Chimneys could be a thing of the past, says RICs

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors is warning that chimneys could be a thing of the past, because with new homes not featuring one and many older homes not maintaining or restoring their existing ones.

John Reyers, spokesman for RICS, says: “There are three things working against the old-fashioned chimney – an increasing focus on energy efficiency in the home, the space and cost implications of construction and the effort and cost of maintaining them.

“What many people don’t realize is that working open fireplaces with chimneys can add both aesthetic and practical value to a property. But because they take up valuable space and add extra cost to the design of a property they may become the preserve of the upper end of the market.”

Part L of the building regulations due to be introduced in Spring 2006, will place particular emphasis on energy efficiency and keeping buildings draft free. Chimneys open to the elements will go against such legislation and are therefore less likely to feature in the new build homes of the future.

In older properties many chimneys have been blocked up or are in a state of disrepair. Of the 26 million homes in the UK, over 6.7 million are in serious need of attention. Only 17bn is currently being spent each year on repairing and maintaining properties – far short of the 48bn needed to bring these homes up to standard.

Reyers adds: “We need to balance the requirements for energy efficiency with ventilation, practicality with aesthetics. We must not make the mistake of creating properties so airtight that they cannot breath – causing condensation and damp issues. A well maintained chimney and open fireplace can be a bonus all year round, not just a welcome asset at Christmas.”

RICs says people should sweep their chimneys once a year and if the chimney is not in use, a protective cowl
should be put on it.

Chimneys need to be properly ventilated and home owners should check the stability and condition of the chimney stack from the outside of the building.

If there is no live fire (gas or solid fuel) then people should consider keeping the aesthetics of an open fireplace to enhance the appeal of the property.