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Builders have removed chimney breast....

(15 Posts)
kiwifluff25 Wed 02-Mar-16 10:48:01

Just bought a house (first time buyers) which needs a moderate amount of work, we've had some builders in (they're reputable, known to us, good reviews, family owned and have their own structural engineer/roofer etc) and we asked them whether it'd be possible to remove the chimney breast as it was an awkward shape and made one bedroom pretty much only big enough (or rather the right shape) for a toddler bed (think a 60cm block jutting out into the middle of the room).

They said yes it's do-able and their structural engineer said it just needed some simple ties at the top as it was so small. This was on Monday evening, my partner visited the house yesterday and it'd all been done already(!!). Apparently it looks great and both the kitchen and bedroom are much more usable.

BUT

Only thing is... he's now looked on the internet (winding himself up and panicking) and saying sometimes you need a party wall agreement, planning permission, survey before anything goes ahead etc.

We really can't afford to have all these costs, and didn't really even give an explicit "go ahead" (we replied to the email saying ''sounds good, but does the quote include everything that might be needed as we are really stretching our budget now").

Surely the builders and engineer would of known if these things were necessary and either a) Got the permission themselves, or b) Told us to do it.

Do I trust their judgement that it was a super simple job and none of that stuff was needed? The enquiry about removing the chimney breast and the actual demolition of it happened within about 12 hours of each other, so there's no way they could of thought we'd actually got permission etc as it says on the internet it takes 8 weeks! We've only had the house for 3!

Help?

OliviaBenson Wed 02-Mar-16 13:02:45

Woah! You need building regulations for a start. Have they reinforced it at all, used steel? I'd be not at all happy and I'd be wanting full details of what they have done.

WhoTheFuckIsSimon Wed 02-Mar-16 13:10:24

I had this done 15 years ago on a party wall. Never got planning permission or a party wall agreement, builder just did it.

I recently sold a different house where again it looks like the previous owner had removed a chimney breast with no paperwork, building regs, permission, etc. This got flagged up on the search. Solicitor muttered something about me paying £150 extra for an indemnity insurance against any problems. I pointed out house was 100years plus and building regs might not have existed when it was removed and thought they were trying it on. Never paid it and no more was said.

I would trust the builders. It's done now. I reckon worst case you'll have to get it done retrospectively when selling but I don't think its that big a thing.

Tinofsardines Wed 02-Mar-16 13:14:17

We've had chimney breasts removed by builders and never had to apply for permission.

As long as it's done properly I wouldn't worry.

SleepyForest Wed 02-Mar-16 13:17:11

It is less of a problem if it is upstairs and is not carrying a lot of weight above it. Has the chimney gone?

Kirjava Wed 02-Mar-16 13:17:20

I think you need building regs and you may be asked for proof of this when you sell. You'll need to check with the council/private building regs company. Cost varies depending on the value of the work.

Party wall is free but yes, you should have done that. I don't know what your neighbours could theoretically do about it now, but worth checking to see if you can do it retrospectively to cover yourself.

SoupDragon Wed 02-Mar-16 13:18:17

Is the chimney stack still on the roof? If so, given the speed of the job, I would be worried they hadn't put in any kind of support for it.

HRMumness Wed 02-Mar-16 13:23:34

We had chimney breasts removed in our property. We didn't need planning permission but they did need supporting as they joined up in our loft / connected to stacks on roof. We also had to notify our neighbours and get a party wall agreement (They disputed, if they don't dispute you can go ahead without) as we are in a terrace and the chimney breasts from their property back onto ours iyswim.

Hope it is all legit OP.

AesopsMables Wed 02-Mar-16 13:34:57

Our neighbours did this to us, ripped out ground floor and first floor chimney breast attached to our party wall. When we found out I contacted solicitors and we got party wall surveyors involved and they had to pay all legal costs. If your's is on a party wall then pray your neighbours do not find out. Or, do the right thing and let them know anyway as they may need to know if they have already or wish to remove their side.

Your builders sound like a bunch of idiots.

Narnia72 Wed 02-Mar-16 13:42:49

Is it on a party wall? That would be your first issue. I would be very wary of proceeding with builders who just knock out a chimney breast, as unless the chimney stack has been removed (on the roof) then supports are needed at the point of removal (in the loft in your case). Also, depending on the age of the building, then asbestos lining in the chimney is also a potential issue. I would be booking a structural engineer in to check on the safety of what they've done and advising on supporting what's left.

Hopefully it's all fine, but definitely get it checked out. Have you signed a contract with the builders? What else are they doing? Did you have references from them? I have no idea about whether you could put a claim in against them if you need expensive remedial work, but it might be worth checking on your home insurance.

BTW, don't forget to inform your buildings insurance you're undertaking extensive works, otherwise it can become void.

PatriciaHolm Wed 02-Mar-16 14:42:00

If you share the wall with neighbours, you definitely need a party wall agreement. Without it, your neighbours could serve an injunction to stop your work, plus you need to be sure that they can't claim unjustifiably that your works have done damage to their walls.

You are very likely to need building control approval too; and depending on where you are, planning approval (if in a conservation area for example). It's not something to do on a whim;

http://www.richmond.gov.uk/chimneystackk_removalandd_thebuildingg_regulations

I would be very concerned about these builders. Whilst it's your responsibility to do these things, not theirs, they should know that you don't just knock out a chimney breast like that.

kiwifluff25 Wed 02-Mar-16 15:17:29

Ok phew, thanks for all the replies.

So we've spoken to the builders... before they began they had a structural engineer out to give the go ahead (they had him out with them for the day to do the paperwork for our RSJ, which is why this job happened so quickly), they've put in steel supports and it's all legit with paperwork for the event of resale etc. They're a firm that specialise in structural repairs, and all their work is backed up with a 25 year guarantee so... hopefully this is all ok. They are a well established company in the local area, have won awards for building restoration and are fully ensured and guaranteed etc, so I'm inclined to trust them I think?

The only thing outstanding now is the party wall agreement, engineer said that our chimney was totally separate to theirs so wouldn't cause them any problems. Fingers crossed I guess? We could apply retrospectively, but the work has moved so quickly that there wouldn't be anything they could block now. I guess if they were that way inclined they could get us to pay for their own surveyor? I don't know?

We've had good relations with them so far, so hopefully it should be fine. The bloke before us was the neighbour from hell (their words not mine) and it seems to be talk of the village that we've moved in to do the place up. They seemed really happy when we said we were having builders in to repair all the mess he made and to renovate the place, and we've allowed their own builder daily access to our roof (the previous owner wouldn't)... hopefully all this will give us some brownie points! To be fair though, it's not really us in the wrong as we weren't even aware it was happening.

kiwifluff25 Wed 02-Mar-16 15:19:18

*insured, not ensured!

PigletJohn Wed 02-Mar-16 16:43:33

have you seen this paperwork?

kiwifluff25 Wed 02-Mar-16 17:09:49

We've seen it for the RSJ (which is to open up two rooms into one), OH has been over today and spoken to the structural engineer at lunchtime but not home yet so don't know if we have the papers for the chimney yet.

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