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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    232

    Default smoke smell from neighbors

    Living in a 1920s rowhome where the neighbors house shares a brick masonry wall eith mine. Occassionally I can smell smoke from then smoking so much so obviously there is somewhere in this shared wall that smoke is getting through. They have central air and I do not so I assume they have more positive air pressure on their side, forcing the smoky air through. The walls have a plaster skim coat but the space in the ceiling i assume is where the smell may be getting through. Any ideas for confirming my theory or dealing with the situation aside from ripping out the ceiling and maybe putting spray foam along the bricks?
    My advice and opinions come from hands on knowledge...and This Old House Hidden Content

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    SoCal
    Posts
    5,443

    Default Re: smoke smell from neighbors

    You say you have no air conditioner, but do you have heating vents? can you trace them in your attic?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Houston Texas
    Posts
    2,509

    Default Re: smoke smell from neighbors

    Look on the roof to see if there are two stacks in the chimney (one for each of y'all) or just one. Let us know what you find.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    232

    Default Re: smoke smell from neighbors

    I meant no HVAC ducts at all. I have verified that the one stack is mine although with gas appliances attached I wouldn't expect it to smell like smoke. I also have new CO detectors near the heater and on every floor and they never go off so I don't see anything to suspect a downdraft or leak in my chimney.

    This is really a mystery for me.
    My advice and opinions come from hands on knowledge...and This Old House Hidden Content

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Houston Texas
    Posts
    2,509

    Default Re: smoke smell from neighbors

    You smell their cigarettes?

    That comes through all the smaller holes in the shared wall. The only real way to fix it is to remove all the wall layers down to the studs, insulate very well and recover the walls.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    232

    Default Re: smoke smell from neighbors

    I'm willing to accept that there is possibly some kind of backdraft from the gas furnace and/or water heater. I find that the smell is usually only later in the evening or at night. My guess is the chimney is cool enough at this point that when the furnace turns on, the exhaust may backdraft for a short while until the chimney heats up enough to pull the exhaust upwards through normal convection. I leave a window cracked where the furnace is thinking it might need extra combustion air but i'm not sure if this is making the problem worse by creating too much air pressure and pulling the air upstairs to the living space.

    I have a new CO detector on the ceiling at the basement stairs which is 10 feet from the furnace so I assumed this would beep if this backdraft was occurring. I've found cases where people with gas fireplaces say they light a newspaper and hold it in the fireplace to preheat the chimney but obviously that is a little impractical for my needs. Still a little stuck here.
    My advice and opinions come from hands on knowledge...and This Old House Hidden Content

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    232

    Default Re: smoke smell from neighbors

    Just an update:

    I had a chimney liner installed last year that corrected the smell in one particular room. There was some mortar missing in the brick chimney and that cause the smell in one room. As for the other spaces that had this smell, I went around the interior/exterior with caulk and that seemed to take care of the issue so it must have been coming from outside. The two fixes were done at different times so I was able to narrow down what worked. I'm just surpised the CO detector didn't alert to the issue in the one room that was actually affected by the chimney.
    My advice and opinions come from hands on knowledge...and This Old House Hidden Content

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    Montreal Canada
    Posts
    115

    Default Re: smoke smell from neighbors

    Your house has a negative pressure from clothes dryer vent, bathroom vent , kitchen exhaust or chimney exhaust. Install a fresh air intake to relieve the negative pressure.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    232

    Default Re: smoke smell from neighbors

    Thanks Bill, I was actually updating to confirm the issue was resolved with a chimney liner and proper sealing around the exterior of the home.
    My advice and opinions come from hands on knowledge...and This Old House Hidden Content

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