Our neighbours’ new stove flue is blowing smoke into our bedroom

Property Clinic: The smoke is extremely unpleasant and unhealthy. What can we do?

The flue rises above the single-storey extension roof but does not rise above the main house roof. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The flue rises above the single-storey extension roof but does not rise above the main house roof. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

 

Our neighbours have installed a wood-burning stove in a single-storey rear extension to their home. The flue rises above the single-storey extension roof but does not rise above the main house roof.

We are direct neighbours and our homes are attached, the location of the flue is approximately 5m from the rear of our house and the smoke from the flue blows directly into our bedrooms (which are level with the top of flue) at first-floor level which is extremely unpleasant and unhealthy.

Are there any steps you could suggest to solve this problem?

About 90 per cent of heat produced in an open fire is lost through the chimney. Provision of a stove can radically improve on this. It is not surprising therefore that more new homes now have a stove and that stoves are being retrofitted into older houses.

Many new homes now incorporate a stove as part of the requirement for a renewable and sustainable heat source. The Planning and Development Acts allow the provision of a chimney as exempt development.

There are restrictions however in terms of separation between chimneys and adjoining structures. Chimneys discharge toxic fumes and there are guidelines regarding how close to a window or opening a flue can be located. This is covered under building regulations.

Part J of the building regulations deals with heat producing appliances. The technical guidance document (TGD) gives minimum separation distances between chimneys and adjoining buildings. Part J refers to a prohibited zone into which a chimney should not discharge.

Diagram 2 shows how this prohibited zone is comprised. This generally depicts a zone bounded by a line which is offset from the back wall of the adjoining house by 2,300mm. The top of this zone is formed by a line projected down from the upper level eaves on the main house to an offset point 10,000mm along from the eaves of the lower extension structure. Chimneys should project at least 600mm above this zone.

Compliant

Using standard dimensions, I have carried out a rough evaluation of how the top of a chimney on an extension would compare with window height on the upper floor of an attached two-storey house.

Using an offset of 5,000mm from the original back wall to the chimney as you describe, my calculations indicate that a chimney aligning roughly with the top of the first-floor windows will be just outside of the prohibited zone and compliant.

Obviously the closer the chimney gets to the back wall of the two-storey section of the house the higher it would need to be to avoid this zone. Trees, topography, building shape and height can all vary and have an effect on wind patterns and can impact on how smoke behaves.

Each case is different and while the TGD sets out to demonstrate best practice, each individual case would need to be looked at to determine in the first instance if the construction meets the guidelines and if it does, yet still poses a nuisance, what corrective action can be implemented to solve the problem.

You should have your individual case assessed by a chartered building surveyor who will in the first instance be able to determine if the chimney is discharging within the prohibited zone and make recommendations on how this can be corrected if necessary.

If your neighbours’ chimney has resulted in minimum requirements being breached, you should draw this to their attention immediately and seek that the flue be altered or raised and brought into compliance.

Stoves are a great addition to any home, but it is important however that they be installed correctly and in accordance with building regulations to prevent a hazard to occupants and neighbours. The placement of chimneys should be such that a nuisance is not created. – Noel Larkin

Noel Larkin, Chartered Building Surveyor and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, scsi.ie

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