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Removing chimney from lounge but not upstairs? Please help..

(25 Posts)
GreenEggsAndNichts Sun 30-Sep-12 20:12:07

We've had a survey back on the house we're trying to buy, and it's raised a few issues. The most important appears to be the fact that at some point, they had the chimney removed from the lounge, but left intact upstairs. The EA is on me about whether or not we want to proceed, I've said we need to see that they have paperwork for having done such a thing. She's trying to contact the owner now (suspect they're irritated with us already because the valuation we had has said the house is worth 35k less than our current bid, but that's another issue).

Yes, I've sent an email to our solicitor, and will ring her in the morning about what to do. However, I thought I would ask here: is it possible to safely do this? Remove half of a chimney with most of it left on an upper floor? If this is possible, what kind of support would need to be added?

Thanks for any help smile

xkcdfangirl Sun 30-Sep-12 20:19:00

Unless they put in a strong support beam when they removed the chimney, it's quite likely to be a problem. I would be very very cautious. There probably won't be paperwork. It could cost you quite a lot of money to put right - probably easier to remove the rest of the chimney than to put in support. If you love the house enough to take on the risk of this additional work costing you several thousand pounds, you might want to reconsider your offer. If there is paperwork and building regs approval then there is no need to worry, as that can be taken as evidence that the work was done well and thought through properly and there is sufficient support for the weight of the upper chimney in place.

PorkyandBess Sun 30-Sep-12 20:22:10

This is something that should have been done with the involvement of building control.

If no structural support was added to compensate for the removal, it could cause a problem due to eccentric loading.

If they didn't have a building notice for it, they can apply retrospectively (if it was done after 1985) or take out indemnity insurance. Either way, I'd want a structural engineer's report on it.

tricot39 Sun 30-Sep-12 21:02:51

It is possible to install a beam to do this. It would normally be visible as a boxing/bulkhead to the ceiling. Call building control tomorrow before 10 and ask if they can confirm if it was done with.their approval. If not proceed with caution unless they provide paperwork.

Isabeller Sun 30-Sep-12 22:13:43

I'm about to get a chimney breast removed from one room but not the room above so I've had to get advice recently.

I don't know all the ins and outs of the regulations but there definitely should be a supporting beam which could have been put into the ceiling so not visible (depending on the structure of the house) and there should have been building regs approval for the work so the council will have a record. Our council has an online searchable database of previous planning/building regs decisions but I seem to remember it taking rather a long time to find and search!

If you ring the building control dept in the relevant council they might well tell you.

There are also regulations about informing and getting consent from a neighbour if the chimneys in both houses are part of the same structure. DDs neighbour removed a chimney breast without supporting it above and this caused problems for both houses.

Just in case you're interested I've had an estimate of approx £3,500 for all the work of taking out a chimney breast, installing a beam, disposing of rubble and making good over a large area so just putting in a beam and a small amount of making good should be a lot less.

GreenEggsAndNichts Mon 01-Oct-12 20:11:35

Thank you everyone for the quick responses. They helped to make my decision today, as well as make me sound like I knew what I was talking about at short notice.

It's good to hear that it's not terribly expensive to fix. However, we've had a long few days with this seller since we had our survey- he took immediate exception to the fact that the survey valued it at 30k less than our bid, for starters, as if we'd done this on purpose. We were willing to proceed (I know for a fact I'd never get a house the size this house is, in that area, for the price of the valuation) if he had the right paperwork for the major work he's obviously carried out. I assumed I'd hear back yes or no today; I heard from our solicitor that our EA had contacted her to tell her he'd decided to put it back on the market!

We're cash buyers, offering his asking price. All we wanted was paperwork showing the work was done properly. He's having none of it. We'll have to walk away, having paid for surveys and reports and blah blah blah. I'm exhausted. And still need a place to live. sad

GreenEggsAndNichts Mon 01-Oct-12 20:12:49

(meant to add, the house needs loads of other work as well, so the chimney is just one of many other things. It just happens to be something we wouldn't have noticed on our own, and it, combined with other questionable DIY mentioned on the survey, was our tipping point.)

TalkinPeace2 Mon 01-Oct-12 21:46:34

we bought a house with exactly that situation.
had the upstairs chimney removed after we moved in and the cosmetic part of the chimney propped up on some big beams and then the lenders were happy.
messy but not very expensive.

the full rewiring was the big job on that house (top floor sockets hacked into lighting circuit!!)

Mins Mon 01-Oct-12 22:19:27

Greeneggs - you must be gutted - nightmare but you are probably best out of it. We have a dilemma with our chimney breasts at the moment which are corner ones so really take up lots of space in the room.
Isabeller - we are trying to get quotes at the moment for removal of ours both upstairs and downstairs - can I just ask whereabouts in UK you are? £3,500 seems an awful lot - I'm hoping our quotes don't come in so high.

GreenEggsAndNichts Tue 02-Oct-12 09:55:39

Talkin I think we'd consider doing it in any other situation. It's just all felt very wrong the last few days, and there's a LOT of work that needs doing on the house. Things we already knew about but were willing to sort out ourselves, and considered when we made our bid. I think this is just the straw that broke the camel's back. My (German) husband cannot understand why someone would do half of a job, without completing proper paperwork, and is now worried that other jobs done around the house might be similar- cosmetic but not thorough.

Again, really appreciate the advice and comments here. I'm totally new to this house buying lark. smile

FatherReboolaConundrum Tue 02-Oct-12 11:08:43

Sounds like you almost bought the house that we walked away from in Feb! Chimney breast removed, large extension, and loft conversion, all with no building regs (and no planning permission, so loft couldn't count as a bedroom). Vendors lied about the date work had been carried out, to hide the fact that they'd done all this after mid-1990s building regs changes. There was no way of knowing if the place was structurally sound, and since the people selling it were a pair of liars covering up for the work of a cowboy builder, we weren't prepared to bet our lives and all our money on it being alright.

