Collapsing building © Daniel FriedmanSolving Neighboring Chimney Complaints
Clearances from chimneys to neighboring buildings & properties

  • CHIMNEY CLEARANCE to NEIGHBORS - CONTENTS: complaints about smoke, odors, soot from a neighboring chimney or a nearby building: chimney clearances to buildings, property lines; how to reduce smoke & odor complaints between neighbors, neighboring buildings & nearby chimneys
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about distance requirements between chimneys & neighbouring buildings
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Chimney clearances to neighbors & property lines:

This article describes approaches to solving complaints about smoke, odors, soot from a neighboring chimney or a nearby building: chimney clearances to buildings, property lines; how to reduce smoke & odor complaints between neighbors, neighboring buildings & nearby chimneys.

Our page top photo shows multiple chimneys on nearby buildings in Oxford in the U.K.

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Clearances Between Chimneys & Adjacent Buildings, Neighbors, Others

Magpies atop multiple chimney pots close together, Oxford, UK (C) Daniel FriedmanReader Question: is 25 feet to a nearby roof ridge sufficient chimney clearance distance?

We built a one and a half story garage next to a breezeway that separates the house by an additional 12 feet making the ridge of the garage 25 feet from the top of the chimney to the top of the ridge,the ridge is even with the top of chimney which is 25 feet away is this a safe distance between them? - Paul F. 4/29/12

Our photo shows steam and exhaust rising from a plant along the North Shore of Lake Superior, Minnesota.
[Click to enlarge any image]



if you've checked the sketches on chimney clearance distances shown on this page (10 ft. from a roof, 3 feet above the roof, etc) I'm unclear on the question in your note. If you are saying your chimney top is 15 feet away from a ridge that is at the same height, it's certainly past any clearance issue.

Keep in mind however that wind effects on a chimney can indeed be affected by more distant site conditions, even a hill, or trees. So if there is a draft issue changes could be needed.

Question: Objection to neighbor's chimney fumes

I wonder if you could advise me - a neighbour some thirty years ago put on a side extension and wanted to put a chimney in. I put in an objection to this due to the fact that the smoke would come into my garden and across the front of my home. He wrote to me assuring me that his intention was to use a gas fire and not a wood or coal burning stove/fire and he would never extend his chimney.

Recently he has extended his chimney by approximately one meter? I am now getting fumes from the fire both in the front and rear of the house and if I open the windows the fumes come in. I live in the Barnet area North London. - Gordon 5/6/2012

I should have mentioned that it was a single storey extension with a flat roof. Look forward to hearing from you.


Gordon, I'm a bit puzzled by this description, but you didn't give any chimney clearance distances. Indeed a gas fireplace won't produce smoke, and if properly adjusted shouldn't be producing strong fumes that bother a neighbor, but the real answer to the question includes knowing the distances involved.

The same clearance distances that apply to building a chimney on an individual home would certainly provide minimum clearance distances between neighbors. Did your neighbor obtain a building permit and approvals for his construction?

Question: chimney fumes bothersome on adjacent roof deck

Magpies atop multiple chimney pots close together, Oxford, UK (C) Daniel FriedmanI have an old masonry chimney that extends about 5 feet above the flat roof in an old four story townhouse (brownstone).

The problem is I have a roof deck on that flat roof and recently I've noticed fumes frequently if not constantly coming out of the chimney. There were always some fumes but not to this extent. Since it's June, the fumes would be from heating of the hot water which is heated by the year 2001 oil burner.

1) I think we need our boiler adjusted, do you agree?

2) Can we extend our chimney to vent the fumes higher? Do we need to extend the chimney using masonry and how much higher would you recommend? - Judy, 6/10/12

Our photo (above) shows a pair of magpies atop near-adjacent chimney pots in Oxford. Close chimney top terminations of the same height can result in draft and backdraft problems on some buildings.


Judy, I'm not sure there is a single correct answer to your question because local and site conditions (wind direction, downdrafts, other obstructions, as well as condition of the oil fired heating equipment) all affect the production of odors and downdrafts that may send chimney fumes down onto an adjacent area. But certainly I agree that

1. the heating system should be cleaned and adjusted annually; if after your service tech leaves the chimney is showing smoke then something is still wrong and you need to talk with the service manager for your oil heating company.

See OIL BURNER INSPECTION & REPAIR for a complete guide to oil burner troubleshooting & tuneup.

2. the chimney height of five feet is certainly inadequate clearance above an occupied deck; you may need to at least double that, as well as providing bracing.

