gonefishin

City rules, regulations, and the noise.

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I am about to build a medium sized shop in my backyard, however I live within the city. My grandfather has worked in construction his whole life and was a city inspector, he said if I received any complaints of noise or a city inspector was driving by that they could and would shut me down asap. I only thought they could do so if the noise was past a certain time at night or early in the morning.

But they go by decibel levels and the hammering I'm sure would exceed it. Knowing this city I don't want to invest in a big shop and then them shut me down. The noise and the smoke coming from the flues in the summer is what I'm concerned over people reporting, our neighbors had an old washer that steamed white smoke (normal) and someone reported a fire and made a big deal of it...can only imagine what would happen with me and my coal smoke.

So from any city guys experiences, should I go on with it and build it? If an inspector DID see it, he would have numerous reasons to shut me down according to a ex-city inspectors point of view...1. fire hazard, 2. small industrial operations on city grounds, 3. noise.

Renting a barn may be an option but it's a 20 minute drive out or so, a lot more convienient having it in your yard...and cheaper.

So really, how loud is hammering in a shop in a backyard?
They don't even allow dirt to be used as flooring, I have to lay bricks and pour dirt on top of the bricks.

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There are two problems. One you can buy a decibel meter from radio shack once you know what the level are and 10:00 pm is the cut off time in most places. Two Blacksmithing is considered and falls under welding shop in most places which is light industry so you will need a zoning change to your property. If it is a hobby you can probably get away with a mobil unit once you build a structure then you will be taxed on it. how is the relationship with your neighbors?

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A lot depends on the city, it's size, and the distances to your neighbors. I to live in a residential area, and thought about a coal forge, but have decided to go with propane and natural gas. I live in a horse community, and ten years ago, we still had some horseshoes that had coal forges. People were use to seeing smoke from these forges, and didn't call the authorities. But, not today, the AQMD, indicated to me that the smoke from a coal forge would not be acceptable, since there is an alternative fuel in propane and natural gas. So, I would set up shop, use a gas forge and be mindful of your hours hammering, using a chop saw, and enjoy your smithing. As a hobby, I don't believe you could be shut down. You have a right to do what you want, within limits, on your property. Good luck.

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I can see them shutting me down based on the coal forge fire alone. The city I live in is pretty strict and FULL of snitches. My neighbors - behind me are a nice bunch, and to the right is a bunch of slobs. I don't have much of a yard, the smithy would probably be about 10 feet away from the neighbors yard.

I live in Illinois, hour or so from Springfield. It's a city, nothing close to a country area.

We've contacted the city and they gave us a max size, how far it should be from the house, and what it can consist of. Of course we just told them it was going to be a workshop, not a forging area. We planned on having them come approve it when it's finished, and then after it's approved lay the dirt on top of the bricks, cut a hole in the roof for the flues, and set up shop. Somethings telling me though that soon after that I'll get the city on me and they'll have a fit over it all.

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I used to live in downtown Columbus OH---100 year old house. I forged out of my detached garage for 15 years and on the whole had no problems. The local ordinance said that *anything* that produced a fume noticeable off the property could be shut down by the city; *but* it had to be reported. My northern neighbor used to have a coal furnace when she was a kid and so liked the smell of coal smoke. My southern neighbor was a rental house and most of the time the folks in it DIDN'T want police presence around them. Behind me was a commercial building and so wasn't tenanted much when I was forging after work and on weekends.

I did have a pesky neighbor one time that kept calling me into the fire department---but after the fourth time they wedged the fire truck down the narrow alleyway only to find I was cooking lunch/dinner in our smoker---an allowed exception to the rule---the harassment stopped (I heard on the bounce that the neighbor was told there would be a $1200 fine for the next false report...)

OTOH I had a student that was shut down at his place. A neighbor called and reported him and they came out and told him he needed an EPA permit to burn coal---so he called up the EPA and talked with them "How much coal are you burning a year?", "200-400", "Tons?", "No pounds"---when the EPA guy stopped laughing he told him not to bother till he was up towards 1000 tons a year. He very nicely sent a letter to that effect to my student who then showed it to the code enforcement folks who then told him he would have to get a burning permit, ten days before each time he lighted the forge and $25 each time.

Now have you thought of how to change things around to be under the radar? A Fisher or Vulcan anvil is very quiet! A propane forge produces no visible fumes. Take care of quiet hours and work with any close neighbors with small children requiring naps and you might have no problems.

