Renovation dust & odor from neighbor's construction

A Brownstoner reader is dealing with odors and dust from a renovation happening next door and is concerned about the impact it might be having on their own building.

classon writes:

The house next to me, which is old and in poor condition, is being gutted. Both houses are dusty with age anyway, never mind vibrations from the demo loosening even more dust.

About 2 weeks ago I came home to a terrible odor in the front room on the garden level. It was definitely a smell resulting from the work next door—bitter and very unpleasant. There was also a lot of dust in the room, along the wall that’s adjacent to the house being reno’d. On that wall there is a fireplace (not in use though it acts as a chimney for the furnace) that is blocked with plywood but not totally sealed as far as I can remember. There’s also wainscoting that’s in decent condition cosmetically, but not restored, so there are cracks that can also let in dust. I cleaned the room and it helped a little with the smell but it lingered.


Purchasing land from a neighbor

One of our readers wants to purchase a 20-foot-wide strip of land from a next-door neighbor who’d sell it. dindy writes:

I would like to purchase a strip of land about 20 feet wide at the back of my neighbor’s property. He would agree to sell it, since his yard is quite deep and he doesn’t use it. I am quite sure t wouldn’t affect his FAR. What is the process ? I am sure there are permits involved, but don’t know where to begin.

Commenters warn that this would be a lengthy and costly process, but others suggest it might actually be feasible. What do you think? Chime in on the original forum post.

Have answers? Need help with something? Visit the Brownstoner Forum.
Photo via Wikipedia

bathroom tile renovation

A Brownstoner reader came home to a bathroom renovation to find tiles that weren’t installed properly.

Poster jspheights writes:

We came home to our bathroom renovation today and saw that $1400 of glass penny round tile was installed incorrectly – large, visible seams, gaps, and more. The grout has been laid and has been setting for 12 hours. Is there a way to salvage the tile?

Any recommendations for tilers who have experience and can provide shots of their work with penny rounds?

Any precedents/recommendations for dealing with the contractor tomorrow and reviewing this botched job?

How have you dealt with bungled renovation work? What would you say to the contractor? Help our reader over in the original Forum post.

Have answers? Need help with something? Visit the Brownstoner Forum.

Photo by Juhan Sonin via Flickr

wood-burning fireplace

One of our readers wants to restore one of the six wood-burning fireplaces in her home, but contractors haven’t been especially helpful in assuring her that it’s legal.

The poster, carmenf, writes:

We are (hopefully!) restoring one of the six fireplaces in our house to its original wood-burning status. It needs repair and relining (also needs to be relined because the boiler vents from that chimney.) We’re having mixed reactions from contractors — some say no problem, others say they think it is now illegal to have a wood-burning fireplace.

I know there’s some sort of law on the books as of recently that is eliminating the ability to build new wood-burning fireplaces, but I didn’t think it affected current fireplaces, even if they are being restored/repaired. Ours definitely needs repair but was absolutely originally wood burning. I can’t find the specific new laws to read them myself. Anyone have any experience with this recently?

One commenter assures that while you can’t build a new home with a wood-burning fireplace, it’s legal to maintain and use an already existing one, but another says companies cannot rebuild them for use. Has anyone else had experience restoring a fireplace to working condition? Head over to the Forum to share your experience.

Have answers? Need help with something? Visit the Brownstoner Forum.

Photo by William Warby via Flickr

lead paint can

One of our readers has paint chips falling on their back deck and wants to make sure it’s not lead-based paint before letting a child spend time nearby. Poster stickerhappy writes:

We have a badly peeling rear exterior wall that drops paint chips onto the back deck and wanted to test to see if it was lead-based paint before we let our young child spend time out there.

For whatever reason, I don’t trust the DIY kits from HD and would like to send some chips off to be tested by a real lab. It is easy enough for me to gather chips and this is all the same paint so a couple samples from the wall seems fine, so I don’t really feel like I need anyone to come out to the building.

Anyone know of a reliable place to send paint chips to be tested for lead?

If you’ve had to get paint tested for lead before, head over to the Forum to help out the reader.

Have answers? Need help with something? Visit the Brownstoner Forum.

