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Opening Up a Victorian Chimney

One of the jobs I desperately wanted to tackle before Christmas was to open up the chimney in the smallest bedroom. Initially when I began planning the renovation for this room, I wasn't 100% sure whether I wanted to re-instate a fireplace in this room or not. It's not the biggest of bedrooms and putting a fireplace back in would mean taking up valuable room. For one thing, we'd never be able to push furniture against the chimney breast and secondly having the exposed hearth would mean less walkable floor space which in tern would make the room appear even smaller. 

But alas, I'm a sucker for period features - and I really just couldn't resist. That's a good enough excuse as any right? And totally overrules all the reasons not to put a fireplace back in? Who knows. One thing we did know, was that any fireplace we did put back into this room would definitely be a non-working fireplace. Despite having no central heating, it just doesn't make sense for us to have a working fire in a small bedroom. We probably wouldn't use it anyway and if we ever have kids and turn this into a child's room, it would be highly impractical. So we knew re-instating a fireplace would be just for decoration only.

When I researched unblocking an old chimney, every article or tutorial referred to a vent which should have been installed when the chimney was blocked up and using this as the starting point to open it back up. We had no vent (apparently this is bad and causes a build up of moisture - although we've had no problems, go figure) so we kind of just had to use our common sense. The area where the old fireplace had been was pretty obvious - the plaster was different and it was very much protruding from the rest of the plaster, so we simply chiselled this away to expose the brickwork behind where we could clearly see the bricked up opening.

Opening up a victorian chimney

It was pretty obvious where the original bricks met the newer bricks; they looked like an add-on and the mortar in them was a different colour. One of the bricks was actually indented with the name of our town (although I don't know what Lineier means?!) which I thought was a pretty cool find. 

old bricks in victorian chimney

Working from here, we simply began removing the bricks from underneath the arch (which is kind-of visible) at the highest point. We were expecting floods of soot and coal dust to come falling through, but remarkably and quite luckily, the inside had been closed off with a large piece of slate meaning there was very little dust. Boo-yah!

how to open up a chimney

removing bricks from chimney

installing a victorian fireplace

bricked up chimney

opening a bricked up chimney

Piece by piece, we removed each brick until we were left with a small opening. This isn't the original size of opening, but the fireplace that would have originally been in this room was clearly much larger than the smaller reclaimed one I had bought. Had we decided to remove all of the newer bricks, we would have been left with one giant oversized hole that was much too big for our fireplace, so we've just removed a small section instead. I secretly suspect the old fireback may be behind all these newer bricks as they'd been laid in a kind of fireback formation and there was bits of iron rods and what appeared to be an old grate poking through the brickwork.

victorian chimney opening

After a good clean up of soot and coal dust (we did eventually move the slate and ended up with two entire bags of pure soot) we then attached a length of wood inside the chimney opening. Since the fireplace we'd purchased to put in this space is much shorter in size than the opening and we needed something for the fireplace to attach onto. You can kind of see what I mean in the photos below...

victorian chimney

victorian fireplace in chimney

Initially I had bought a slightly larger fireplace to use in this room, but after discovering the one above, I simply couldn't resist. We'll still use the other one in the larger bedroom, which makes much more sense.

So, to cover up that giant hole we needed to plasterboard everything we'd just removed. I know, pain in the butt! I used the dot and dab technique with a few screws into wall plugs at the corners of the board, and a few more screws to secure it to the length of wood too. It was actually quite awkward to do because the newer bricks were more set back than the rest, so we had to work out where we needed thicker adhesive to sort-of bridge that gap to make the whole thing level and properly stuck. I ended up throwing away the first piece of plasterboard after having a bit of a fight with it. But second time round, it went much better.

dot and dab around chimney

plasterboarding a chimney opening

I then filled any edges with an undercoat plaster and cut a hole back out for the archway. And ta-da. It still needs plastering over, but we'll do that along with some of the other plastering jobs in this room.

plasterboard around victorian chimney


So that's how we opened, closed and then re-opened this old chimney. I'll do a separate post on actually fitting the fireplace, otherwise this post is going to go on for days. Plus, we're not quite there yet! It was much easier to do then expected - a job like this sounds and looks pretty daunting from other photos I'd seen online, but actually it was pretty straightforward and simple. I think it'll be well worth it too!

Have you ever opened up a chimney and re-instated a fireplace? Was it as simple/complex as you expected?

Total Costs

(rounded to the nearest pound)

New Tools Purchased:

None


Materials Used:

Plasterboard x2 (even though I binned one, boo!) £7
Dry-Wall adhesive £10
Undercoat Plaster free from previous jobs
Wood free from previous jobs
Screws £3

Total Cost: £20

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