Please advise! Neighbours wood smoke blowing into my home

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Josh33

New Member
Mar 26, 2021
2
Nova Scotia
Hello All,

First time posting here, I was wondering if I could get some advice on a situation I’m dealing with, I’ll try to be as concise as possible.

My family and I just moved into a new house 4 months ago located next to a wood burner. He has a wood stove that has been used all winter as well as into the spring as their primary source of heat. This would be no issue of course, but the problem is that the smoke is billowing laterally / downward from the chimney and into our home. We notice that we’ll get very low key itchy / burning eyes and irritated throats. Our homes are 20ft apart and on equal ground. Our chimneys face each other and It’s quite windy where we live with the wind consistently blowing into our house. Our home was assed for air leakage is quite tight, yet we notice an increase in TVOC levels (I have a monitor) when they burn wood. Usual levels are 0.3ish and can rise to 0.8 when they’re burning. I spoke to our neighbor about what we’re experiencing and he wasn’t super helpful. He assured me that he’s burning good wood so I’ll have to take him at his word. So my real questions would be the following:

1.) What are some suggestions to remedy the situation? Could I advise this guy to extend the chimney / I’d be happy to pay for the work / modifications

2.) Is this an issue with his burning habits?

3.) is this actually an issue for our health? There are no zoning / by-laws where we live that can be enforced.

I’ll attach a picture of the top of his chimney in case there’s anything glaring about the appearance of it.

Thank you in advance!
645A8B0D-1E3F-4B65-92DC-759739AF4D60.png
 
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bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
25,667
central pa
Hello All,

First time posting here, I was wondering if I could get some advice on a situation I’m dealing with, I’ll try to be as concise as possible.

My family and I just moved into a new house 4 months ago located next to a wood burner. He has a wood stove that has been used all winter as well as into the spring as their primary source of heat. This would be no issue of course, but the problem is that the smoke is billowing laterally / downward from the chimney and into our home. We notice that we’ll get very low key itchy / burning eyes and irritated throats. Our homes are 20ft apart and on equal ground. Our chimneys face each other and It’s quite windy where we live with the wind consistently blowing into our house. Our home was assed for air leakage is quite tight, yet we notice an increase in TVOC levels (I have a monitor) when they burn wood. Usual levels are 0.3ish and can rise to 0.8 when they’re burning. I spoke to our neighbor about what we’re experiencing and he wasn’t super helpful. He assured me that he’s burning good wood so I’ll have to take him at his word. So my real questions would be the following:

1.) What are some suggestions to remedy the situation? Could I advise this guy to extend the chimney / I’d be happy to pay for the work / modifications

2.) Is this an issue with his burning habits?

3.) is this actually an issue for our health? There are no zoning / by-laws where we live that can be enforced.

I’ll attach a picture of the top of his chimney in case there’s anything glaring about the appearance of it.

Thank you in advance! View attachment 277137
Have you talked to them at all yet? Make sure you are non confrontational but make them aware of the problem. Better burning practices on their part should reduce smoke output considerably. Depending upon their stove they may be able to eliminate smoke on all but startup and reloads
 

Josh33

New Member
Mar 26, 2021
2
Nova Scotia
Thanks for the reply

I have spoken to him and the reply was “nothing you can do about that”. There’s definitely visible smoke most of the time during their burning. They also burn during 5c-8c temps on the reg. He’s a of an older gentleman
 

