My Home Inspector Blog: Don't Let Your Garage/House Separation Burn Your Home Down!

Don't Let Your Garage/House Separation Burn Your Home Down!

Don't let your garage/house separation burn your home down! Many house fires begin in an attached garage. A multitude of flammable materials are commonly found in garages including gasoline, motor oil, brake fluid, paint and solvents. These fluids may also create explosive vapors. A garage often contains a water heater, furnace, or clothes dryer which can ignite the flammable materials. Therefore, a garage that is physically attached to a home must have fire-resistance-rated wall and ceiling assemblies in place. These assemblies restrict the spread of fire long enough to allow the occupants time to escape. Here are some of the key components to look at in a garage:

 

Doors

The International Residential Code (IRC) states that openings in a garage/house separation must be equipped with a solid wood door not less than 1-3/8" in thickness, a solid or honeycomb core steel door not less than 1-3/8" thick, or a 20-minute fire-rated door. If the door has a window, it must be fire-rated. If a pet door has been installed, the fire rating of the door has been ruined and it should be replaced. This door should be self-closing, and although this requirement is no longer listed in the IRC, it is still highly recommended. Openings from a garage directly into a sleeping room are prohibited. This is one rule I see violated quite frequently when conducting home inspections.


Walls and Ceilings

The garage must be separated from the residence and its attic area by not less than 1/2-inch gypsum board or equivalent applied to the garage side. A garage beneath habitable rooms must be separated by not less than 5/8-inch Type X gypsum board or equivalent. All drywall joints must be taped or sealed. If there is a non-fire-rated attic ladder installed in a garage ceiling, there must be a fire-resistance-rated assembly installed between the garage attic and the house attic.

 


Ducts


Ducts penetrating the wall or ceiling separating the dwelling from the garage must be at least 26-gauge sheet steel or other approved material, and cannot have any openings in the garage. Quite often, I see dryer or HVAC ducts penetrating a garage wall that violate this rule.






Steve Stenros- First Choice Inspections is a CREIA MCI and ICC certified home inspector serving San Diego, Orange, and Riverside counties in southern California. Clients receive a FREE lifetime appliance RecallChek with every standard inspection. Steve can be reached for home inspection appointments at 888-335-3040. Use this article as your guide to make sure you don't let your garage/house separation burn your home down!

 

 


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Comment balloon 38 commentsSteve Stenros • August 07 2011 08:17PM

Comments

Good Morning Steve, excellent input on attached garages for home owners to consider.  Many home owners just do not realize the consequences of their actions.  I hope your post serves to inform them!

Posted by Dan Edward Phillips, Realtor and Broker/Owner (Dan Edward Phillips) about 7 years ago

Dan: Keeping a fire contained to the garage area for just a few minutes can make all the difference for the occupants in the house! Thanks for your comment.

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 7 years ago

Very interesting information, Steve. I think every homeowner should know this. I also think most of us are violating it in one way or the other. Due to the lack of basements here, we all have pull-down stairs to the attic space to use it for storage.

I'm suggesting.

Posted by Toni Weidman, 26 Years Selling Homes in New Port Richey, FL (Sailwinds Realty) about 7 years ago

Just saw your post as a re-blog by Toni.  Thanks for the information I did not know about all the limitations.  I now realized I too have seen a lot of these issues in homes I have shown.  Have a great day!

Posted by Phil Hillerman, Crye-Leike Realtors® (Crye-Leike Realtors®) about 7 years ago

Toni, there's an easy way around that- just install a firewall in the attic between the garage and house! Very simple to do. Thanks for the suggest!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 7 years ago

Phil: They won't fool you any more! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 7 years ago

Steve: great post about an important issue. Never even thought about the doggie door, but that makes total sense. 

Posted by Anne M. Costello (Weidel Realtors) about 7 years ago

Thanks for your comment, Anne! And thanks for the re-blog!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 7 years ago

Great informative post AND video. The video helped us to see in detail, and here your description and reasoning of the firewall.

Suggested!

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366) about 7 years ago

reblogged!

Posted by Toni Weidman, 26 Years Selling Homes in New Port Richey, FL (Sailwinds Realty) about 7 years ago

Tom: Appreciate that! I'm glad the video helped. Thanks for the suggest!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 7 years ago

Toni: Thank you!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 7 years ago

That is great information.  I've recently shown properties that I believe may be violating some of these vital rules.  I will know to watch for this in the future.  Thank you!

Posted by Kate McQueen, Tailored service for your real estate needs! (CB&A Realtors) about 7 years ago

Good post. Fire separation is very important of course but ofter overlooked. I was told that a just a 1/4" hole in the Sheetrock is all that's needed to cause major damage to the interior. So what will do you think the dog door or flex duct hole will do?

Posted by Rob Ernst, Reno, NV-775-410-4286 Inspector & Energy Auditor (Certified Structure Inspector) about 7 years ago

Kate: Thanks for your comments! There are a great deal of homes out there that have breached fire barriers!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 7 years ago

Fire produces a tremendous amount of heat, Robert, and any small breach in the house/garage separation will allow it to spread into the dwelling. If you ever get the chance, take a look at a home after it has had a major fire in the garage- you'll be amazed at how this barrier has contained it!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 7 years ago

Steve - great video explaining what not to do. Often time, the home owner is just thinking what he can do and not think about the real consequences.