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I've seen zoning codes that have a little known exception in them for blacksmith shops. Seems a hundred years ago it was desirable to have a blacksmith shop in your neighborhood. Such things only rarely get revised, just added to.

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I think you need to ask if they allow hobbest wood working shops. A table saw, chop saw, and router make alot of noise and carry a long distance. If they alow that then they should not discriminate against you. Where I live between 10pm to 7am their is a noise ordinance after that you can do what you want.

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You said you've already spoke to the city about a workshop, why not talk to them again asking about hobbyest welding (unless you plan on making money at it), then asked about the related blacksmithing? See if they have specific ordinances about forging. Or maybe first see what they say about a coal stove for heat then ask about other applications with coal if you want to burn coal. Or if you can go with charcoal it is much less smokey. Or as mentioned propane burns without the smoke.

While you're on the phone, ask about the specifics of any noise ordinances, acceptable decibel levels and time restrictions. Get specifics and ask if you can have a copy of the applicable ordinance.

If you tie your anvil down well enough it can become quiet. Mine makes a lot of noise if it's just dogged to a stump, the set-up I currently have where it is secured to a sand filled box with all-thread it is much quieter. Now I'm not much louder than a lot of woodworking equipment and quieter than somethings like routers.

If you make modifications after all inspections have been passed, you may run into trouble down the road if they do regular appraisals and find what you currently have doesn't match what their records show.

ron

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... who then showed it to the code enforcement folks who then told him he would have to get a burning permit, ten days before each time he lighted the forge and $25 each time.


That's when you tell them to cite you and then have the judge slap the crap out of the city lawyer when it comes before him (if the city lawyer lets it go that far).

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Nope under the ordinance since it was not "food preparation or heating" they had the right to force him to get a permit to burn. We read the ordinance.

Now you can get inspectors who don't know what they are supposed to be enforcing---I had a 100 year old house that I was restoring to how it looked originally. Had an inspector tell me that the original front porch railing didn't pass and I had to have a raining because the porch was too far from the ground. As I needed to re-do the yard anyway I asked him what was the distance such that a railing wasn't needed---he couldn't tell me. He could tell me I exceeded it but not what it was. We went around on this several times and finally resolved it by me moving 1500 miles away. (The next owner tore out all the woodwork I had replaced and installed vinyl...sigh)

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In addition to the various noise, zoning, fire & safety, and pollution regs that others have mentioned, be aware that even if you comply with all those regs you may still be vulnerable to a civil suit for nuisance or trespass by malconent neighbors. You may also want to investigate how the shop will affect your homeowner insurance, if at all. It'd be a true tragedy to have a fire, then find out that the shop voided your coverage.

These definitely are not concerns to be taken lightly.

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I am just putting the finishing touches on a shop on my property and despite having a two acre lot I am still worried about some of the same issues as yourself. I think it important that the building itself comply with local building codes so that if you do get busted your city will not be able to order you to take it down. The homeowner’s insurance issue is an interesting one. I was planning on not listing it on my policy and if it burned it burned—my loss-- but it’s not so clear what would happen if a visitor were to get hurt in it—even a simple slip and fall. My town’s building code specifically states that ‘craft studios’ are not allowed but it does not state whether that pertains to professional studios only or hobby as well. Any building in my town over 400 square feet has to have a four foot deep frost proof foundation so I’ve built my shop smaller than I would have ideally liked at 12 x 16 feet with a 12 x 12 foot ‘L’ fully open between to two and a ten foot ceiling throughout.

Fume wise, a gas forge is obviously least offensive to neighbors but I hope not to have to go that rout. My forge has been outside for several years and I have been using the “Cowboy” brand hard wood charcoal for small to midsize projects. I don’t believe my neighbors have the right to fuss over my using the same fuel they’re using to scorch their dogs and burgers. The coal smoke can get ugly on windy days which keep the smoke low. I plan on doing my best to use it only on rainy days and during the winter when windows are closed anyway—those are the days I’d like to forge anyway—I wasn’t finding much time to do it in good weather!

Sound wise—my Peter Wright anvil does make a racket so I purchased a large Fisher which is noticeably quieter. I hope to get a small power hammer but realize that I will only be able to use it on a very limited basis. I’m hoping not to insulate/soundproof my shop but the tradeoff will be having to be more cautious about when and how much I get to bang on metal.

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To deaden sound think beyond sticks (2x4's). One of the selling points of a straw bale home besides thermal efficiency is how quiet they are. Sound doesn't travel well through a dense thick wall. Our local high school Ag class just built a straw bale building.

