Am I just a PITA neighbour or is there a problem?

clevedonboyDecember 17, 2008

So my neighbour with a newly installed wood burner doesn't believe that his smoke is causing me a problem....

Would you be proud if this is what came out of your chimney 30 mins after I noticed it burning (i.e. this is not at start up)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yppI7lA535w

(don't switch off until you've at least seen 40 seconds)

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fandlil

He may be using wood that is not properly aged or dried, or he may be stacking it wrong, or his chimney may be defective -- if new, it may not be designed correctly. I think it's hard to know what is wrong, but if it is affecting your quality of life, you have a right to complain, and to insist that your neighbor correct the problem. If he refuses, try to go to the municipal authorities -- there may be local codes that he is violating. If that does not work, then you may need to go to the expense of getting air sample measures of the pollution he is causing, and suing him. But if you go the legal route, only the lawyers will come out ahead.

You might get some additional advice from the chat room in hearth.com. Some experts there will tell you everything you need to know, and then some.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2008 at 6:29PM
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countryboymo

I do not see anything 'bad' here. Your neighbor might not have the cleanest burning wood burner but I do not think there is much you can say about it. If it permeates into your home I would think about some better home sealing and insulating.

If you make an issue of this in my opinion they could complain that you leave your lights on past 10pm.

They could be burning items that they are not supposed to though also like plastics or rubber items that smell horrible when burned. I don't know what the 'problem' is.

Maybe he is trying to get rid of the evidence of the last neighbor that complained about his yard.

Do you hate the fact that he is burning wood for heat? The smell? The 'eyesore' of the smoke?

I don't get it.. but I grew up with a wood furnace and love that smell in the winter. I would not burn the bridge if you have no alternative heat source in your home. If the power goes out for an extended period you might wish you were able to go over and soak up some of that heat.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2008 at 10:21PM
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davidandkasie

i see nothign wrong here other than a fire not burning as hot as it should. the "cool" smoke tends to fall. but unless wood burning FPs are illegal in your area, there is nothing you can do.

do you have a window open close to the chimney or something? if the smoke is getting in your house then you have a problem with air infiltration and you need to fix it. he has just as much right to enjoy his fireplace as you have to enjoy your home. so this is one of those cases BEST resolved by working things out politely amongst yourselves.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2008 at 11:13PM
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berlin

yes, you are being a real pita neighbor.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2008 at 1:11AM
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sonny09

I would say you would benefit from a good hard shagging. If that's not doable - join a club or something

    Bookmark   December 18, 2008 at 8:16PM
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christopherh

I was expecting to see billows of smoke the way you were describing it. What he looks to have done is damped the stove down too much which cuts off the air supply and causes the smoke. How to use the stove comes with experience. If the stove burns too hot (600+ surface degrees) the homeowner usually shuts down the damper all the way. This cuts off the air supply and causes the smoke. Even experienced woodburners sometimes do this. But it's really no big deal and I do believe you are overreacting.

I see an antenna nearby so I would guess you are in an urban setting and are not used to seeing a working chimney that often.

I do agree that there is more smoke than there should be as a stove using seasoned wood should emit no visible smoke while operating at normal temps. (400 to 600 surface degrees.) But the amount I saw isn't cause to get your undies in a bunch.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2008 at 7:21AM
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westcoast

Seriously PITA neighbor!!

I am in the same situation, neighbors wood stove has a down draft around the house i think from the property profile in general, and so i get lots of smoke drifing over to my home. But that's what he heats with so i am not about to say anything about it.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2008 at 8:31PM
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sonny300

Yes Boy: you are a right real pain in the ass.

Smoke, smoke, good grief, how horrible. Never mind that what comes from that keeps you warm economically? Looking at the video, seems like nothing as far as wood smoke goes, would ever please you.

And it is people like you that make me just as hard-nosed in the other direction. Meaning that you can damn well freeze in the dark when the power goes out, don`t ask for shelter in our place.