Photo by Fester11 via Wikipedia

rat infestation

Last week we talked about backyard raccoons; now we’re dealing with smaller, more populous Brooklyn rodents: rats. Brownstoner reader miss718 lives next door to a backyard that’s been neglected for too long, which she believes has led to rats on her own property. She writes:

Our neighbor has let her back yard go, completely, over the last few years. It is full of overflowing, unused compost bins, old tubs, plant containers, and is now so overgrown that it resembles a forest. A few years ago I saw a rat. She put down poison, apparently and that was the end of it. We continued to ask her if she would please have her yard cleaned up. My husband even offered to do it for her at one point before we finally gave up and built a better fence. But now I’m seeing rats in my backyard on a daily basis. I have a kid and a dog and I don’t want either of them out there. I called 311 but they did nothing other than issue an incorrect report about a “mouse sighting.” Someone suggested I call our council member’s office, which I have just done. Has anyone dealt with a situation like this? The irony is that our neighbor is apparently very active in a local community garden. What recourse do we have? Will the city force her to clean up the mess?

In the comments there was talk of the poster hiring workers to clear out the yard or reporting her own property to the health department. Have further advice? Click through to the original post in the Forum.

Have answers? Need help with something? Visit the Brownstoner Forum.

Photo va Wikipedia


Brownstoner reader gellhorngal found four raccoons in her garden last week. She writes:

we spotted four raccoons in our garden last week. apparently there are lots of them in prospect park.
are they dangerous?
to whom should we report this?

Several commenters agree that yes, they certainly can be dangerous — and vicious — and some readers have suggestions for keeping the critters’ destruction to a minimum. How do you think gellhorngal should handle them? Help her out with more advice here.

Have answers? Need help with something? Visit the Brownstoner Forum.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons


Boilers are something of a hot topic in the Brownstoner forum. Readers have asked about everything from how to tame schizophrenic boilers to the differences in boiler types, boiler sizingexpansion tanks, and even the boiler’s surprising impact on basement ceiling materials.

Summer is boiler replacement season (trust us, you don’t want to swap out your boiler in mid-winter). And that means it’s time to ask one of the most basic — and dreaded — questions a Brooklyn boiler owner has to face:

What’s Involved in a Boiler Installation?



A reader in the Forum is unhappy about the way the tenants on the top floor have installed an air conditioner. Will it fall out? Will it damage the window frame? The landlord writes:

my tenant installed a window a/c unit on the top floor rental. we are very sensitive about the safety and unavoidable damage to the window frame. how have others handled this? as of now, they have no bracket, but we want to insist they use one. what charges are reasonable? by the way, the house rules stipulates that they must consult us before installing one. they did not, which is another issue we need to deal with. they are nice, friendly, and we like them, but we need to be firm with this. advice, please. thanks.

The commenters opinion: If you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself. But that’s not all. To read the replies or help out, click here.

Have answers? Need help with something? Visit the Brownstoner Forum.

Photo via Babytalk Bungalow

At least one forum poster is not having a very good day:

My contractor just threw a tantrum and quit in the very middle of a gut reno. Anyone else have this happen? How did it turn out? And can anyone enthusiastically recommend a contractor they have worked with on a massive high-end reno?

Some commenters thought it was the OP’s fault, while others blamed money. Another commenter offered this colorful reassurance: (more…)

radiator-cav-080315 - 1

Brownstoner reader ps158 writes:

We recently completed a reno and had all the radiators in our unit and the rental unit painted with oil-based Rustoleum paint.

I’m expecting them to smell the first time the radiators come on. Does anyone know with this brand / type of paint exactly what to expect, e.g. should we leave the apartment when the heat first comes on, how long will it take for the smell to dissipate, etc etc.

And, if it’s bad enough that we can’t be in the house overnight, how should I handle this with my tenants? (more…)


A poster in the Forum writes:

New landlord of a two-family here. What do other landlords of small, owner-occupied buildings do when they’re out of town? What is the contingency plan if something urgent comes up? Is there such a thing as a temporary management company that can be on-call, or do you ask a friend be on-call, etc.?

The answer may be more complicated than you think. To see the advice or help out, click through to the post here.

Have answers? Need help with something? Visit the Brownstoner Forum.