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  1. #1
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    Jan 2013
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    Default Cigarette smoke from neighbour

    Hello everyone.
    I'm a home inspector in British Columbia and am new to this forum. I tried looking around for any relavent posts, with no success, so I thought I'd just start one up.

    I'm looking at a two story townhouse where the owner is complaining about smelling cigarette smoke from his neighbour.

    A brief description of the unit:
    25 year old townhouse sitting on a concrete slab.
    1 bedroom, 1 bath upstairs
    1 bedroom, 1 bath, downstairs.
    Same configuration with the neighbour's unit.
    The joining wall is the bedroom and the bath.

    The smell seems to be stronger in the downstairs bathroom but is also noticed in each bedroom and in the upstairs bathroom.

    The code calls for a fire break between the two units and I was not able to find any opening in the joining wall in either bedroom, either bathroom or in the attic spaces.

    Does anyone have any experience or suggestions with this type of issue?

    Doug
    Checkpoint Home Inspections

    Similar Threads:
    Last edited by Doug Campone; 01-30-2013 at 05:55 PM.
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Cigarette smoke from neighbour

    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Campone View Post
    Hello everyone.
    I'm a home inspector in British Columbia and am new to this forum. I tried looking around for any relavent posts, with no success, so I thought I'd just start one up.

    I'm looking at a two story townhouse where the owner is complaining about smelling cigarette smoke from his neighbour.

    A brief description of the unit:
    25 year old townhouse sitting on a concrete slab.
    1 bedroom, 1 bath upstairs
    1 bedroom, 1 bath, downstairs.
    Same configuration with the neighbour's unit.
    The joining wall is the bedroom and the bath.

    The smell seems to be stronger in the downstairs bathroom but is also noticed in each bedroom and in the upstairs bathroom.

    The code calls for a fire break between the two units and I was not able to find any opening in the joining wall in either bedroom, either bathroom or in the attic spaces.

    Does anyone have any experience or suggestions with this type of issue?

    Doug
    Checkpoint Home Inspections
    Checkpoint Home Inspection - Home Inspector Surrey, Home Inspector New West, Home Inspector Burnaby, Home Inspector coquitlam, Home Inspector Langley, Home Inspection Surrey, Home Inspection New West, Home Inspection Burnaby, Home Inspection coquitla
    I would check for bath vent ducts that were tied together. Not allowed but I have seen it.

    The beatings will continue until morale has improved. mgt.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    British Columbia
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    Default Re: Cigarette smoke from neighbour

    Thanks Vern:
    The upstairs and downstairs bathroom vents are common but not between units.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
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    Sparks,NV
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    Default Re: Cigarette smoke from neighbour

    Even the smallest holes can communicate smells. Holes around the shower controls, pipes, outlets, ect. Even though there is supposed to a a fire break it often is not as separated as you would expect. Someone with a blower door can probably help. If they could get the two owners to agree they could use a fog machine in one unit and see the where is its coming through.

    Nevada IOS#1730
    Nevada Energy Auditor #30
    775-342-4767 www.homecsi.com

  5. #5
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Cigarette smoke from neighbour

    My guess is the unit experiencing the smoke odour is under negative pressure.

    I would open a window on each level about an inch or two and see if the odour decreases or stops.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Plano, Texas
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    4,170

    Default Re: Cigarette smoke from neighbour

    Trying to track odors between units that are two story is like chasing ghosts. Probably easier to simply install makeup air on the non-smokers side so that there is a slight positive pressure, maybe use a HRV unit but intentionally oversize the makeup and undersize the exhaust a bit. Yes you could track it with a blower door and smoke but my guess is there would be air crossing the boundary in multiple locations that would likely require a "Holmes" type deconstruction.

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Plano, Texas

  7. #7
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    Mar 2007
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    Orlando, FL
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    Default Re: Cigarette smoke from neighbour

    Tobacco smoke complaints between condos, apts, and townhomes are common. Smoke is insidious, and tends to get everywhere. I've smelled it in vacant units as it wafted from an adjoining neighbor.

