I thought I would share/document a portion of a project I’m currently working on. I’ve been doing a partial remodel of a building built at the end of the 1800’s. One of the things we’ve done to update and improve the layout of the kitchen was to remove the abandoned terracotta chimneys. These chimneys vented the original wood burning stoves, stoves that have long since been replaced with natural gas supplied free standing ranges. These chimney stacks stand about 30′ and 40′ tall (they go all the way to the roof and our project is on the 2nd floor of a 4 story multi-family apartment building) and the terracotta pipe weighs about 30#/ft. There is nothing supporting the weight of the stacks save the terracotta pipe itself, a sheet metal pipe surrounds the stack to provide lateral support and prevent leaning/tipping/buckling.
The challenge was to remove each stack from our floor and up, about 1800# of chimney, in a controlled demolition. The way our small team elected to do this was with an angle grinder, a hammer, a cat’s claw, three sets of pulleys and cordage, eye bolts, tying cleats, and s hooks.
We had already removed the lathe, plaster, and framing members that hid the stacks from view and that had created an inconvenient jog in the corner of the kitchen. We were then ready to remove the stacks. First a straight cut was made with an angle grinder along the length of the sheetmetal tubing, it could then easily be opened and removed. With this task complete, eye bolts were pre-drilled and installed into the exposed joists surrounding the stack’s entry into thr for above. The placement was as close to an equilateral triangle as could be achieved. Then a short distance below and towards the top of a 2′ terracotta pipe section (but a few inches below the joint), we chipped holes into the terracotta with a hammer and cat’s claw. The holes were as in line with the eye bolts as possible. S hooks entered the holes grabbed the pipe and connected to pulleys attached to the eye-bolts. The pulling end of the cordage we pulled tight and tied off to cleats we had mounted to nearby joists. At this point we carefully smashed out the terracotta sections below the one which he had supported. Carefully we untied the cleats and the three of us gently lowered the entire stack down to the floor. We then began chipping out new holes higher up on the stack close to the ceiling but below the pulleys and always towards the top of terracotta sections to prevent buckling. We moved the S hooks up, tied off to the cleats, and smashed out more pipe. This process repeated until all that remained were a few pipe sections that had separated and remained stuck in the sheet metal tubing well above our floor. We placed bundles of lathe below and attempted to shake the sheet metal and vibrate the sections into free fall. We were not able to shake them loose and so we placed several framing members across the opening at the base of the stack with the intent that should the pipe ever fall, perhaps during an earthquake, it will be caught just before crashing through the ceiling. I have attached some photos of the day’s project.