My neighbor's woodshop

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Forum topic by karena02 posted 06-06-2016 06:15 AM 1597 views 0 times favorited 32 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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8 posts in 864 days

06-06-2016 06:15 AM

Topic tags/keywords: fumes paint finishing exhaust neighbor

Hi! I’m not actually a woodworker, but I share a building with a woodshop, and I’m looking for some help.

I live in a large metal building, divided in half inside: One side is our apartment, the other is the woodshop. The woodworker is a close acquaintance, and we get along well enough..but..

Our ventilation is, in theory, separated…but any time he paints or finishes, our apartment fills with fumes. Tonight, it is strong enough to make my eyes water and my stomach nauseated. We turned off the AC all day, but needed to turn it back on tonight, and as soon as we did, the fumes were blown back into the house.

He builds, finishes, and paints new cabinetry for new houses or remodeling. I went over to the shop tonight to find out what all the fumes were coming from, and his shop is hazy and the smell is so strong that I was choking even with my shirt over my face. He has what appears to be an entire kitchen’s worth of freshly painted cabinets drying in the closed shop.

I don’t want to complain to him (again) about this, but…we’re dying over here…and it just doesn’t seem safe.

During the day, he has a side door open and his exhaust fan blowing out from a garage door with two pieces of plywood next to the fan. That’s all I can see of his exhaust set up.

Is this a normal set-up, and safe, and something we should just get used to? Or…do you have any ideas for how to approach the subject with him?

32 replies so far

View zipzit's profile


11 posts in 1304 days

#1 posted 06-06-2016 07:01 AM

Er, no. That’s mighty unsafe for you and him as well. If you can even smell the solvent that’s way too much. If you are getting a headache or feel ill, that’s causing damage.

I wear one of these for painting, sanding, cutting and welding galvanized steel (even after the galvanized coating is ground off…) You will need to purchase the correct filter for airborne solvents.

You need to come to a better resolve with your neighbor. He needs to take better care of himself when he does finish work.

In addition to the unhealthy fumes to your breathing, what about the fire risk? Are you well insured?

Hmm.. that’s why its rare you see folks living in a building that is also zoned for businesses. I’m surprised your landlord allows it. Too many potentials for trouble. I’m sure there must be a story there.. I guess we don’t want to know the details.

Good luck. And best bet… wear masks until everything is clear.

View AlaskaGuy's profile


4479 posts in 2451 days

#2 posted 06-06-2016 08:28 AM

You don’t give enough information of anybody to give good advice.

What is this property zone for? Is it commercial or residential? Who was there first?

How is it that a residential space and a commercial shop is in the same building?

Who owns the building? There’s something really strange about this setup.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View rhett's profile


742 posts in 3809 days

#3 posted 06-06-2016 11:11 AM

I agree with AlaskaGuy. How is this even a possible scenario? One of you isn’t zoned to be there. Also, when there is solvent based finish, thick enough to cause a visible haze, you technically have a bomb floating around.

This is a topic for your landlord.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View karena02's profile


8 posts in 864 days

#4 posted 06-06-2016 11:28 AM

Thanks for the replies.

I don’t know what the zoning of the building is. He was there first, though the building has always been half residence, half business (it once housed a stock car repair thing). But even though he was there first, I’m not sure what relevance that has if my landlord advertised the other side for rent and didn’t mention the fume situation. (the woodshop is renting too) I don’t think the landlord knew about it. Once he found out, he moved a wall so the HVAC was on our side which did decrease some smell issue, but not all.

My landlord has been unreachable for days now, which is very frustrating. We ended up opening up the shop (we have access…yes, it’s bizarre) and our house and setting up a cross breeze with his big fan to pull fumes out of our house and his shop at the same time. (he was unreachable too.) We had to continue to leave the AC off as well.

Thanks for confirming that this is not a safe situation. I’ll be discussing more details with the landlord.

View karena02's profile


8 posts in 864 days

#5 posted 06-06-2016 11:32 AM

Oh, PS – we live in a very small town, and have shared this space almost 3 years now. The city is aware of the situation, and regardless of zoning, hasn’t said anything.