    I don't have any real useful tips, other than moving.


  8. #8
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Cigarette smoke from neighbour

    Thanks for the feedback.
    I'll talk to the owner today and give the window cracking a try.
    He did try taping up the holes in the bathroom wall (with Duct Tape), where the supply and drain pipes go through. Didn't seem to make a difference.


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
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    Vancouver
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    Default Re: Cigarette smoke from neighbour

    something which is extreme to do is put the house getting the smoke under extreme negetive air pressure. have seen this done when checking houses for air flow. they put a big fan at front door and suck all the air out and measure the pressure difference. now if they put a big fan at front door and sealed it up creating negetive air pressure then with a smoke pencil they might find the air leaks from the other unit. it is common for units not to be properly sealed from one another and this is where the air flow is coming from.


  10. #10
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    Aug 2012
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    Parksville B.C Canada
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    Default Re: Cigarette smoke from neighbour

    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Campone View Post
    Hello everyone.
    I'm a home inspector in British Columbia and am new to this forum. I tried looking around for any relavent posts, with no success, so I thought I'd just start one up.

    I'm looking at a two story townhouse where the owner is complaining about smelling cigarette smoke from his neighbour.

    A brief description of the unit:
    25 year old townhouse sitting on a concrete slab.
    1 bedroom, 1 bath upstairs
    1 bedroom, 1 bath, downstairs.
    Same configuration with the neighbour's unit.
    The joining wall is the bedroom and the bath.

    The smell seems to be stronger in the downstairs bathroom but is also noticed in each bedroom and in the upstairs bathroom.

    The code calls for a fire break between the two units and I was not able to find any opening in the joining wall in either bedroom, either bathroom or in the attic spaces.

    Does anyone have any experience or suggestions with this type of issue?

    Doug
    Checkpoint Home Inspections

    Hey Doug

    Welcome to the forum

    Cigarette smoke and related odor is clearly outside the scope of a home inspection, so I am curious as to why you are so concerned with it. I'm assuming that your client realizes that there is a smoke odor?. Do what you want but I try to stick to what is required of me as an inspector.


  11. #11
    Join Date
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    Mesa AZ
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    Default Re: Cigarette smoke from neighbour

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Klassen View Post
    Hey Doug

    Welcome to the forum

    Cigarette smoke and related odor is clearly outside the scope of a home inspection, so I am curious as to why you are so concerned with it. I'm assuming that your client realizes that there is a smoke odor?. Do what you want but I try to stick to what is required of me as an inspector.
    This is no intent to blast Steve.
    I used to think the same way. Over the years I quickly figured out if I go the extra step to address/ get an answer to a customers questions or concerns, that customer was more likely to use me again in the future, or refer me to their friend and family.

    Phoenix AZ Resale Home, Mobile Home, New Home Warranty Inspections. ASHI Certified Inspector #206929 Arizona Certified Inspector # 38440
    www.inspectaz.com

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Cigarette smoke from neighbour

    And if the client has no olfactory senses or they are impaired due to medical conditions and asks you to note anything odour wise, one would be foolish not to alert them to such issues, such as smoke odour, mildew odour, chemical odours you are leaving yourself wide open for possible litigation.


  13. #13
    Darrel Hood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cigarette smoke from neighbour

    Does this mean we are now supposed to identify the presence of air fresheners as a defect?


  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    British Columbia
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    Default Re: Cigarette smoke from neighbour

    Hi everyone:
    Sorry I've not responded to the various comments, I've been busy the past few days.

    First of all, thanks for all the feedback - great site and it's greatly appreciated.

    Steve:
    I understand that this issue may be out of scope for a Home Inspector, but this is a special case.
    I live in the same (strata) complex and am on council. I therefore hear the complaints raised by owners and my neighbours know I'm a Home Inspector, so they ask me questions.

    To start with, I'm just trying to help out a neighbour. Then another issue appeared. If this cannot be resolved, "Strata" may be asked to take legal action against the source of the smoke - referring to a "nuisance bylaw".