Posted by Mike Yeo (3:16 team REALTY) about 7 years ago
My understanding is that attached garages cost more to build than detached.
Posted by Cheryl Ritchie, Southern Maryland 301-980-7566 (RE/MAX Leading Edge www.GoldenResults.com) about 7 years ago

You hit the nail on the head, Mike! We home inspectors see this time and time again!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 7 years ago

This was definitely well received information.  Having those simple systems in place sound like they will make all the difference if a fire occurs in the garage.

Posted by Eileen Hsu, LICENSED REAL ESTATE SALESPERSON (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) about 7 years ago

Cheryl: I don't know. You have one less wall to build with an attached garage. Have I told you I love your dogs?!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 7 years ago

They sure will, Eileen! Thanks for stopping by!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 7 years ago

Thanks for the safety video.

Most of the violatons in houses I see is due to clutter, junk that no one uses. All the junk is good for is to fuel a potential fire. And the clutter prevents seeing other problems or leads to other problems. Good housekeeping solves a lot of problems.

Posted by Ernest Villafranca, 3923 Grand Ave. Oakland CA, 510-418-9443 (Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate ) about 7 years ago

Pet doors are a huge violation that I see around here. Other than that, many garages are just oversize storage closets for lots of junk, including flamable materials.

Posted by Erica Ramus, MRE, Schuylkill County PA Real Estate (Erica Ramus - Ramus Realty Group - Pottsville, PA ) about 7 years ago

It sure does, Ernest! Some people make Sanford & Son look neat!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 7 years ago

We have the same problem in CA, Erica! A hot fire will blast right through one of those pet doors!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 7 years ago

Steve,

I find your posts to be so informative and educational. More people need to read them. If there's one thing we should never take for granted is that we are protected in our house. Many home fires start because of owners neglect. I see that doggy door a lot on garage doors and it 's such a hazzard!

Thanks for another great post.

Your Friend from North Dallas (Flower Mound) Texas

Posted by Patricia Feager, Selling Homes Changing Lives (DFW FINE PROPERTIES) about 7 years ago

Thanks for the kind comments, Patricia! I love dogs, but Fido is going to have to learn how to knock!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 7 years ago

OK Steve it is the end of the week and I am looking for reblogs.  You have good material and I will keep coming back.

Posted by Gene Riemenschneider, Turning Houses into Homes (Home Point Real Estate) about 7 years ago

Thanks, Gene! I'm glad you'll be back! Appreciate the comment!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 7 years ago

Hey Steve, just saw your video with the attic stairs in the garage ceiling.  In this video, you stated that the ladder would be ok if the attic wall between the garage and living space were not compromised.  As a journeyman electrician in Northern California for 25+ years, I've seen alot of residential construction. Houses that did not have the garage lid rocked, would have the firewall rocked with 5/8 all the way up to the rafters to create the fire separation.  Houses that did have the garage lid rocked with 5/8 did not require the firewall to go up to the rafters.  So the fire envelope or separation was created by the firewall and garage lid.  Such is the case with my house and I am planning to install an attic ladder and thought that if I installed a fire-rated ladder, the fire envelope would not be compromised, or at least no more than it is by the door that leads to my kitchen.  What are your thoughts?  Thanks Dave 

Posted by David almost 7 years ago

David: Have you found a fire-rated attic ladder?

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) almost 7 years ago

Yes and no. I found a ladder from Century Ind. with a door that has "a 9 mm thick plywood panel pressure treated with DRICON and/or Pyro-guard and that has a U.L. stamp signifying an FR-S rating which certifies a 25 or less flame spread and smoke developed value, when tested in accordance to UL723, ASTM E-84, NFPA 255, and UBC Standard No. 42-1, extended 30-minute test." However, the words " 30 minute fire rating" do not appear with the stamp, so any inspector would have to be familiar with the stamp to know the fire rating info, which could be problematic.    Again, what is your professional insight to my previous comment about the fire envelope in the garage? Am I on the right track?

Posted by David almost 7 years ago

David: If the firewall is sheetrocked all the way to the roof, you would not have to be concerned about whether the attic ladder is fire-rated or not. You still have a fire-resistant rated assembly between the garage and the house.

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) almost 7 years ago

Well, as I stated earlier, my firewall is NOT sheetrocked all the way to my roof.  Instead, my garage ceiling is sheetrocked and the firewall is sheetrocked only to the garage ceiling. I believe that this combination creates my "fire-resistant rated assembly" between the garage and house, and this is why I'm searching for a fire-rated ladder. Do you agree with this assessment?

Posted by David almost 7 years ago

David: Yes, I agree. If you find an approved fire-rated attic ladder, I'd keep the documentation posted near or on the ladder assembly so it doesn't become an issue in the future.

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) almost 7 years ago

Thanks, Steve.

Posted by David almost 7 years ago

My garage has sheetrock wall and ceiling. I'm considering installing wood over the sheetrock ceiling. Will a wood ceiling be in violation of the firewall code in Texas.

Posted by Randy about 1 year ago

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