You don`t want the smoke, then you can freeze for all I care.

Oh, and by the way, your new neighbour with his wood burning appliance will soon discover that he or she should get at least a 2 year supply of nice and seasoned dry wood to burn properly.

In the meantime, I am sure that they probably don`t have funds for other types of fuel. So live with it -- You Jerk!!

    Bookmark   December 21, 2008 at 8:13PM
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christopherh

If I had a neighbor complain about my woodsmoke, and there was an emergency where they might be freezing, I wiould be right on their doorstep asking them to come over to our home to get warm. Then they could see firsthand how petty it is to see some smoke from a chimney. One night sleeping next to my stove with the glow from the flames in the glass and the warmth of a real fire would possibly convince them to go get one too.

But I really don't have the problem of complaining neighbors as everybody around me has a fireplace or woodstove. I think it's the law in VT or something like that.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2008 at 7:44AM
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countryboymo

If you think the comments in here might be slighted because the people in here use and enjoy wood heat then feel free to put your post in the 'home disasters' forum for a broader audience. I have a strong feeling it will be the same outlook. There is nothing better than wood heat when its in a good insert stove or furnace.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2008 at 8:04PM
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naturalstuff

Yeap, PPITA. Pure Pain ITA. But I understand because your house is like right on top of his.

Couple options here:
Go to city hall and complain its affecting your health
Move
Have your neighbor build his chimney higher

I hate when that downdraft happens and comes into my yard but I just light mine harder in hopes the wind turns around and heads toward my neighbor. lol

It's either me saving $2000 on energy or making my neighbor happy. No brainer.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2008 at 8:53PM
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breezy_2

I think since you are soliciting advice before making it an issue maybe you are not as big a PITA as all of that. I would say that the smoke in the video is fairly common in the first 30-60 minutes or so depending on a number of factors including starter materials/devices, age/seasoning of wood etc. I doubt seriously that they are burning pastics or rubber. Even with the best drafting chimney's they could not stand the odor in their house.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2008 at 6:39PM
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davidandkasie

this reminds me, my chimney is putting out a huge smoke cloud right now. i was REAL late getting wood this year and most of what i have is pretty green. so right now i have a couple old seasoned peices and a couple green peices on teh fire. LOTS of smoke going across the yard as i look out the window.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2008 at 8:10PM
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maryland_irisman

I'm on a ridge and when I first fire my stove up, on a breezy day, the smoke rolls down and across the yard. If I open the kitchen door, I smell a bit of smoke in the kitchen for a few minutes. When I let the cat in, he smells a little like smoke for a while too!!! I burn mostly cherry, apple and chestnut so to me, it smells pretty good. But after it gets going, the smoke goes away. I, like most of the other posters, think they may be using a bit of not-so-well-seasoned wood. Of course, in my neighborhood everyone is using wood so there's no one to complain. Some of them have some pretty funky smoke coming out if they waited too late to cut/split and dry it. They end up having to clean the chimney once every month or two. Are you a PITA? I wouldn't say that, just asking a question doesn't make you one. I think you might have some leaky windows and doors if you smell it too strongly in your house. Before complaining to anyone, maybe you should look at that issue. He may have provided you a blessing in disguise since if you are that leaky, you are losing a lot of money!!! Get a woodstove and the leaks are not an issue!!

    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 10:17PM
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frodo_2009

OK PITA boy....lol i am thinking your not as much a pita
as all think, sence you posted here before going postal on the pita neighbor

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 4:57PM
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SeattlePioneer

Frankly that strikes me as a seriously objectionable nuisance unless it quits smoking because the fire is just getting started.

I'd bet that would failed the city and county ordinances around here.

It's particularly objectionable because the houses are so close together,

The standard for the civil tort of creating a nusance is quite low. If a reasonable person finds some activity objectionable, they can probably get an injunction against it and collect damages from the offending party.

