chopped chimney, no support!

ks_toolgirlAugust 20, 2010

Hi! Still new here, please have patience with me?

I have, easily, a hundred questions! I'll start with ONE, lol. We were 1st time home-buyers when we bought this old girl, about 12 years ago. She's about 100 years old, has 2 floors - that's about all I can tell you so far. She was a "flip" house, which was not a big deal to us at the time, but turned out to be a HUGE deal.The ground floor had been gutted & totally redone, we have NO clue as to the original floor plan. (2nd story was untouched by the "butchers". When they gutted the 1st floor, it seems they thought the chimney was in an awkward spot. So they removed the brick & mortar, ONLY below 1st floor ceiling level, put a square of plywood under it, and covered the fiasco with a dropped ceiling. Oh - in their defence, (not!), they did put a 2X4 in at a corner of plywood that wasn't "taking a load off", resting directly on the joists. We wanted to put a wood stove in and use existing chimney, but "stove contractors" located and looked at the existing chimney remains and said not only could they not use it, but couldn't figure out how ALL that weight is being supported! We rather thought at the time they were trying to find a way to get more $$ out of us. We're such silly fools.

We've since put in a (gasp!) pellet stove, in a different room - venting directly outside. The partial chimney, btw, is centrally located in the house - and goes from 1st floor ceiling thru 2nd floor and is visible from outside above roof. We thought before, "gee, we'll have to have that re-pointed!". Not as naïve now, but still more so than we'd like to think.

Has anyone had this issue, and are we (by "we" I mean DH, lol), less concerned than we (he!), ought to be?

I'm going to add pics when I figure out how. Won't take me too long, I promise.

Thanks!

S

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mainegrower

This kind of unsupported chimney is not all that uncommon. Some were even built that way with no part of the chimney extending down to the cellar and a proper foundation. When the previous owners took out the first floor section, nothing seems to have collapsed, so my best guess would be that various framing members - second floor joists, roof rafters, attic joists - are bearing the weight. This probably means that the wooden frame parts are much closer to the chimney than modern building codes would allow.

Now comes the question of what to do. If there is a portion of the chimney in the cellar, adequately supported, then rebuilding the first floor section is a real option.(If there's nothing in the cellar, that could be created, too, but would add to cost.) I'm guessing the chimney has no lining, so adding either a stainless steel or poured in place liner would be necessary to make the chimney usable. I would ask one or more experienced masons about rebuilding the middle section (or more) and lining the chimney. They'd be able to assess any other code issues as well. This option would cost a bit, but a working code compliant masonry chimney would definitely add to your home's value.

If you decide that restoring the existing chimney is not something you want to do, then I'd have a home inspector or engineer evaluate the safety of what's left. It's very unlikely that it's going to come crashing down, but if your area is prone to high winds - not to mention earth tremors - a professional opinion would be worth it for peace of mind alone. Should the evaluation indicate that it's a real hazard, then removal - from the top down this time - is the only option.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2010 at 9:46AM
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ks_toolgirl

Thanks, mainegrower! DH thought pretty much the same thing, but I feel better hearing it from someone else with more experience and knowledge on the subject.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2010 at 2:40PM
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