clancey

Minister of Fire
Feb 26, 2021
1,421
Colorado
That's a problem especially in the cities and I am going to have the same problem only from the other end...I am going to be the one with the wood burner and I have notified my neighbors on each side of me that they will smell a little bit of smoke a few times because I want to learn how to use the wood burner just in case there is some kind of emergency to where all the power goes off. On one side of me I have the worse neighbor and he does not care about anything and his whole place is a fire hazard and I have repaired my fencing now about three times since he moved in because of his "Elm trees" growing wildly and in the wind they sway and loosen my fence. I might have to build a concrete wall on that side--lol lol..I have offered to cut his newly grown trees down with my lawn person but I never get a answer to my offer so that my fencing will be protected..Of course no answer from him.. So there are real neighbor problems and they are very tricky to solve but in your case I do believe you could do something like hiring a lawyer and make the problem official by sending him a notice that your health is being affected . I do not know the laws of Nova Scotia so I am replying "blind" here but I think that if he would raise his piping higher and get a catalytic wood burner that might make situation better "for you". My wood burner will most likely be used only a few times to learn but I am spending a lot of money just to have it there "just in case" of a emergency for then I can have "peace of mind" just to have the ability to keep my house warmer "if the lights go out" . Quite a few people on this forum live in very rural areas and they can burn wood to heat their homes and this is the lifestyle that they grew up with or wanted for themselves and their families This to me is just wonderful for them to be able to have this but there are drawbacks even with this--like lack of services and when people are younger they can handle this but when we reach a older age one must have a support system behind them , People living in rural areas usually do have this so this enables them to live in the area that they love...Bless them all..But your problem I think can be solved by the neighbor if he knows about it and I would send him notice as well as making him aware that he could maybe raise his piping or get a more efficient wood burner like a catalytic that burns second smoke and lets out very little pollutants.
 

David.Ervin

Feeling the Heat
Jan 17, 2014
295
O-H
Which flue is the smoke coming out of? The left one looks like it's been lined and likely connects to a legit wood stove. The other side may well be an open fireplace, which would definitely put out more smoke and particulates than a modern stove. If its the left, it'd be worth having a conversation about raising it up higher so the smoke goes over your roof instead of in the windows.
 
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bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
25,667
central pa
That's a problem especially in the cities and I am going to have the same problem only from the other end...I am going to be the one with the wood burner and I have notified my neighbors on each side of me that they will smell a little bit of smoke a few times because I want to learn how to use the wood burner just in case there is some kind of emergency to where all the power goes off. On one side of me I have the worse neighbor and he does not care about anything and his whole place is a fire hazard and I have repaired my fencing now about three times since he moved in because of his "Elm trees" growing wildly and in the wind they sway and loosen my fence. I might have to build a concrete wall on that side--lol lol..I have offered to cut his newly grown trees down with my lawn person but I never get a answer to my offer so that my fencing will be protected..Of course no answer from him.. So there are real neighbor problems and they are very tricky to solve but in your case I do believe you could do something like hiring a lawyer and make the problem official by sending him a notice that your health is being affected . I do not know the laws of Nova Scotia so I am replying "blind" here but I think that if he would raise his piping higher and get a catalytic wood burner that might make situation better "for you". My wood burner will most likely be used only a few times to learn but I am spending a lot of money just to have it there "just in case" of a emergency for then I can have "peace of mind" just to have the ability to keep my house warmer "if the lights go out" . Quite a few people on this forum live in very rural areas and they can burn wood to heat their homes and this is the lifestyle that they grew up with or wanted for themselves and their families This to me is just wonderful for them to be able to have this but there are drawbacks even with this--like lack of services and when people are younger they can handle this but when we reach a older age one must have a support system behind them , People living in rural areas usually do have this so this enables them to live in the area that they love...Bless them all..But your problem I think can be solved by the neighbor if he knows about it and I would send him notice as well as making him aware that he could maybe raise his piping or get a more efficient wood burner like a catalytic that burns second smoke and lets out very little pollutants.
I would absolutely not go the lawyer route yet. Talking to them developing a relationship and trying to work things out is much more constructive. I would however check local regulations in the meantime to see if there is any legal argument to be made if it gets to that. And yes I am fairly rural but 95% of the time you would never know I heated with wood by looking at my chimney. Also many of us in more rural areas still have plenty of support systems as well. And I have quite a few customers in their 80s still heating with wood only. My father is in his mid 70s and has no other heat source at all. And has no intention of changing that
 
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
89,791
South Puget Sound, WA
Do you know what he is burning in? Is it an older stove or insert from the 1970-1980 period? If so, there is a great deal of improvement in emissions reduction from a modern stove. If he is burning poorly seasoned wood, that will affect burning too.
 