Coal smokes when it is green, or when the air is stopped, so you will need to pay attention to your fire control. Charcoal will also work, and you can make that. You can always toss some burgers on the forge to help mask the odor :D


Check with your local planning dept for approved home based businesses. I was able to get a printout from the county on this. You might be amazed at how ludicrous some of he regs are.

I would look at a sound deadening building like straw bale,earth berm, or rammed earth construction. They are not that harebrained, and actually have a lot of advantages such as low cost (but labor intensive in some cases), low maintenance, thermally efficient, and have a cool factor.

The smoke I would think will be your biggest hurdle. You either have to shift your fuel to a cleaner one, or keep the air to it once lit to eliminate the smoke. If you do a quite shop, you can work later when it is dark hiding the smoke.

The problem with city, and counties is that once you get nailed they stay on your butt. I am dealing with that right now, not for smithing, but my classic cars, and outside storage. I have 2 ac in a rural area, but according to them I do not have any property rights. The big problem is that the hearing officer won't listen to what zoning has approved for my area, and is forcing me to hire an attorney. Zoning told me that I can have 8 non running, non registered vehicles, he says that I cannot have any. AAAAARRRRGH! Anyhow I am getting off track here.

Quiet building, and better smelling fuel-make it smell like a BBQ if you can.

Seriously look into alternative construction for a building. I looked at them extensively when I moved to the desert. What I am leaning towards now is clearing the house off of the basement, expanding that, then roofing it over. Here in the desert a subterranean home makes a lot of sense. A rammed earth building can be made with old tires rammed with earth to form the walls that are then shotcreted over to smooth them out. Free tires, free dirt, lots of packing, a little rebar, and some concrete will give you a structural wall that will not burn, is thermally efficient, and is very quiet.



My smithy walls are made from 55 gallon drums stacked on their sides, and welded together. No roof as it rarely rains here, the walls are mostly for wind breaks, and storage of tools.

Good luck, and stay out of trouble.

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An important thing to keep in mind here, which I tried to emphasize in my first post, is that there are multiple layers of law that may be relevant. You have to find them all. The fact that there's no zoning problem, for example, doesn't mean there's no problem at all.

fbcreative, you have a lot more faith in judges than I do.

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Gonfishin,

Before you do anything else, read the zoning ordinance for your city for yourself. Don’t take anyone’s word as to what it allows or disallows. You can probably find it in the local library or city hall or maybe on the city’s website.

Figure out what zone your property is in usually from a zoning map and then read everything about that zone. You may find that there are provisions for home occupation or artist studio. You will find regulations about noise and how it is measured (usually at the property line). You will also find regulations about coal burning and wood burning stoves. It may say that you can or can not run a business in that zone.

You need to be more educated than the people that enforce the code.

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After troubles with the neighbors, I was called on Zoning (not building) violations. (After building the shop)

The lawyer I consulted with said it would cost $5000 to fight, and we might not even win.
Buy a house out in the country. I did. Best decision ever.


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Perhaps, if you called you project an art studio it would not be bothered. You could make a few pieces of "art" to show should anyone want to know what you were doing. What art is, is an opinion.

I have read this works in some locations.

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As for living in the country; look for what amount of acreage qualifies as a "farm" as they often get let off of a LOT of zoning issues; at least here in NM! I'm embarrassed as I ran into trouble this way. I asked my two closest neighbors what I needed to do to build my shop extension and followed that only to find that as they are both "farms, 5+ acres", they could build/modify outbuildings pretty much at will but as I only had a bit more than an acre I was supposed to get all the permits ahead of time; sigh.

(I think that you'd be prosecuted for NOT having at least a dozen non-working vehicles on your land out here BigGunDr---iff you had enough acres to be considered a "farm")

Also some areas are very down on "non-traditional construction" and going that route can be just as much if not more hassle than otherwise---My Vicar and his wife did a straw bale house and the local building inspector refused to ok their first foundation even though the code explicitly stated that such a foundation was allowed---remember they have all the power, another set of friends got on the bad side of the electrical inspector and got dinged if their rough in wiring wasn't *EXACTLY* 6" protruding from each box---not 1/4" more or less!

OTOH; get friendly with the local inspectors and you can probably get away with most anything! My main shop building was built by a local construction company who employed the previous building inspector for our 1/2 the state---I think the inspections were done over the phone. No problem as they did good work---why I paid for them!---but i never saw any down time waiting for the over worked inspector to show up...

