A chimney and a fireplace is a classic and unbreakable combination, but sometimes, you see homes with a chimney, but when you go inside, you notice there’s no actual fireplace. Why is that?
Chimney removal is considerably more expensive than removing or covering up only the firebox, so many homeowners decide to remove or cover the fireplace itself up but leave the chimney, as it is much cheaper that way. Sometimes, the chimney is still in use to exhaust other oil/gas-fueled appliances.
Although chimneys look great, they do require upkeep when they’re in use. But how about unused chimneys? Do they need to be maintained throughout the year? In this article, we’ll cover everything you should know about houses with chimneys and no fireplaces, including a way to discover if you do actually have a fireplace behind your wall!
Why Do Some Houses Have A Chimney But No Fireplace?
Houses built before 1900 usually contained a chimney to exhaust fumes from the fireplace. As time went on, other heating methods like gas and electric became the standard, removing the need for traditional fireplaces and chimneys. Chimney removal is considerably more expensive than removing the firebox, so most homeowners opted to keep the chimney.
Chimneys used to be very common back in the day, as fireplaces were the main source of heating a house. Before the 1900s there really weren’t many other options, so most houses built before 1900 were built with a fireplace and chimney.
As technology moved on, other heating options became the standard; boilers, water heaters, etc. Now that these appliances were heating the house, a fireplace became obsolete and a chimney was really nothing more than a hole in your house.
Most homeowners opted to cover up or remove the fireplace, but removing the chimney was much more expensive. And by covering up the fireplace, you basically sealed that ‘hole in your house’, so most people were satisfied.
Nowadays, we find the same reasons; removing a chimney is just too expensive to justify. Removing or covering up the firebox itself is fine, but having to remove the chimney and seal up the hole that’s left behind is just too much work or costs too much money. That’s why most people just leave the chimney be and remove only the firebox.
And besides, a chimney is starting to become a design choice. Some people just want the aesthetic touch of a chimney without having an actual fireplace.
What Is A Chimney For If There Is No Fireplace?
Chimneys are used to exhaust fumes out of your home. Some modern heating appliances still use the chimney to exhaust their fumes. If you look at your chimney, you can check how many flues there are. Each one corresponds to a different appliance.
At their core, chimneys ventilate your home by exhausting fumes and smoke. But even though you don’t have a fireplace connected to your chimney anymore, many modern-day appliances still use the chimney vent to exhaust their fumes. It’s really just the easiest option, as everything is already in place, it just needs to be connected with each other.
Heaters like boilers, stoves, and furnaces all need to exhaust their waste, and they’re usually connected to your chimney. In fact, if you take a look at your chimney, you can check how many flues you have. These are all signs of different appliances making use of your chimney, even if there’s no fireplace present.
Do Unused Chimneys Need To Be Cleaned?
Unused chimneys need to be cleaned as moisture and debris can still build up in them. The chimney is still exposed to the outside elements, leaving a hole in your house. The outside elements, as well as pests, could cause damage in the long run.
Even when not in use, the Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends having your chimney professionally cleaned and inspected at least once a year.
Since chimneys are just a big hollow space, it’s a prime candidate for pests to make it their home and for debris to build up. Both these issues could lead to some serious damage down the line. Cleaning your chimney every now and then helps to prevent these issues.
Especially debris buildup can lead to some serious damage. It could lead to water damage from rain and other moisture, but it could also block the vent. And as we discussed earlier, chimneys that aren’t connected to a fireplace are often used by other appliances, so if your chimney is blocked, all the fumes and smoke from other appliances can’t be properly ventilated.
You can either clean it yourself, but it is recommended to have a professional take a look at it once a year. Not only will they clean and sweep the chimney, but they also check for any potential damage and will repair it if necessary.
Do Unused Chimneys Need To Be Vented?
Unused chimneys need to be vented as moisture can still build up inside. This could lead to damage within the home, and sometimes, gas could be trapped inside, as it has nowhere else to go. Properly venting an unused chimney will prevent expensive repairs later down the line.
Just like how an unused chimney needs to be cleaned and maintained, it also needs to be ventilated. We’ve talked about how chimneys that are no longer connected to a fireplace are commonly used by other modern-day appliances, and they leave behind potentially harmful or dangerous gases that need to be vented. You don’t want those trapped inside your chimney.
If you vent your chimney, these gases will be properly exhausted into the open air, where it won’t harm your family or cause damage to your home’s structure.
Another reason why you need your chimney to be vented has to do with moisture build-up. This could lead to mold, which in turn can lead to both weaker walls and a weaker chimney. As you can imagine, weakened walls will be an expensive and urgent problem.
