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Community and Q&A

I’m chemically sensitive and the neighbor uses lots of pesticides that make me ill

BRENDA Koehlert | Posted in Interior Design on

Hello. I own a small 2 story semi-detached home, 1024 sq ft in all. I’m chemically sensitive and the neighbor uses lots of pesticides that make me ill. I would like to keep these VOCs out. Air purifiers have not worked for me.

The walls holding the kitchen and bathroom cabinets adjoin and there are huge leaks between the units. In the living room the stairways adjoin. Is there any possibility of being able to completely seal my unit off from my neighbor’s so that it’s airtight? I read about someone doing this with builders foil. I don’t want to move, but I don’t want to waste money on something that’s unfeasible either. Thanks so much for your knowledge and insight.

Brenda Koehler

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  1. Steve Knapp CZ 3A Georgia | | #1

    How practical is it for you to move? Can you sell without a loss and afford to move into a detached home?

  2. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #2

    There are no guarantees here. But if you want to try to improve the situation:

    1. Hire an experience weatherization contractor to perform blower-door-directed air sealing. When your house is depressurized by a blower door, the contractor can feel for leaks, concentrating on the party wall that concerns you. Then the contractor strives to reduce air leakage with caulk, spray foam, or dense-packed cellulose.

    2. Once that work is done, install a supply ventilation system that pressurizes your apartment. A supply ventilation system helps prevent air from entering your apartment. For more information on ventilation systems, see Designing a Good Ventilation System.

  3. BRENDA Koehlert | | #3

    Thank you Steve. A semi-detached home is all I could afford, so I can't afford a detached house. I might be able to break even if I sell. I'll have to put some work into the house. I always wanted to own my own home but it hasn't worked out. I'm too old to think I'll have anther chance.


    Martin, thanks for your very comprehensive answer. I'm not really sure I can afford all that but I'll look into it.

  4. Mel Tillyard | | #4


    Regarding your concern about being able to afford Martin's suggestions, many states (assuming you are in the US) and utilities offer a free energy assessment that includes a blower door test. New York and NYSERDA for example offer such a program and take it a step further by paying up to 50% of the suggested cost of improvements if your income qualifies. Air sealing a common wall shouldn't be that expensive and the program will help you save money on your utility bills at the same time!

  5. D Dorsett | | #5

    NYSERDA would not subsidize insulation & air sealing of a partition wall, only exterior walls, which is the case with most state weatherization subsidies. Sealing the rest of the house would and pressurizing it would reduce the amount of air coming from the other side, but it would be good/better to seal the partition wall first.

    For the chemically sensitive dense-packing with cellulose is probably going to be a safer bet than an expanding foam insulation, but pull the MSDS sheet on any product before installing it to check against your known sensitivities.

  6. BRENDA Koehlert | | #6

    Thanks, Mel. That gives me hope. I really don't want to leave.

    Thanks, D Dorsett. You are right, PPL will not subsidize insulation but it does say that it will give $250 in rebates toward the $350 cost of a blower door test. So I will look into it.


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