I'll bet a lawyer would have an easy case getting an injunction against that kind of problem.

Consider the welfare of your neighbors if they are exposed to this kind of smoke many hours a day, every day!

I heat with wood, and have for many years. I've never had any complaints from the neighbors, but if I did I would take them seriously and look for ways to keep them free from offending woodsmoke.

I had a neighbor across the street who heated with wood for a couple of years --- it really stank up the neighborhood! I never complained, but I would have had resonable justification for doing so, in my opinion.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 8:47PM
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monicakm_gw

The smell of my own wood burning fireplace bothers me when the atmosphere/winds are just right and it can filter down thru kitchen range's vent-a-hood (I just turn the vent on low to keep and updraft). That situation would bother me too but I don't know the answer. I hope it's been recified and both parties are happy. Another reason I'm glad I have no neighbors as far as the eye can see.
Monica

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 10:24PM
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christopherh

Right now it's snowing outside. We're expecting 12-18 inches. And if the power goes out, I can guarantee nobody's gonna complain about chimney smoke because those will be the homes with heat.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 7:38AM
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cliff_and_joann

I was expecting big clouds of black smoke streaming out --like the steam engines from the old western movies!
Yes, you're a PITA...get over it, live and let live.

Joann

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 8:52AM
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reyesuela

Your neighbors are extremely disrespectful. It is the same kind of nuisance as blasting out music at an extremely high volume--except that poorly controlled woodsmoke can make people sick (asthma, allergies, CF, and a number of other lung problems) and even, after many years of exposure, kill them (rates of cancer among people with continuous exposure to woodsmoke are quite high). A power outage is a TEMPORARY situation during which most people can tolerate the dirt, smell, and, yes, sickness that burning fires can cause.

And, YES, I heat with woodsmoke. If I can smell it, I do something. I would be humiliated if I affected the quality of life of my neighbors. They need to get their stove/chimney/wood FIXED, and fast.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 11:10PM
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christopherh

You heat with woodSMOKE? How do you do that?

We had an ice storm about a month ago. Parts of Albany, NY were without power for almost a week. There were over 300,000 people without power. Those with woodstoves were warm.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2009 at 6:42AM
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breezy_2

I reiterate, since you asked advice here before apparently approaching or harrassing your neighbor, I hardly think you are a PITA nor do you deserve some of the harsh responses received.

reyesuela, I give too...how does heating with woodsmoke work anyway?? I also could not resist your somewhat draconian claims about health/cancer links to woodsmoke exposure so I googled it and found this:

Scientists at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said indoor emissions from burning biomass fuel -- such as wood, charcoal and dung -- as well as emissions from high-temperature frying, could lead to cancer.

I had no IDEA so that did it for us...no more dung burning in our fireplace! I even removed the toilet paper holder from the side of the fireplace but there is only so far I am willing to go. I AM NOT giving up fried chicken too (I'll just vent it to the outside).

As to getting our stove/chimney/woodFIXED, I took that advice and fixed our wood problem. I burned it all...OK we ordered more so we could fix it too.

Sorry, we love a good wood fire and the smell regardless of whether its our's or our neighbor's. We don't like the smell of burning tires (probably like dung only different) no matter who is burning them although they do put out tremendous heat...the tires that is...not the dung.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2009 at 11:30PM
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mark94544

You are not a PITA based only on your expressing your concerns here. Some of the negative, in-your-face responses you have received are ridiculous. That said, it will be difficult to get the neighbor to change because so much depends on his personality, unless there is a solid law that he is violating.

The problem with burning wood is that there is so much variability in quality of woodstoves, quality of wood, and operator technique. The fact that there are so many posters who are so pigheaded as to claim that you are a jerk and should just close your windows shows what you are up against and it may be a fact that you can make no progress in the situation, but that doesn't mean you are in the wrong. Pollution from woodsmoke is a serious issue and those who are so flipant about it are doing no one any good.