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jetsam

Minister of Fire
Dec 12, 2015
5,283
Long Island, NY
youtu.be
If there is visible smoke, and it smells like wood smoke, either he has poor wood, a poor stove, or poor stove operation (and maybe more than one of those).

My guess is that if you get into an adversarial relationship with him, it will be that way forever.

If you make friends and sell him on the benefits of having a modern stove, dry wood, and adequate stove operation procedures (and there are many, it will make his house much warmer for much less work)- there won't be much for you to smell.

My chimney looks the same whether or not I'm burning.
 
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qwee

Burning Hunk
Jan 17, 2013
121
Idaho
Ya, he is older and he has probably had the same set up for 20 years or more. And been doing things the same way each burning season, i.e. - ".... ya cut yer wood when ya need it! .... then burn it! Sure it smokes a bit for that first hour but than it takes right off!" My neighbor is like this. Good luck.
 
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jetsam

Minister of Fire
Dec 12, 2015
5,283
Long Island, NY
youtu.be
Ya, if he is older and he has probably had the same set up for 20 years or more. And been doing things the same way each burning season, i.e. - ".... ya cut yer wood when ya need it! .... then burn it! Sure it smokes a bit for that first hour but than it takes right off!" My neighbor is like this. Good luck.

LOL, mine too. I can see exactly one other house from my house, and of course it's the guy whose seasoning process is that he shakes most of the squirrels out of the green leaves before it goes in his smoke dragon OWB... ;lol

I grew up burning like that too. "We need some wood, you kids go split some!"
 
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Highbeam

Minister of Fire
Dec 28, 2006
19,176
Mt. Rainier Foothills, WA
One of my fancy modern wood stoves with excellent fuel smokes like a freight train for at least 30 minutes during cold starts. Then for the next 24 hours there’s nothing but clear heat waves. I prefer to start the stove at night for this reason.

Some people are just overly sensitive but some have legitimate gripes if he is spewing clouds of visible smoke all day.

How is outside smoke getting into your house? When you live this close to other people you need to be tolerant of lots of things.
 

Bad LP

Minister of Fire
Nov 28, 2014
1,737
Northern Maine

Very tolerant.
I couldn’t do it being so close. Too many personalities and likely back stabbing.
 

Nealm66

Minister of Fire
Sep 25, 2020
1,049
Western Washington
You might mention the advantages of a catalytic stove with much longer burn times. I hardly ever see any smoke out of mine and saving wood/reloads might help to convince a switch.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
89,791
South Puget Sound, WA
Send the neighbor here for a chat. We may be able to help, though some circumstances like temperature inversions are beyond our control. On a bad day, check to see if what you are experiencing is a regional issue and not just next door.
FWIW, it's surprising in a location with housing 20 ft apart that there is no regulating authority.
 
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Diabel

Minister of Fire
Jan 11, 2008
3,287
Ottawa, ON
Send the neighbor here for a chat. We may be able to help, though some circumstances like temperature inversions are beyond our control. On a bad day, check to see if what you are experiencing is a regional issue and not just next door.
FWIW, it's surprising in a location with housing 20 ft apart that there is no regulating authority.
I am surprised too. I am smack downtown capital of Canada. Two miles from the Parliament buildings. And I do not think there are any burning restrictions. My neighbors are use to me unloading my wood trailer, but passerby's look at me funny often asking “what are you going to do with this pretty wood art?”
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,496
Northern NH
Yes, fine particulate from a wood stove can aggravate health conditions. As mentioned the age of the stove, how its operated and how dry the wood is all can affect the amount of emissions. I cant comment on the legality as that is probably a local issue. Given the closeness of the homes my guess is there are some times when it can be noticed and if you happen to be downwind of the stack with air inversions in the area you will get caught in the plume. I had an issue several year ago when a neighbor put in a used outdoor wood boiler. The stack was lower than my house and it would set off a smoke detector in my attic. The town elected to work with him and after he put in a 30' extension on his stack it became far less of an issue.

