The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Smoke, smell complaints from wood fired ovens

Janine's picture

Smoke, smell complaints from wood fired ovens

Decided to ask the Village if a wood fired oven could be built in my backyard and not fall subject to subsequent changes in ordinances. Open burning is allowed but the Village has fielded complaints in regards to use of wood fired outdoor furnaces to heat houses. I am asking those who have outdoor wood fired ovens in residential neighborhoods to comment on complaint issues. Thanks.

qahtan's picture

Offer the complainants a couple of loaves baked in said oven they will soon forget

they have a complaint,,,,,,, qahtan

LindyD's picture

There's a big difference between a wood fired oven and an outdoor wood furnace.  The oven isn't running 24/7 - the outdoor furnaces are.  The complaints generally pop up when someone installs the wood furnace without checking the direction of the prevailing winds and how it will affect the neighbors, as well as improperly firing the furnace.  Correct combustion will not create vasts amounts of smoke for long periods of time.

If your ordinance allows the construction of outdoor wood furnaces and ovens now, and that ordinance is changed a few years down the road, existing applications would be "grandfathered" in.  That means no new units could be built, but the existing units would remain.

I'm curious about the difference between an outdoor wood fired oven and a permanent outdoor wood fired barbeque.  Is there any?  Would you even need a permit to build the oven?

SylviaH's picture

My oven sits probably 12 feet from my back door..I do plan on moving it...meanwhile I bake, roast whatever I want...they are not firepits...they only have a little smoke probably 10 min. at have to learn how tolight a fire correctly...I had a ton of smoke in the learning process.  Another neighbor has a pizza wfo and others have firepits..people had complaints... about the firepits...outdoor fireplace and its smoke..none have complained about the wfo's...and I live in a very strict HOAssociation.  I have a spark arrester and chimney on my WFO.  Don't burn damp smokes ... start with a smaller fire till logs catch on fire..smoldering is what makes the smoke!  My husband wants on the PC so this was posted rather fast...but you should have no problems!  There's more to this story...before I got neighbor was complaining!  She has not complained once since....and I don't give her pizza! : )


beeman1's picture

Outdoor wood fired furnaces often get a bad rap because they can be set to burn slowly which produces a lot of acrid smoke. Particularly if damp wood is used. That shouldn't be a problem in a wood fired oven  

ClimbHi's picture

Because my oven is integral with the house, the chimney goes up about 30' above the ground. This helps keep potential problems to a minimum. When I first fire it up, it does produce a fair amount of smoke, but no more than a normal fireplace. The smoke clears up pretty fast once the box starts to heat up. Using dry (coked) hardwood vs. pine or other resinous wood helps a lot too.

All in all, it's less of an issue than a normal wood burning fireplace if it's properly constructed. I can often tell when some neighbor has their fireplace going. I've never been able to smell the oven.

Pittsburgh, PA

Johnbbq's picture

For a faster, hotter, smoke free fire, try natural lump hardwood charcoal--not compressed BBQ style charcoal--and you will be pleased how fast it works.

Edouard's picture

I've not had any complaints since completing my WFO. Either with smoke issues (or) odor issues. 


But then, I live out West in sparsely populated territory where folks are used to the smell of burning wood in Winter, and BBQs in Summer. 

yozzause's picture

The WFO that i use is in the courtyard of the TAFE (technical and further education)outside the training restaurant.I have to be quite carefull about smoke and fumes as the building is 3 storeys and has a number of air vents for machinery, it also has the problem that in the morning in the summer time we usually have an easterly drift of breeze that runs down the side of the building and then can swirl around the southern edge of the buiding and can then get pulled through the aircon into the buiding and then there is a smokey smell pervading. Everyone then knows that the oven is being fired up.
Firing technique is the important thing here start small and keep building little by little
i start with fine kindling and slowly build up to the bigger logs, i have access to untreated pine form the carpentry workshop which splits nicely to make great kindling.
Little and often is the key during the whole firing process, i move onto the hard wood once i have got a good base going and the hard wood produces the best glowing coals but still little and often. i will add some pics that i took last thursday when i fired up.
regads yozzause

CanuckJim's picture


I live in a small village in rural Ontario, about 70 kms north and east of Toronto.  The lots are about a third of an acre each, so the houses are not all that close together.  Several of my neighbours have wood stoves, and they generate a lot more smoke than my WFO ever would on a bad day.  The reason is that WFOs burn hotter and cleaner than wood stoves or fireplaces.  I only get smoke until the flue gasses get hot; after that it's just clear gas.

Early on, I had a visit from the local fire chief.  He didn't believe the oven was in full roar until I removed the draft door and showed him the fire had reached the secondary burn stage.  Our oven is classified as a large, if extremely eccentric, BBQ.  It's not subject to any restrictions.

One proviso: the best wood is dry wood.


JoshuaFinancial's picture

our immediate neighbors love the aroma of the firewood.  we have one complainer.  we are within code, and raised our chimney stack so that it looks like something out of dr. seuss.  It's now at the height of a household fireplace chimney.   they still complain.   we can't make them happy and we decided we'd stop trying.  

loaves make good gifts. but if that doesn't work and you're within code, you have to decide whether you want to be happy or not.  after you've built it is when you'll find out if you have a kvetcher for a neighbor.   and of course, it's $$$ and too late.  so  be nice, be complient with the  law, and if all that fails, be happy.  don't worry about anyone else.  it's perhaps impossible to make everyone happy.   some people are miserable and their mission is to make someone else miserable-er than they are.