If the world were a fair place, you would be free from the effects of his irresponsible mismanagement of his woodstove. In real life, you will have to go slowly and try to feel out whether he is open to change. If he is like some of the posters here, coming on strong and telling him how wrong he is will only make him dig his heels in and be uncooperative.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 4:02PM
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davidandkasie

the OP is asking people to back him up in claiming there is a problem here where none exists. so yes, that is being a PITA.

if the question was how can i help my neighbor fix this issue, then we would be on a different track.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 5:54PM
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christopherh

"...Pollution from woodsmoke is a serious issue and those who are so flipant about it are doing no one any good..."

I take it you live in an urban or suburban area. Because you wouldn't survive in Vermont where 30% of all homeowners heat with wood as their MAIN heat source. And a vast majority of the woodstoves are over 30 years old. My next door neighbor has an old FISHER stove. That was the Rolls Royce of stoves when it was built. There are still pot belly stoves being used up here.

There is woodsmoke in the air all the time. And Vermont has the cleanest air in New England. What I saw coming from that chimney is NORMAL up here. But we don't live on top of each other either. Only in the cities like Burlington (Pop 35,000) are people that close together.

And I'm starting to get real tired of the cries "Woodsmoke causes cancer!" Name me something that DOESN'T cause cancer! I read a study recently where BRUSSELS SPROUTS can cause cancer!

    Bookmark   February 7, 2009 at 7:17AM
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maryland_irisman

Yes wood smoke causes cancer, so does the sun. The smell of smoke doesn't though. If he was burning old tires and dead animals you'd have a case since they are not considered suitable fuel for heating, as wood, coal, heating oil, gas, corn, wood pellets are. If you are standing in a smoke filled room, you do have a problem. I doubt the neighbor put in a wood burner to irritate the neighbors. The man is trying to keep him and his family warm the most affordable way he can. Just like anyone here, if he could find a way to eliminate the odor, he would, for his own sake too. Look at your own home....everything in there has oil based products in or on them. It eveaporates, you're breathing oil vapor every day, worse case if you have an energy efficient home (insulation, caulked cracks, etc.) You don't think this oil vapor is slowly coating your lungs? If you don't think so, clean inside your car windows...that brown stuff is condensed oil vapor from the vinyl. That's why the dashboard cracks, it's evaporating. The same thing is going on in your home. Every time someone visits your home, you are exposing them to odorless killers and carcinogens. Are you doing anything to stop that and protect you and your family from that? Before pointing fingers, you might want to address that. I'm sure you are doing everything humanly possible within your budget but I'm certain if someone takes an air sample of your home, it's full of poisons. What would you have the neighbor do to allow his family to stay warm? I still don't think you are a PITA for asking opinions......I think yellow cars and trucks are discusting looking and pollute my eyes and wouldn't want one parked in front of my business but I certainly wouldn't expect the owner to buy a new one of a different color, have it painted or move it down the street just because I'm offended by it. Just an fyi....burning a candle will eliminate smoke smell (yea, yea, and it's a fire hazard and gives off pollutants, costs money, needs a lighter or match to get it going, and a dripless one puts evaporated wax into the air you breathe.) I must be grouchy today...I get tired of people trying to rule other people by quoteing law, holding a child on their hip, using race cards, all the other stuff just to push people around and "show them".

    Bookmark   February 7, 2009 at 10:40AM
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mark94544

" I take it you live in an urban or suburban area. Because you wouldn't survive in Vermont where 30% of all homeowners heat with wood as their MAIN heat source. And a vast majority of the woodstoves are over 30 years old. My next door neighbor has an old FISHER stove. That was the Rolls Royce of stoves when it was built. There are still pot belly stoves being used up here...."