Obviously making your home tighter will reduce the smoke getting inside. If you have a chimney and are not using it, that is logical thing to seal off. It may be worth having a blower door test done to locate where air infiltrates from the outside and seal them up those leaks. That saves you on heating and can reduce the smoke getting in the home.
 

john26

Minister of Fire
Oct 27, 2008
566
Wildwood MO
I live in St. Louis County a suburb of City of St Louis , we have separate governing body codes and ordinances from the city but this is a heavy populated area homes ranging from 3 acre lots to less than 1/4 acre with 10' separation between homes. We have no regulations or ordinances on wood burning other than open burn only permitted in a fire pit between October first and April 15th. All new stoves and fireplace are supposed to have permit pulled along with site drawings. There is no mention of fireplace insert installs on the county building website.
 

marty319

Feeling the Heat
Nov 17, 2014
348
Belair mb
Hello All,

First time posting here, I was wondering if I could get some advice on a situation I’m dealing with, I’ll try to be as concise as possible.

My family and I just moved into a new house 4 months ago located next to a wood burner. He has a wood stove that has been used all winter as well as into the spring as their primary source of heat. This would be no issue of course, but the problem is that the smoke is billowing laterally / downward from the chimney and into our home. We notice that we’ll get very low key itchy / burning eyes and irritated throats. Our homes are 20ft apart and on equal ground. Our chimneys face each other and It’s quite windy where we live with the wind consistently blowing into our house. Our home was assed for air leakage is quite tight, yet we notice an increase in TVOC levels (I have a monitor) when they burn wood. Usual levels are 0.3ish and can rise to 0.8 when they’re burning. I spoke to our neighbor about what we’re experiencing and he wasn’t super helpful. He assured me that he’s burning good wood so I’ll have to take him at his word. So my real questions would be the following:

1.) What are some suggestions to remedy the situation? Could I advise this guy to extend the chimney / I’d be happy to pay for the work / modifications

2.) Is this an issue with his burning habits?

3.) is this actually an issue for our health? There are no zoning / by-laws where we live that can be enforced.

I’ll attach a picture of the top of his chimney in case there’s anything glaring about the appearance of it.

Thank you in advance!
View attachment 277137
You could always move
 

Diabel

Minister of Fire
Jan 11, 2008
3,287
Ottawa, ON
Well people buy places then realize after.oh I'm close to train tracks or the planes are noisy or I'm by a highway do your research of the neighborhood you are looking in.before you buy
Agree 100%. They are called spontaneous buyers. Us wood stove fanatics are called educated buyers. Just razzing with you!
 

john26

Minister of Fire
Oct 27, 2008
566
Wildwood MO
I would install a new stove or insert a show the neighbor how great it is!
 
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mar13

Feeling the Heat
Nov 5, 2018
452
California redwood coast
Well people buy places then realize after.oh I'm close to train tracks or the planes are noisy or I'm by a highway do your research of the neighborhood you are looking in.before you buy
Many things you could never have imagined thinking about, until an issue arises. Hindsight is 20-20 they say. If you'd never lived near a smoking neighbor nor burned before, a neighbor's woodsmoke output wouldn't cross your mind when buying a house. Or what about if you bought in the early summer and didn't go so far as to ask your neighbor if they burned.

I have a few neighbors in my neighborhood that I'll make aware of any generous swap-out programs when they arise. For example, don't some parts of Fairbanks, Alaska offer to pay $10,000 towards a non-wood burning heat source if you remove your stove permanently? Others will pay for most of a modern wood stove, though that doesn't solve the unseasoned wood issue.
 

qwee

Burning Hunk
Jan 17, 2013
121
Idaho
Good point mar13 - no way you could really know. I say go with cookies or a cake and introduce yourself - if invited inside maybe sneak a peak or two towards the wood stove/firewood. If this doesn't work you could call your ambulance friend and have him pull up to your house with lights flashing. Next, convince your daughter to pretend to be ill and have the EMT's haul her out on a stretcher. When your neighbor comes over to see what is going on, tell him, "Smoke inhalation, move over we must get to the hospital!"