Q: We have a new chimney on the side of our house. The old chimney runs three stories high and through the roof in the middle of the house. We need to dismantle it so that we can renovate and reclaim the space it’s taking up. Should we use a chisel and hammer or is there an easier way?
A: The easier way is through your local equipment rental center. Rent an electric demolition hammer. With a lot of work and a good deal of time, you should be able to safely take the chimney down and reclaim the inside of your house. Take your time, act deliberately and always keep safety the first order of business.
In answering a question a while back about a similar but smaller job, we suggested removing one brick at a time using a small sledgehammer known as a "single jack" and a cold chisel. We also talked about a friend of Kevin’s who just looped a chain around the top of a chimney, attached the other end of the chain to a pickup truck and pulled it down. Do the former and avoid the latter.
Single-jack sledges are hammers used by old-time miners in conjunction with a star chisel to hand-bore holes in solid rock. With each blow of the hammer, the miner turned the chisel, eventually creating a 6- to 8-inch hole suitable for placing dynamite charges.
Required safety gear for brick demolition is safety glasses or goggles, pants and long-sleeved shirt, and a set of stout work gloves.
The most challenging and dangerous part of the job will be to remove the portion of the chimney above the roofline. Make sure the person doing this part of the job is comfortable with heights and that he or she is properly secured with a rope or safety harness so that if a slip happens a fall doesn’t follow. …CONTINUED
For this part of the job we suggest using a hammer and cold chisel in place of the electric demolition hammer because they are much lighter. We also suggest renting scaffolding for a safe place to mount the roof and to act as a place to store the bricks before transporting them to the ground.
This is a two-person job: one on the roof wielding the hammer and chisel and sliding the bricks down to the person on the scaffold who stacks them for transport to the ground below. Once all the bricks are removed, attach a 5-gallon bucket to a rope and lower the bricks to the ground. Stack them in an out-of-the-way place. You should cover the hole in the roof with a tarp so if it rains the water stays outside.
The next part of the job is inside. One person can do it, but it’s easier with two: one operating the demolition hammer and the other receiving and stacking the bricks. Start at the top and work down removing one brick at a time. Make sure to protect the floors with drop cloths. Stack the bricks in the room and head downstairs to the second floor and repeat the process. Same thing for the first floor.
No need to take out the bricks in the crawl space, but do remove enough of them so that when it’s time you can frame a new floor.
Now it’s party time. Invite your friends over for a barbecue. But before firing up the coals, form a bucket brigade and move the stacks of bricks on the first, second and third floor out to the yard. Many hands make light of the work.
At the end of the party you’ll have a more open floor plan, holes in the ceiling and floors, and where the chimney once stood a stack of used bricks suitable for walkways or planters.
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