I want to get rid of the brick chimney on our house (we don't burn wood anymore and it is in bad shape and leaning). I can't get any big machinery near that side of the house without taking down a fence and running over some landscaping, so what's the best way for me to take this down by hand?
Although it may not be an simple task, you could always remove the chimney brick-by-brick, starting at the top and working your way towards the bottom. If you can imagine how the original bricklayer installed the chimney, then you might get a better idea about how to tackle this de-construction project.
Before you take chisel and hammer in hand, you better evaluate the significant safety challenges that come with any job that begins on your home's roof. Not only are you going to need ladders, scaffolding, and a safety harness to safely access the upper portions of the chimney, keep in mind that you may also need to deal with overhead power lines and tree limbs.
Once you have ensured a safe work site, then you can start popping off the bricks by tapping them with a small mallet and using a cold chisel or a pry bar to break the mortar joints. After you remove the chimney cap and the top several layers of bricks, then you can remove the top flu section. To avoid having a pile of bricks and debris spread out on your roof, try to get a dumpster close enough to the house so that you can toss the rubble into it as they break loose.
When you get to the point where the chimney penetrates the roof, you will have to remove any metal flashing or wood blocking that would interfere with the soon-to-be-installed roof patch. You may want to consult a roofing contractor who can inspect your home's roof and determine the best way to patch the newly made hole. After you remove enough of the chimney so that you can patch the roof, you'll then have to determine if it is even feasible to remove the interior portions of the chimney. If this portion of the chimney is buried inside your home's interior walls, then you may just have to leave it in place.