I've recently bought a Victorian 3 bed semi-detached house in London and am considering removing the Chimney Breast and fireplace across 3 floors. I can't find much information about this on the web however and have only come across one company that does this as a dedicated service: "chimneybreast.co.uk"
I have arranged to see them next week.
Does anybody know of any other company that does this or can I just ask any building coming to removing the chimney breast?
this does not necessarily have to be done by a specialist firm but it certainly needs to be done by someone that knows what they are doing. get quotes from a few local builders, you will probably find them to be a good deal cheaper than the company that you mention.
a few things to bear in mind. as perry has already alluded to, this kind of structural alteration is a serious undertaking as you could leave the building in a potentially dangerous state if it isn't done properly.
if the wall is shared with a neighbour you need to get a party wall agreement in place with them BEFORE you start work - they have to give their approval as any work could cause damage their property or even leave it unsafe.
you also need to submit your intention to the local Building Control who will need to approve the work on principle - again before you can commence - and they will probably want to do a site survey first. they will also need to sign the work off afterwards to say that it meets the required standards. without their certification your buildings and liability insurances are invalid.
any decent builder will know all of this and may well help with the process.
don't even think of starting work without all the necessary paperwork in place - you could be left with a liability of several thousands of pounds for compensation and structural engineering costs with the possible demand for re-instatement of the chimney breasts. your insurance company would not be sympathetic and you'd be stuck with the cost. and that's not to mention possible criminal charges should anybody be injured or killed as a result of poor/illegal workmanship.
one further thought, there are a good few 3 storey victorian townhouses in london that are listed buildings - in which case you probably wouldn't be able to do it unless you can prove that it is structurally unsound. and if you did you would face not only the cost to re-instate but probably a hefty fine as well.
i'm not trying to put you off - but make sure that you are fully aware of what you are getting involved in and that you dot all the i's and cross all the t's!
Any builder worth his salt will be able to tackle this, God knows we have done plenty, but the other comments are also true, regarding the structural aspects.
If you are leaving the external part of the stack in place (common), you will need quite a hefty steel up in the loft (often at wall plate level) to support the brickwork. Steel=structural engineer to produce calcs to satisfy local building control guys.
Listing shouldn't be a problem unless it is high up the grade. On most 'normal' listed buildings the restrictions mostly covers the exterior, (actually, I am a long way from London, maybe its different down there?)
However, my point (eventually) is that having taken a few out I always felt a bit sad afterwards. Old buildings have a charm that is usually enhanced (or can be) by keeping its period features.
Even if you chose not to use actual fires, the openings can be made into various good looking features.
And lets face it, once its gone, it's never going to be re-built.
Thanks to everyone for all their feedback and advice. Took me months and a large number of quotes to get this work done in the end. I guess it took me so long due to it being structural work which scared me a little. My fear was unfounded however and it took less then a week to do although it was quite a messy job. The company I chose in the end provided a quote which was the average of all the others I received. They also took care of the building control which was a relief a i've heard it can be quite a pain dealing with some councils. In any case, the company I used was a company called "hyltonchimneys.co.uk"
I'm ashamed to say that I did a bit of a botch job initially by going for the cheapest quote. In my defence I was told that the job would be done properly and the necessary support would be put in place and It was pretty cheap. Anyway, to cut a long story short I had to get someone in once the original builders had left to fit gallow brackets in the loft. So I guess, the moral of the story is: you get what you pay for!