View bruc101's profile


1243 posts in 3684 days

#6 posted 06-06-2016 12:38 PM

If the EPA ever discovers that situation a whole lot of folks will be in a whole lot of trouble. You’re health, and his, is in a bad environment. My advise would be to move and move immediately.

-- Bruce Free Plans

View OSU55's profile


1856 posts in 2131 days

#7 posted 06-06-2016 12:43 PM

Sounds like the hvac is pulling at least some make up air from the other side, either a leak somewhere or even a return air inlet. This is not good, even without the fumes, and can be fixed by the landlord. As for the fumes, build up of solvent finishing fumes is a bomb waiting to be lit. Cannot be allowed to continue. There are waterbased alternatives, finishes and stains, that are not explosive.

View bondogaposis's profile


4982 posts in 2493 days

#8 posted 06-06-2016 12:47 PM

I’d move.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 2511 days

#9 posted 06-06-2016 03:01 PM

I’ll echo the previous comment…move. Like others have said, the fumes are just waiting to be ignited. And it doesn’t take an open flame. Any small electrical spark. It sounds like you, your neighbor, and the landlord need to familiarize yourselves with the risks (health, safety, environmental) of the situation. If this neighbor of yours is stupid enough to work a haze of unventilated fumes, and your landlord is stupid enough to allow this to happen, you’d be stupid to keep yourself in a situation like that. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but this situation is going to end up with someone getting hurt/killed, someone getting arrested/fined, or both of you suffering long-term health issues if neither of those happen.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View clin's profile


927 posts in 1138 days

#10 posted 06-06-2016 03:15 PM

I think there is no doubt this is bad for your health. It’s one thing for a weekend warrior to stink up their house with the occasional project, it’s another to be exposing yourself to this on a regular basis.

In a work environment, OSHA would never allow workers to be exposed to those, apparently, high levels of fumes, for extended periods of time, and you are living with it.

If the two areas could truly be sealed off, and the workshop properly vented to dissipate the fumes. Then maybe your living space could be safe. But, I really doubt you could ever seal things well enough to make it work being that close to the workshop.

Remember, even if you seal off the building internally, fumes can still flow around from the outside. The fumes don’t just magically dissipate because they get on the outside of a building.

I’m with Bondo, I’d move.

And I’d try to do the next potential tenant a favor and make sure appropriate authorities are aware of this. It should not be allowed.

FYI, that respirator shown earlier is a particle respirator, you need an organic vapor respirator. Of course, neither is a practical way to live.

-- Clin

View helluvawreck's profile


32083 posts in 3008 days

#11 posted 06-06-2016 04:12 PM

I wouldn’t live in an environment like that. It’s bad enough to have to tolerate it periodically during the work hours. It’s very bad for you to breath those fumes and it’s also a fire and/or explosion hazard if you’re spraying flammable materials without a proper spray booth.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Nubsnstubs's profile


1403 posts in 1872 days

#12 posted 06-06-2016 04:20 PM

You could always do what a neighbor did to me back in ‘87. Call the EPA, and he’ll definitely get the message. I was in an industrial complex before fume zoning became an issue, but instead of asking me to spray my stuff in the evening when they weren’t around, he just called them. the epa woman came out with her fume trained nose and stated she didn’t smell anything, but I’d have to buy a permit to keep spraying my finishes under their watchful eye. I know I’m drifting off topic, so, in your case, move and let the poor guy try to make a living…....... Jerry (in Tucson)

-- Jerry (in Tucson)

View TheFridge's profile


10266 posts in 1628 days

#13 posted 06-06-2016 04:33 PM

He needs to have a ventilation system whether or not. Fire hazard.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View AlaskaGuy's profile


4479 posts in 2451 days

#14 posted 06-06-2016 05:22 PM

A call to the fire chief/inspector should produce results. He/she has a lot of power.

The reason I ask who was there first was I was wondering if this was like the people who buy a house at the end of a airport runway and complain after they move in know full well there’s going to be noise.

Anyway you have to do something.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View karena02's profile


8 posts in 864 days

#15 posted 06-06-2016 06:45 PM

AlaskaGuy – yes, he was here first, and we were aware of (and fine with) the noise. But when we asked about fumes, they assured us that it wouldn’t be a problem, and did attempt to seal it off. But it has become a problem, clearly. I wouldn’t have moved in had I known.

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