Question: chimney top too close to neighbors, too close to property line, too close to other buildings: chimney neighbours complaints, USA, UK, AU, NZ

Smokestack near windows & buildings, Poughkeepsie NY (C) Daniel Friedman(Oct 11, 2012) Simon Mifsud said:

I have a wood burning stove with the chimney being 6 feet above our flat roof top. It is 5 feet away from neighbours who have a washroom that rises 4 feet above our chimney. The neighbours have an internal shaft which is around 18 feet away from our chimney. Would our neighbours have problems with our exhaust? Thank you

(Oct 14, 2012) Martin said:

My neighbour's home sits below mine. He has a wood stove with a Selkirk chimney on the side of the house next to ours. The top of his chimney appears to meet the rules for his home, but as the top of the chimney is below the top of our bungalow, we have a lot of smoke swirling around out home near the ground, which prevents us from having windows open as the temperature drops. Are there rules around neighbour's chimneys and if such a chimney has to clear our roof as well?
Thank you

Nov 5, 2012) Anonymous said:

How close to a neighbors house can a chimney be built? The property line is only about 24 inches away from the side of their house and about 10 feet from the side of our home. The current chimney (heat duct) that they are using, fills our home with smoke. Our house is much higher than theirs and the smoke has already set off the smoke detectors in our home. I know that building codes enforcement has already been in contact with them. I'm not sure if this is something I should contact the enforcement office about? They are digging for a new foundation as I type. Please help!

(Nov 22, 2012) Disturbed! said:

Hello...My neighbour has installed a metal vent to vent out his new woodstove. Unfortunately, we can smell the smoke from inside our house and as soon as we go outside, we can also smell it. It is horrible. There is a higher roof that connects to the lower roof where he has vented out. Our house is about 35 feet away but we get the smoke into our house. It blows down and in. Is there some sort of rule against this what they have done? I know they did not obtain any permits. I am very frustrated and looking to rectify this problem |ASAP!!

(Jan 1, 2013) Tanya Sisk said:

Our neighbor's just installed a wood burning device (I'm assuming a pot belly type) and when they burn it the smell permeates into our house. The smell is very strong and should we be concerned with carbon monoxide? I'm wondering if their smoke stack isn't high enough? We have a split level home and they have a ranch style and installed the device in their basement. Any suggestions? Thanks!

(Apr 10, 2014) Charles Cham said:

Hi, how far shall a direct vent for a fireplace(thru the roof) be installed from the property line

(July 2, 2014) Alexandra said:

Hi, our neighbours are exceptionally sensitive about any smoke which comes from our heat master firebox- installed in a brand new house 7 yrs ago, to council specs and just recently cleaned. We wondered if extending the metal flue above the current height would help alleviated any smoke from their backyard, which sits diagonally adjacent to our house and below the chimney by at least 20 feet.

We would do anything to avoid the aggression we incur every time we light a fire in the day!( not the evening) The council have checked the fire and it conforms to all regulations.

Reply: Suggestions for reducing smoke complaints from neighbours to a chimney


I read your query last night and then spent some time thinking about it as I don't see a cheap easy answer. Are you in the U.K. ? We've had a spate of requests around this topic, mostly from our U.K. readers of late.

A fireplace and chimney that meet standards and regulations for your country and city can still perform poorly or generate smoke complaints depending on local terrain or building features that cause poor draft or annoying smoke distribution patterns.

I would

- build a fire that generates visible smoke
- step outdoors and observe very carefully where smoke travels
- examine the building and terrain features as well as obtain data on prevailing wind directions in order to better understand downdrafts and directions of air movement

Discuss with a chimney expert:

- whether or not the chimney is drafting properly
- whether or not the chimney cap is the optimum design
- a concern for the effect of site features, terrain, wind on smoke distribution
- whether or not an extension of chimney height can possibly improve the situation (without having to go to a ridiculous or unsafe height), and the requirement for additional bracing if the chimney is extended
- choices of fuel that may reduce smoke output
- testing and confirmation of adequate combustion air

So that other readers can comment I'll also include this discussion in the FAQs above.

Do keep me posted and add additional information if you can - as the discussion will also assist others.



This may be a case in which a chimney meets minimum code standards but does not adequately handle actual site conditions. Ask for help and advice from your local building department.

Charles Cham:

This is a question I can't answer as I don't know. But it seems to me that if the chimney - I presume you're talking about an exhaust vent for some sort of fuel fired heating appliance - terminates meeting all of the building clearances stated in the appropriate article at the "More Reading" article list above I just don't see how a property line clearance would be at issue. What am I missing?


Continue reading at CHIMNEY HEIGHT EXTENSIONS or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.



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