Luckily, properly venting your chimney isn’t too difficult. There are several options:
- Install a flue ventilator. This stops rain from coming down your chimney but still allows air to pass through.
- Drill a small hole inside your chimney that allows air to pass through.
- Don’t completely seal both ends of the chimney. This allows air to pass through, ventilating the chimney.
These are 3 great options, but really, you just need air to be able to get inside the chimney. It doesn’t really matter how difficult it is for the air to get inside, you just need it to be able to get there.
And while we’re on the topic; outside air is better for venting, as the warmer air from inside your home contains more moisture, which is what you’re trying to get rid of!
Do Chimneys Add Value To A Home If There Is No Fireplace?
A chimney adds about 6% in home value, whereas a chimney plus a fireplace can add as much as 12% to your home’s value. Adding a fireplace to your home will commonly pay itself off. This is mainly caused by the surge of interest in fireplaces.
It’s a well-known fact that fireplaces can up the value of your home. The demand for fireplaces has been rising throughout the year, with over 55% of people wanting a fireplace inside their homes. And since not all houses have a fireplace, the ones that do are naturally rising in price.
In fact, a study done by the National Association of Real Estate Appraisers shows that a fireplace adds anywhere between 6-12% additional value to a home. And considering the price of a home, it’s safe to say that a fireplace usually earns itself back.
But what about those homes that still have the chimney but no fireplace? Chimneys don’t add as much value as a chimney and fireplace combination, but chimneys in and of themselves are pretty expensive, averaging at around $10.000. This can be considered as added value, but without a firebox beneath it, you shouldn’t expect the same 6-12% added value.
Instead, a chimney adds up to 6% added value. This is still a nice percentage, but not as nice as the complete set. Now, installing a fireplace before selling your home is definitely not a bad idea, especially if the chimney is already present. The fireplace will add enough value to the home to make it worthwhile.
Or better yet, as we discuss at the end of this article, you can try and see if the fireplace is still present inside your home. Fireplace removal, although cheaper than chimney removal, is still expensive, so many people simply placed a wall before it, leaving the fireplace intact, ready for you to find!
How Long Does It Take To Take Down A Chimney?
Chimney removal takes between 1 and 5 days, depending on the structure and what you want to be removed (chimney stack, chimney breast, etc.). Chimney removal is usually done by at least 2 tradespeople.
Chimney removal isn’t an easy task; there’s a lot that needs to happen, both in terms of work and preparation. Firstly, you should always have a team of professionals remove your chimney. Chimneys are often in use as part of the support, so removing the chimney can compromise the structural integrity.
The removal itself usually takes anywhere between 1 and 5 days, depending on the complexity.
- Removing the chimney stack alone takes about a day.
- Removing the chimney breast alone takes 1-2 days.
- Entire chimney removal takes about 3-5 days.
External chimney removal is the easiest and doesn’t take as long as internal chimney removal. Chimney removal is also quite messy, so internal chimney removal usually requires a lot of prep-work beforehand.
And as mentioned earlier, even if there isn’t a fireplace anymore, the chimney might still be in use, so that needs to be checked and remedied as well. This will not only add more costs to the overall picture but will also lengthen the removal process.
Lastly, you’ll need to consider insulation, repainting, and cleaning, which are all necessary after the removal. They’re usually included in the service, but they too lengthen the removal process.
How To Find Out If There’s A Fireplace Behind Your Wall
Check your flooring plan to see if there was originally a fireplace present. You can also check how many flues you have. When you follow them, they will lead you to the sealed-up fireplace.
Chimney removal is expensive, but fireplace removal isn’t exactly cheap either. So just like with chimneys, many people actually decide to just seal their fireplace behind the wall. This is an easy and cost-effective solution, but it also means that there’s still a fireplace present.
Whereas most people back in the day wanted to get rid of their fireplace, most people nowadays enjoy the aesthetic and would actually want one. So if your house has a chimney but there’s no fireplace present, chances are it’s actually hidden behind one of your walls!
Although it might sound easy to find the fireplace, it’s actually pretty difficult. Here are some things you can do:
- Check your houses (flooring) plans to see if there was a fireplace present.
- Check your chimneys flue and follow it.
- Remove flooring to see if there was a hearth present somewhere.
- Knock on walls to see if there’s some place hollow.
- Check the chimney breast to locate your fireplace’s opening.
- Look for clues on your wall (exposed bricks, bumps, or the wall randomly sticking out a few inches).
After locating your fireplace, don’t fire it up just yet. If it has been hidden behind a wall for some years, it’s best to have it inspected by a professional.
They will make sure everything’s still properly connected and vented, ensuring it’s safe to light her up!