I survived living in central New York in a house surrounded by cornfields front and back and neighbors on either side and heated exclusively with wood burned in a wood fired furnace that was a few years old 25 years ago. When we moved in the former owner had been trying to conserve wood by putting in huge logs and choking off the air. I guess they smoldered a good long time at that rate. Somewhere we still have the pictures from when we cleaned the flue before we built our first fire. The pipes were almost entirely obstructed by creosote. If we had fired it up without cleaning, we would certainly have had a chimney fire and burned the place down. Since then we have kept our fires small, hot, and frequent and we rarely get a couple of cups of crud out when we clean the flue. Operator technique can make all the difference. In this case the operator may be doing the best he knows how and if you go over there and tell him he is a jerk you will gain nothing and only alienate him.

I actually live in Hawaii now so I don't worry too much about heating. The other day I was sitting here at my computer and a young fellow with a small sports car with a huge stereo was out working on his car and running the stereo, causing my windows to rattle. I sat there seething about how inconsiderate he was and how he was some young punk who probably went around spraying graffiti and committing crimes, etc. I finally went out to "tell" him to turn it down. In reality I didn't "tell" him anything. By the time he had spoken half a dozen words I liked him. He was very polite and respectful. He merely had terrible taste in music which I didn't bother pointing out. The moral of the story is that you should be careful about what you think and say. The neighbor may be open to a friendly approach that will yield results. Or not. You won't know until you try.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2009 at 6:06AM
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christopherh

What your NY guy was doing was normal for the time. The old woodstoves were closed so the wood would smolder, and yes creosote built up. That's the way my neighbor's Fisher works. But today's mmodern EPA rated stoves don't work like that at all. Most new stoves have a secondary combustion system where the smoke (which is nothing more than unburned fuel) is burned off before entering the chimney. Meaning more heat from less wood. And lower creosote levels. These types of stoves have been on the market since the early 1990s. Fisher stoves couldn't keep up with the new technology and like a vast majority of stove manufacturers, went broke.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2009 at 7:16AM
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maryland_irisman

Christopherh...I haven't looked at the newer stoves...do you know how the secondary combustion system works? I wonder if the concept can be added to a Fisher type stove?

    Bookmark   February 8, 2009 at 7:32PM
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berlin

there are two ways to achieve secondary combusition and the reduction of creosote production/smoke. one is two add a cat to an older stove and this has been tried with mixed success, rarely working very well. another option that has much higher potential for success on retrofitting older stoves is the addition of preheated secondary air delived above the fuelbed either via tubes with small holes or a baffel with small holes. the key is to heat the air before it inters the fuel chamber, have it enter above the fuelbed and use a little as possible to achieve the desired smoke reduction. this is fairly simple to do; i've designed a few stoves for burning bituminous coals with less smoke (bit coal has high volitile contents and tries to smoke under most conditions) using preheated(superheated) secondary air; it will ignite the volitiles spontaniously (no flame contact between the fuel flames and secondary combustion flames required for ignition if the air is hot enough) above the fuel bed and increase efficiency.

as far as the pita neighbor, i'll say it agian yes he is. if it seriously bothers you, work together to try to mitigate it, perhaps he can attempt to burn cleaner or extend his chimney, perhaps you need better seals around doors and windows. understand that the less we whine about something somone else does as a society the less we will have our own liberties restricted. unless a gross violation of someone else's rights, a mild annoyance should be ignored. his chimney may smoke, but your summer bbq's may smell worse or you blow your grass clippings on his law, or perhaps you and your wife/gf/whatever argue loudly while his children hear it in the backyard; stop throwing stones and understand that we cannot be 100% free from anoyances in life, deal with it!

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 2:40AM
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christopherh

BINGO!

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 7:14AM
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maryland_irisman

Berlin...Thanks for the info!!! It'll be fun trying some of that out!!!

