1920s fix n flip Fireplace Can I REmove IT? Columbus, Ohio

14 Replies

these old houses with the 100 yr old fireplaces that have not work in 50 years, do they really add value? Or is that just what people tell themselves to get out of removing them?

I am totally new to doing work in these old houses, and so far everything I want to do or would want in my own house, I am being told is totally wrong for this type of house. 

I get that these places have an old school style, but can't you recreate that with modern clean looking materials. 

The fireplaces in these houses, in my opinion, are an eyesore and wasted space. In my case with this 1920s house, it's going to prevent opening up the 1st floor, due to sitting between the wall separating the living room, and dining room.

If it was on an exterior wall, I would still want to frame it in and make use of the space. Since it is not, I would love to remove it if possible, and does not lose value. If either is true, its still getting framed in, other then the mantel, it's not in show shape anyway.

Originally posted by @Matt Williams :

these old houses with the 100 yr old fireplaces that have not work in 50 years, do they really add value? Or is that just what people tell themselves to get out of removing them?

I am totally new to doing work in these old houses, and so far everything I want to do or would want in my own house, I am being told is totally wrong for this type of house. 

I get that these places have an old school style, but can't you recreate that with modern clean looking materials. 

The fireplaces in these houses, in my opinion, are an eyesore and wasted space. In my case with this 1920s house, it's going to prevent opening up the 1st floor, due to sitting between the wall separating the living room, and dining room.

If it was on an exterior wall, I would still want to frame it in and make use of the space. Since it is not, I would love to remove it if possible, and does not lose value. If either is true, its still getting framed in, other then the mantel, it's not in show shape anyway.

 That is a question for a contractor to actually look at the chimney and see what condition it is in and whether the house is stable enough for it to be removed. It may be able to be removed but it also may require substantial framing to keep the integrity of the structure. You just don't know until it's inspected. People love fireplaces. Even in Phoenix AZ it is a selling feature. I don't know how often people use their fireplaces in Phoenix but I always hear, 'oh, honey , it has a fireplace". I presume that is true in your market, too. Doesn't it get cold in Columbus sometime during the winter? I read about power outages and that fireplace is a nice substitute. 

Mike M

I tend to lose people when I type, so I might not have made it clear, that is my bad.  Most of the fireplaces in these houses are not in any working order and have not been for decades. Almost all have been blocked off inside, some as in my case have been boarded over leaving just the 1920s mantel. The ones with the nice looking brick hearths are never framed in or covered, even though as I stated, this is never going to warm anything.  I guess for lack of a better term, I am the contractor. I know better than to just take a wack at this thing with a sledgehammer, as much as I would like to. I would get the right people to green light the safety of removing it, and not just trust my own judgment.  From what I can tell so far, the house could burn to the ground and the fireplace would remain standing in the ashes. I do not see anything that looks like it connects the frame of the house to the fireplace. And Ohio winters are horrible at times but other than holding a candle, these fireplaces won't help with those. 

I have just been told that working or not they add value to the house, I'm just not buying that. 

Who is giving you this feedback? Realtors or fellow investors? Or just random friends/family?

Women love mantles. I have a functional fireplace that I never use, and I never want to live in a house without a mantle ever again because I have so much fun decorating it, and I love how it makes my living room look. I've wasted hours of my life on Pinterest looking for new ways to decorate my mantle. You're looking at logistics from an investor's standpoint, and, as an investor, you have valid points. Buyers are looking at it from a more emotional standpoint.

That being said, I wouldn't say that is a reason to keep them. I don't think there are too many buyers out there thinking, "That house is perfect for me in every way. If only it had a fireplace. Better keep looking." It could be a perk, but there are plenty of other perks you can add to draw in buyers.  

@Matt Williams Exposed brick is a hot selling feature right now in older properties...get the fireplace cleaned up, seal it, and showcase it...

I'd only consider eliminating it if there is a structural issue......where is your property located? in general  

Having a mantle, fire place or whatever in place can add value but it does not necessarily have to function. This is what we did in a 2 family to single family  1908 flip that had an old crumbling useless fireplace on the first and second floors.  We tore the brick all the way down from roof leaving only the portion in the basement. Then we framed out a feature wall and installed a fairly inexpensive electric fireplace. The panel on the wall was wired for electric and an internet connection so they can put a TV there if they want or just hang a picture or mirror if that is their thing. 

The bonus was also picking up a little square footage in an upstairs bedroom by removing the fireplace which allowed a better set up in that room.

@Michael Norris

See thats what I have been thinking, if it has to be there, make it useful, looks good.  Look at my mess, its going or getting framed in, right?  here its not so bad, but upstairs they framed around it so far out, and odd. Even just getting tighter with the framing would clean it up a ton.

Brad , 

Did you see the photos, there isn't anything appealing about this fireplace.  The time, and effort, let alone cost of making this thing a centerpiece, would not be an efficient use of any of the 3. If i was buying this whole adds value talk, Rather than deal with renewing odd brick,  which no matter how good you do, still does not look as good as a new brick. If someone could prove that unusable fireplaces add value, I'd start learning to lay brink.

I almost beat what is happening is that when buyers are touring properties bet they say things like they love it, its gives it that old fashion feel.

Taking that at face value you miss what i am assuming in buyers trying to convince themselves, that the house is worth buying, even if it does come with a worthless eyesore.  

I wonder if the investment people are putting into restoring the look of these fireplaces, wouldn't be better spent removing them. Whatever the "added value" would be in my case, isn't going to give buyers the same feeling they will have when they tour the house and see the great room concept we were able to do by removing some worthless bricks.

@Matt Williams , for what it’s worth, I agree with your decision to remove the fireplace in this case. It’s not particularly attractive, and if removing it will allow you to create better flow, that will probably add more value than the fireplace itself. But I would definitely try to salvage the mantel and find a creative way to use it elsewhere in the home - because people do love those original details. Good luck, and would love to see the pics when you finish!

brandon, 

  I just got to see the condition of the bricks that are going through the 2nd floor, and Im impressed. Just based on the 1st floor, i assumed it was going to be worse as it went up. Not the case, and actually with some TLC, by someone other then myself, this thing might have another 93 years of use.

It's on the west side of Cbus, which until this I had not ever been..... 

Jen, 

 Thanks for having my back on the teardown. Not that it is off the table, just now that I have seen the condition of more than just the section in the photo, and how small it really is compared to others I have seen, I might be able to do both, keep it and open up the layout.  

I found other houses where it was done and looks amazing. Granted those houses were in locations with a higher market potential, which allowed for the spending of money on things like the fireplace.

Guess i will just have to open up some walls and see what happens.

Thanks for the advice

5 months later, I feel the need to chime in.

1- There's a big difference between a fix and flip and a restoration. Unfortunately, you appear to be flipping. 

2- What I would have done in this case is keep the mantel, sand it down, restore it, and tile the base and inside areas of the mantel. Of course I'm not there to see all the conditions and angles, but people will notice if the easy way is taken out. I do a lot of work in Merion Village, OTE, KLB, and they will notice. 

3- Removing a fireplace is much easier than restoring one. So to address one of your first lines of "is that what people tell themselves to get out of removing it", I think you're doing the opposite. Telling yourself it doesn't add value (perhaps not monetary- but value is viewed many different ways. Is capturing a buyer who fell in love with the original fireplaces value? I think so.). 

4- I hope you sold this place and made a ton of money!