensures that you enjoy the peace of mind in knowing your home is in the safe, capable hands of experienced professionals, but also helps you get a firm idea as to whether there may be any additional costs you may need to pay for in addition to basic labor fees.
The kind of questions you should be asking while researching contractors include:
Is Waste Removal Included in the Price?
Whether it’s converting a loft, building an extension, or removing a chimney breast, there’s one golden rule that always applies when hiring a contractor for any project:
Sure, there’s a lot of debris left over after taking out the chimney breast, and sure, it would make sense for your contractor to get rid of it for you, but never assume that waste removal is automatically included in the quoted price.
Some of the better quality contractors out there will absolutely have the facilities to dispose of your demolished chimney and will happily take care of it for you at no extra cost. Others may add an extra $100 – $250 onto the total, while others still may leave it entirely up to you to sort out.
As such, it always pays to ask so that you know exactly how much you need to pay.
Do You Include Drop Clothes and Protective Sheets?
There’s no escaping the fact that a demolition project like this one is going to be a messy affair with plenty of dust and debris flying about the place.
Of course, a skilled contractor will always do their best to limit the mess they make, but you’ll still find it beneficial to temporarily remove as much furniture as possible from the room and cover-up any fixed-down items of furniture, as well as walls, windows, and doors, with drop cloths and protective sheets.
Again, you should find that most reputable contractors will be able to provide these for you at no extra cost, though don’t take that for granted.
The good news is that if they don’t, you can always buy your own drop clothes without adding a great deal to your budget.
Who is Responsible for Repairing and Plastering the Wall Afterwards?
Nine times out of ten, your contractor will only take responsibility for demolishing your chimney breast and possibly getting rid of all the resultant rubble, leaving any wall repairs, reconstruction, and redecorating up to you.
As we’ve already discussed, this could add anywhere from $150 – $500 to the total cost of your project depending on the extent of the work involved.
Still, it’s always worth having that discussion with your contractor as they may be able to help. Even if they don’t offer to carry out the work at cost (as some might), they may still be able to offer you a better deal than you’d get by hiring a different contractor.
After all, since they’re already working on your home, there’s no additional travel or set-up time involved. This will greatly reduce their overheads and thus they’re likely to pass those savings on to you.
Are You Insured and a Member of a Reputable Trade Organization?
Last but by certainly no means least, don’t forget to ask your contractor about their credentials, keeping in mind that the consequences of hiring a rogue or under-qualified tradesman could end up doubling the cost of your project.
If they leave the work unfinished, that means hiring another professional to come in and wrap up the job. If they do poor work, that also means you may need to go back out and bring in another contractor to fix the damage.
So don’t be afraid to ask about their skills and experience, as well as whether they’re fully insured. If they are, there’s a greater chance that you’ll be covered if something unfortunate does go wrong.
Likewise, if they’re a member of an industry association such as Associated Builders and Contractors or the National Association of Home Builders, then not only does this speak volumes about the quality of their work, but it also ensures that you have a suitable recourse should something go awry.
Frequently Asked Questions About Chimney Breast Removal
Paying a professional contractor to remove your chimney breast may be more expensive, but it’s also a safer, sensible option
How Long Does it Take to Remove a Chimney Breast?
For an average-sized chimney breast in a typical American home, expect the whole project to last at least five days. This includes all parts of the project, including setting up any supporting structure, demolishing the chimney breast itself, and cleaning away the debris. It also includes re-plastering and other finishes.
For larger or more complex projects, two working weeks may be required, while smaller fireplace removals could take no more than three-five days.
Can I Remove a Chimney Breast Myself?
There are some home renovation and maintenance projects (like replacing a roof, for example) which, although they’d certainly benefit from a professional touch, can technically be taken on as a DIY project.
Removing a chimney breast isn’t one of those projects.
For one thing, that brickwork can be seriously heavy, meaning a solo mission is simply out of the question. For another, maintaining structural support and taking out that chimney breast in a way that doesn’t damage your property is a skill all of its own, a skill that only an experienced contractor is likely to possess.
Sure, you could break out that sledgehammer and have a go on your own, but this is certainly one case where the old adage that ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,’ certainly applies.
After all, one wrong move could cause all kinds of costly issues that only result in your project taking much more time and money to complete.
Do I Need a Permit to Remove a Chimney Breast?
This is likely to depend both on the size and scale of the project, as well as the individual state that you’re in.
In some states, you’ll only need a permit to remove the full chimney, stack, and all. In these cases, chimney breast removal counts as a general home improvement project and requires no special permission.
In others, however, you’ll first need to consult your local building authority to ensure that the job done is up to code.
Your contractor should be able to advise you about any permits you may or may not need, though it’s always best to consult your local government offices just to be on the safe side.
Budgeting for Chimney Breast Removals: Where You Can (and Can’t) Afford to Cut Costs
By now, we’ve covered every last little detail involved in the removal of your chimney breast, all the way from hiring a structural engineer and asbestos survey, all the way cleaning up the mess and redecorating the area afterwards.
Each of these stages is undoubtedly important in its own right, but nobody could blame you for wanting to cut costs wherever possible, especially if you only have a limited budget to begin with.
That said, there are some parts of a project like this which may seem unnecessary at first glance but can make all the difference between success and disaster.
If you know for a fact that your fireplace has been in place since before the early 1990s, then you’ll absolutely benefit from paying for an asbestos survey. Even if it turns out that there’s nothing to worry about, that small survey fee is worth paying to avoid the plethora of problems that could arise if you or your contractor are unexpectedly exposed to asbestos.
Speaking of your contractors, this is another area where it always pays to spend money.
Removing an entire chimney breast isn’t as easy as knocking out a few bricks and throwing them away. It often means giving careful consideration to the structure of your property, using reinforced supports and working carefully to avoid damage.
Though you could potentially do this yourself, it will generally prove much safer to hire an experienced professional.
So far, so expensive, but what about those areas where it may be perfectly OK to cut costs?
In our experience, there are two key parts of the project where you could save the most money by doing the work yourself rather than paying a contractor, and they both come after the actual demolition process.
The first involves that all-important, post-demolition redecorating. Even if it requires nothing more than some basic plastering and a fresh coat of paint, you’ll still spend less money doing this work yourself than you would if you brought in outside help.
The second is related to waste disposal, though this is only true if your chimney removal specialist doesn’t include it as part of their quote.
Hiring someone to remove all that rubble and debris for you often means paying their time as well as to hire a dumpster. If your main concern is with keeping costs as low as possible, you can avoid this expense simply by doing the grunt work yourself, loading up a truck and taking all that waste to your local waste processing facility.
Sure, it will cost you some time, but it will also help you save hundreds of dollars that could be better spent on more exciting things.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.