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Perhaps, if you called you project an art studio it would not be bothered. You could make a few pieces of "art" to show should anyone want to know what you were doing. What art is, is an opinion.

I have read this works in some locations.


It may. In many it probably won't. It's true that the definition of "art" may be ambiguous; however, the regulators hold most of the cards when it comes to resolving those types of ambiguities. It often doesn't pay to try to be too clever.

I absolutely second ciladog's recommendation to read the zoning code in detail. But don't stop there. My county has a chapter in the code on zoning. Then there's one on buildings, including the building and building maintenance codes, which might or might not apply to something like this. Then there's a fire prevention and protection code that could be relevant. There's an environmental protection code. (In my county it doesn't contain anything that would affect a blacksmith shop, but it could in yours.) And so on.

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At what point did we as Americans give up our property rights, and hand so much power to the various government agencies? I just talked with the attorney, and I may be in the same boat as urnesBeast is it worth $$$$ to fight this. The attorney said that they did violate regulations, but they can stonewall me till I run out of money. I moved to the country to avoid this, and it followed me out here.

Turns out that the "impartial hearing officer" is an ex judge that was kicked out because he was caught taking bribes. The county commissioner who lives out here is behind a lot of the code enforcement hassles, and he has the dog catcher doing his legwork for him.

I don't want this thread to get off track, but this is just to illustrate what you may have to deal with. It ain't pretty dealing with bureaucrats.

Read up on the codes, as I have found out they don't know everything that they need to.

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At what point did we as Americans give up our property rights, and hand so much power to the various government agencies?


Around 1926.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Village_of_Euclid_v._Ambler_Realty_Co.

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This is a bit crude but; Don't get into pissing matches with your neighbors in the country!

Now if you could just get the kids/grandkids of the folks in power interesting in smithing---I often do a hands on demo for boy scouts or even cub scouts, (a twisted election sign wire marshmallow/wienie roaster is pretty good for the younger boys. I work them through it one at a time and then they "test" them.) Can work wonders. If the powers that be are on your side a lot of problems disappear. If your neighbors think you are "all right" it can swing a lot of weight.

I once broke into my neighbor's gate once---pulled the pins on it to open it and get another neighbor's tractor in to dig a ditch to keep his house from flooding while he was out of the country. Earlier this month a neighbor's horse got loose and I and a friend notified him and kept it in a fenced yard until he could go out and catch it. These are folks I generally only "howdy" to when we meet in town; but they know they can depend on me in an emergency. Someone else in my house might not be so much help!

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When I lived in the "city" my neighbors didn't like the smell of coal, so I used mesquite charcoal. Then he didn't like the sound of the anvil ring, I built an anvil stand out of box tubing that was then filled with sand and I welded 3/8" square pegs that clinched down tight to the anvil, no more ring. My wrought iron anvil was as quiet as a Fisher, well almost. When the city inspector came on Monday to see what the problem was, well he didn't have one and put down that my neighbor was a "crank" caller. When I moved to the "county" my wife and I happened to pick a neighborhood that allowed horses thinking it would be OK for smithing too, not so. Couldn't use coal or charcoal, sparks are an issue in the desert, too dry, they're a fire hazard. So I went to a propane forge. Someone complained to Home Owners Association. Now an HOA is worse than any city inspector I ever came across, bar none. The board is made up of folk that have just way too much time on their hands, old ladies(widows mostly) and old retired executives(no one to boss around anymore) that walk their dog every day to see who has not complied with the Covenants, Codes and Restrictions of the Association. There are things in the CC&R's that tell you how many horses you can have, what type of animals you can have and how many. What kind of hobbies you can have, whether you can hang you laundry outside, what color to paint your house, type of fence, types of plants, when you have to stop making noise and when you can start making noise. There seems to be a rule for every aspect of your life. I break them on a regular basis. I used to bang iron, pour bronze and planted the wrong kind of plants too. But it was the smithing that got the old ladies and old men the most. I made friends with a lot of other folk by doing odd metal working projects for them though. I did welding, forging, fixed up gates for them, I didn't do horses though. You just have to go the extra mile to keep the peace if you want to keep smithing at home. It can be done, more than half the board members were friends and that keep me from being sued by the board for doing a non-approved activity even when they tried and end around by sicking the county inspector on me, I wasn't breaking any county rules. Hang in there B)

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