GreenEggsAndNichts Tue 02-Oct-12 14:02:36

Father wow outside of the loft conversion, the houses sound identical! They did a large extension as well, removed part of a supporting wall, as well as this chimney thing. Because we happen to be particularly keen to move, we were willing to put up with most of the other issues and do the other major things which were brought up in the survey. The fact that the seller won't even respond when we say we'll go through with the sale as long as we see that this work has been done properly tells me there is potentially a lot more we don't know about. I mean, why else would he turn down a cash sale which was due to complete in a week? At his asking price? Not even respond to us, fgs? sigh. I suspect we're well rid, even though it doesn't feel like it at the moment.

TalkinPeace2 Tue 02-Oct-12 14:12:01

Its a buyers market at the moment.
Be willing to haggle hard and keep looking - even knock on doors in a street you like as certainly in my road there are four signs up but three more who I know would move if they could ..

Isabeller Tue 02-Oct-12 17:56:04

Mins I'm in the SE.

Approximately £1500 of the estimate is materials and I think the beam is pretty expensive. You'll be removing more of the total chimney breast so the support needed will be much less. Originally I wanted to get rid of the whole chimney breast up the house but it would mean kitchen and disabled bathroom affected and I can't afford the disruption or cost of redoing everything.

Isabeller Tue 02-Oct-12 17:56:52

I did start a thread asking for advice about reducing costs but no takers sad

Mins Tue 02-Oct-12 23:27:00

Isabeller - thanks for this. Am stilll a bit worried about the cost - just waiting for people to get back to me but worried we won't be able to afford it! I saw your other thread about reducing costs and the fact that no-one had responded! Any more tips you find do let me know.

GreenEggsAndNichts Thu 04-Oct-12 11:36:26

Okay, follow-up to this: out solicitor has written to say that the vendor has claimed that the works were carried out over 20 years ago, and therefore he doesn't feel that he should have to take out indemnity insurance.

What does this mean? Surely he'd need to do it if we were getting a mortgage? We're just meant to go by his word (which doesn't mean much in the scheme of things, his DIY projects around the house are questionable at best) that the work was carried out 20 years ago?

If anyone has any ideas on this, please let me know.

TalkinPeace2 Thu 04-Oct-12 13:00:19

That smells funny .... if you see what I mean.
Give him the choice : Indemnity insurance or drop the price by £3k to let you pay to have it rectified.
If he refuses both, walk away as now its been highlighted to his solicitor, EVERY buyer will have to be told ....

I can believe it's been like it for years.
The house we bought had been with the unsupported chimney for at least 10 years (according to the next door neighbour after we bought the place)

GreenEggsAndNichts Thu 04-Oct-12 13:16:14

I agree, I'm very close to walking away from it entirely, if I'm honest.

Out of curiosity, though: you say that now that his solicitor has been informed, other potential buyers will have to be informed as well. What about the fact that he obviously knew it was done etc? He's only owned the house 4 years or so. He must've had to go through this process when he had a mortgage or whatever. So, legally, it only needs to be disclosed to buyers because the solicitor now knows?

We're most likely going to change our bid at this point, probably lower than the 3k. We know that he won't accept this, as the EA has told us repeatedly that he's only going to accept x price that was our original offer. However, I'm actually willing to bet (and I am not a betting woman) that no survey done for another potential buyer is going to give him the amount he wants. (See my original post re: valuations)

He just feels so dodgy at this point that we're at the point where we think we need to have more wiggle room should inevitable (more) repairs come up.

TalkinPeace2 Thu 04-Oct-12 13:19:52

There are dodgy surveyors, dodgy solicitors and cash buyers - all sorts of things can get "missed"

Get yourself into a good hard nosed (fasting day) mood and HAGGLE :-)

GreenEggsAndNichts Thu 04-Oct-12 15:12:45

Our surveyor, when followed up on with my husband, has said he feels strongly about his estimate.

I'm not budging at this point. I think we've been very generous in our offer, and we're the only ones who have given any ground here. As soon as we have had any questions, he just reverts to "property is as-is, and at this price" and will say no more. In fact, he had it put back on the market after I asked about the planning permission stuff.

I'm just sick of it.

nancerama Thu 04-Oct-12 15:21:06

Beware of the indemnity. Our vendors have taken out an indemnity policy on their property due to the removal of a load bearing wall. Our surveyor believes it was done properly, but it never had building regs sign off. All the indemnity does is tie up the paperwork to please solicitors, it doesn't cover for any repairs that may need to be done as the result of the work not complying with building regs.

You will need the indemnity to be in place, but you also need to ensure you have sufficient funds in place to deal with structural issues that may arise.

GreenEggsAndNichts Thu 04-Oct-12 18:41:50

oh thank you for that, nance. We had no idea it wouldn't cover repairs which might be needed. shock

narmada Fri 05-Oct-12 00:31:27

I know nothing about the technicalities of the chimney issue but think you are 100% right to be considering walking. This vendor sounds unreasonable and dishonest and I too would be worried about the later appearance of problems with the house. Surveys are just indicative- nothing more.

GreenEggsAndNichts Fri 05-Oct-12 12:23:04

Just an update for those who've been following the drama: the vendor has now decided to pull out! From what the EA said, it sounds as if he's going to sell privately to someone he knows.

I'm a bit upset, but honestly, I don't think we were going to buy it at this point, unless we had a significant reduction in price.

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