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Near Miss with Neighbour’s Chimney Stack

Roofing Today has reported on a disastrous scenario with potentially fatal consequences for neighbouring households.

A re-roofing project, also involved the removal of a chimney stack by the building contractor. During the works, residents of an adjacent property were startled by the disconcerting noise of debris falling into the chimney’s flue and were shocked to find that the chimney stack had been completely dismantled and concealed beneath a layer of tiles.


The occupants of the neighbouring property had not been forewarned about these construction activities. This omission meant that had they not been present to witness debris falling down the chimney, they would have remained unaware of the potentially life-threatening obstruction within the flue.

Recognising the gravity of the safety concerns, the neighbour contacted a Gas Safe registered engineer whose inspection confirmed the obstruction of the flue serving a gas fire appliance in the affected property. The severity of the situation required the immediate isolation and removal of the gas appliance connected to the compromised flue.

CROSS Safety

This incident came to light through an anonymous report to the CROSS UK safety organisation. The concerned reporter noted that home improvement projects can often conceal complexities beyond the understanding of untrained individuals. They underscored the urgent need for increased education in such endeavours.

Experts at CROSS asserted that clients, designers, and implementers of construction projects, regardless of their perceived simplicity, bear the responsibility and accountability for ensuring meticulous execution. They also emphasised that, in the event of casualties or fatalities due to carbon monoxide poisoning, ignorance would not serve as a valid excuse.

DMP Comes Across This Issue

Simon Delaney explains, “This represents just one among the many potential property issues, underscoring the importance of commissioning a thorough survey. At DMP, our team has conducted surveys on numerous properties where chimneys have been removed without the necessary structural reinforcement, as stipulated by building regulations.

“In one specific case, a client wanted to remove a chimney on a party wall to alter the stairway’s orientation. However, upon further investigation of the neighbouring property, it became apparent that a previous owner had removed the chimney from the loft downward, leaving the stack suspended in the loft and supported only by a few pieces of chipboard on the roof joists. Consequently, extensive remedial work involved the addition of new steel supports to ensure the stability of the remaining structure.”

Homeowner’s Responsibility

Homeowners, too, share a substantial responsibility in ensuring that they engage qualified professionals to design and execute their projects safely. This duty extends to safeguarding the wellbeing of neighbouring properties.

Safety experts issued a stern warning to contractors, stressing that any work related to a chimney serving a neighbouring property should only commence with proper authorisation. Equally crucial is the confirmation that flues are not in active use before work begins. Blocking a live flue due to incompetence presents an unacceptably high risk to life.

Notably, organisations like NACE have previously cautioned roofing contractors regarding tasks related to chimneys. Roofers, lacking the requisite specialised training, are considered neither qualified nor competent to engage in work on chimneys or flues.

The CROSS report additionally disclosed that the re-roofing work involving the chimney stack and flue resulted in damage to the neighbouring property. Experts underscored that rectifying this damage is a legal obligation.

Furthermore, safety experts at CROSS emphasised that loft conversions and re-roofing projects must secure approval from Building Control. This regulatory oversight effectively prevents unqualified contractors from undertaking such work. They also stressed that when chimney breasts are removed, providing structural support for the remaining masonry is indispensable, necessitating adherence to building regulations.

The Party Wall etc. Act of 1996

The Party Wall etc. Adesigned to ensure harmonious coexistence among neighbours, should have mandated formal notification of adjoining property owners about their neighbours’ intentions. This legislation establishes a structured framework of actions and timelines to facilitate agreement on desired or necessary construction work.

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