About PITA...man has been burning wood to keep warm since he's been on his own. When oil and gas came around and were cheaper and easier to work with, folks took it upon themselves to change over, I don't recall any laws that said anyone had to switch to oil or gas.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 5:52PM
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mark94544

Secondary combustion only comes into play if you are not achieving primary combustion, which occurs if you choke down on the primary combustion air supply. The wood is still hot and still giving off smoke, which can't burn without air. If you open up the air again to burn the smoke, the whole fire takes off at full throttle again. The solution was to add the secondary combustion air circuit to let the smoke burn while you throttled the fire overall.

Modern stoves are excellent, but you can still burn an old stove pretty clean if you make multiple small hot fires or add the wood frequently as needed while adjusting the draft for complete combustion. The fire doesn't care whether the air came in the primary source or the secondary source if you are running the fire at full speed. The down side is that you must tend and feed the fire much more frequently instead of loading it up with fuel and forgetting it.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2009 at 3:17AM
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maryland_irisman

Mark....that's the technique I've been using for years except at night with my All Nighter stove (similar to a Franklin). However when I load the stove for the night, I adjust the draft down. I found I couldn't draft it down too much because I'd get a sudden burst of combustion from the gases and it would puff back through the air intake adusters. Once I found the minimum adjustment, I could keep the stove hot all night without the puffing. But to get maximum heat from the wood, I used your technique with good heating results and less creosote. These All Nighter stoves have a manifold running through the burn chamber, at the top of them initially designed to connect a fan and blow air through it and into the room. I can weld caps on those and drill small holes into the manifold in the burn area. I can extend the intake to the outdoors and hopefully have what BERLIN explained. I figure it's worth a try just to see if efficiency does improve.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 2:03PM
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SeattlePioneer

Well Berlin, the bottom line is that it's a tort to create a nuisance and impose it on your neighbor. You can be sued, and get a court order directing you to stop if you do, and pay money damages. Also, for good or ill, many communities limit wood stove smoke and will take action against an offendinghomeowner if a complaint is filed.

From the pricture provided, it's clear that neighboring houses are very close to each other which makes this all the more sensitive an issue.

If the neighbor want to tolerate the nuisance, they can do so. But wood smoke producers have no right to impose nuisances on their neighbors.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2009 at 1:52AM
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berlin

no, bottom line is that's bad advice and bad legal advice in this situation to imediately take legal action in response to this situation. One had better think very, very hard about any and everything they do which may potentially be illegal or potentially be a nuisance before launching any kind of legal response. very rarely is everyone "squeaky clean" in everything they do; very rarely does someone not create any nuisances and impose them on their neighbors. It's also amazing what is illegal in some areas, some things people do often. you open youself up to much legal revenge by taking legal action.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2009 at 3:20PM
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christopherh

I just don't understand why people are so quick to sue. Either in small claims court or otherwise.
As far as this particular issue goes, there's not that much smoke! And for anyone to get their undies in a bunch over this to a point of legal action is just plain silly.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2009 at 7:03AM
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luvmyguys

Where I live, you would not be a PITA neighbor. We have frequent "no burn" days and your neighbor would be issued a $50.00 ticket. If he were to get caught a second time, the penalty goes way up. This is enforced Nov.1 to Feb. 28.

Here's a quote from our Air Quality Management District:
"Approximately 50 percent of wintertime pollution is caused by residential wood burning devices. The smoke from these devices contains fine particulate matter which has been linked to significant health problems including decreased lung function, asthma, and even premature death in people with heart or lung disease."

Fortunately, we rarely get below freezing.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 2:04AM
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christopherh

"Air Quality Management District"

Sounds like a place I would not to live. And I live in the Peole's Republic of Vermont! But we have lots of wood burners and we have the cleanest air in New England.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 9:02AM
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rogerv_gw

I just scanned this, there are codes relative to chimney construction involving height above roofs and so on. I'd suggest that you check your local codes, and if there's no relief there you're stuck. You can always talk with the neighbor and make sure that they know that their smoke bothers you, but I don't know of any legal relief if the person is being law-abiding in their wood burning.

Good luck.

-Roger

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 9:41PM
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