    I won't get into those details but it may be in everyone's best interest if I can help resolve the issue.

    So much for the background...

    From the tests which have been done, it appears that the negative pressure may be caused by the gas fireplace. They did not use the fireplace for a couple of days and there was no odour noticed from next door.

    I don't know where the fireplace fresh-air supply is coming from, but in my unit I feel a cold draft ariund the fireplace when it is not in use. The unit with the problem does not have that cold draft. This suggests that there is no fresh-air supply for the fireplace, so it will suck the air from the unit, creating a negative air pressure.

    The neighbour, when she lights up, will open their window in an effort to exhaust the smoke. This would create a positive pressure.

    I will ask them to try one additional test:
    Use the fireplace as needed and open the upstairs bedroom window and the downstairs bedroom window 1".

    Checkpoint Home Inspections
    www.checkpointinspections.ca

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Cigarette smoke from neighbour

    Dependent on model of gas fireplace some of the units draw the combustion air through the exhaust flue. The inner flue is the exhaust with the outer casing the intake for combustion air.

    It is quite possible the unit is installed wrong. In a home just completed with a gas fireplace the unit would fire up then go out. When the tech came out to inspect the unit, it turned out the unit was an down draft unit rather than an updraft unit.

    Not suggesting the unit in question has the same problem, but something the Condominium Corporation should have thoroughly checked out for legality reasons.


  16. #16
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Cigarette smoke from neighbour

    As a home inspector, you are not required but can do more than the minimum requirements anytime you want. In this case, I'd say you are doing an air quality investigation.

    I'm thinking the smoke is leaking into the wall cavity, but it could be coming in from outside, like smoke blown out a window could be coming in his window.
    The complainant is probably turning an exhaust fan on to get rid of the stink. This would depressurize the room and suck more smoke in.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  17. #17
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    British Columbia
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    Default Re: Cigarette smoke from neighbour

    I'm trying to help out a neighbour, but I think it's time to call in the (other) experts.

    Can anyone recommend a company to do an air quality inspection service in my area who can (hopefully) find the leak?

    That area being Surrey, BC (that would be Canada).

    Thanks

    Checkpoint Home Inspections
    www.checkpointinspections.ca

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Cigarette smoke from neighbour

    All I can tell you is there are a few Air Quality companies to choose from.

    Indoor Air Quality Service in SURREY

    Some of them concentrate on mould, and some of them install air filtration systems but might not be helpful in the investigation end of it.

    I think the fireplace may be the key to the problem. They could turn off the pilot light and tape it off for a few days.
    If it is drawing air out of the room, then it could be drawing smoke in.

    What type of exhaust does the fireplace have? A vent up thru the roof, or straight out the wall (direct vent)?

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  19. #19
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    Jan 2013
    Location
    British Columbia
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    Default Re: Cigarette smoke from neighbour

    Thanks John.
    They tried turning the fireplace off for two weeks - no difference.
    The fireplace exhaust vents straight up through the roof.

    I tried searching for air quality inspection surrey and like you say, most of them focus on mould. I tried contacting a couple of others and they replied that it's not something they could do.

    One of them suggested I try Einar Halbig at E3eco group.

    Thought I'd try this group while I wait for a reply.


    Checkpoint Home Inspections
    www.checkpointinspections.ca

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Cigarette smoke from neighbour

    It seems to me you require someone with a blower door and track down with an air pencil where the air leakage is prevalent on adjoining common wall areas.


  21. #21
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    Default Re: Cigarette smoke from neighbour

    Doug, tell them the chimney will still draw with the gas turned off. They would need to seal it with poly and tape to be sure. I think the smoke is coming in thru the windows and the door. Don't ask me how I know this. But because the neighbour blows smoke out her window, it seems likely.

    They need to pressurize the place somehow, but I think as long as they use the fireplace for heat, they will be drawing air out of the room, drawing the smoke in. A fresh air supply is needed, maybe blowing down from upstairs, ceiling fan in the stairwell, maybe.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

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