Fire and Life Safety Questions and Concerns

Has the City amended the fire separation requirements (section R302.6, I.R.C.) between a dwelling unit and the adjoining private garage?

Yes. A private garage shall be separated from the dwelling unit and its attic area above with minimum 5/8-inch Type X gypsum board or equivalent applied to the garage side. Garages beneath habitable rooms shall be separated from all habitable rooms above by not less than 5/8-inch Type X gypsum board or equivalent. All horizontal separation supporting elements (including bearing walls) shall be protected with not less than 5/8-inch Type X gypsum board or equivalent.

Does the garage door between the house and the garage need to be self-closing?

Yes. The City has amended section R302.5.1, I.R.C., “opening protection”, to require a minimum 1 3/8 inch solid core, 20-minute fire-rated or honeycomb core steel garage door to be both self-closing and self-latching. Which means, upon release, the door will self-close and self-latch in place.

I want to enclose my carport and convert it into a garage. Are there nonstructural code issues I should be concerned about?

Yes. The following are additional building code regulations that specifically pertain to private garages:
  • Openings and penetrations through the separation wall between a garage and residence are regulated. As an example, the door opening between a garage and residence must be a minimum 1 3/8 inches in thickness and must be solid wood, honeycomb core steel door or 20-minute fire-rated, with self-closing/self-latching door hardware.
  • Windows are not allowed in the separation wall and penetrations (ducts, piping, etc.) in the separation wall must comply with section R302.5 I.R.C., in resisting free passage of flame and products of combustion.
  • The new garage must be separated from the residence and its attic area by not less than 5/8-inch Type “x” gypsum board or equivalent. See City amended section R302.6., I.R.C.
  • The floor surfacing in a carport may be asphalt, but not in a garage, section R309.1, I.R.C.
  • A door opening from a garage can not open directly into a room used for sleeping purposes.
  • Any gas-fired appliance in a garage or adjacent storage room must be a minimum 18-inches off the floor, with combustion air brought in from the outside, section G2408.2, I.R.C.
  • All garage receptacles, other than a dedicated receptacle, must be protected by a ground-fault circuit-interrupter (GFCI), section E3902.2, I.R.C.

***Please note: Added automatic garage door openers shall be listed and installed in accordance with UL 325.

My new house design has rooms with high ceilings and lower arched doorway openings. In addition to the bedrooms and adjacent hallway, do I need to install added smoke alarms in each of these rooms?

Yes. The City has amended the code to require smoke alarms wherever the “adjacent ceiling heights vary 24 inches or more, or where door openings and archways drop down 24 inches or more from the adjoining ceiling height”.

I want to enclose my existing covered patio and create a habitable living space. Are there any nonstructural code issues I should be concerned about?

Yes. As an example, you can not enclose your existing covered patio, if the only “emergency escape and rescue opening”, from an existing bedroom, opens into this existing patio area. All “emergency escape and rescue openings” must open directly to the building’s exterior, and may not go through an adjoining room.

In addition, once the covered patio space is enclosed, the existing adjacent habitable rooms that once relied on exterior operable windows/doors that directly open to the patio, may no longer meet minimum natural lighting and/or natural ventilation code requirements. Reference Section R303, I.R.C., for exceptions. Another concern is the sizing of the existing heating/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC) unit to properly accommodate this newly added conditioned space. The existing HVAC unit may have to be replaced with a larger unit. An HVAC contractor/installer should be consulted.

I want to change an already existing portion of my residence to include a bedroom. I know I need a building permit and must submit to the City construction drawings and documents. In preparing the new proposed floor plan layout, are there any nonstructural life safety code issues I should cover in my design?

Yes. The following must be addressed:
  • The new bedroom must have an “emergency escape and rescue” window or door directly to the building’s exterior, (along with a window well and a fixed in-place ladder, if located in the basement) in compliance with section R310.1., I.R.C.
  • Hard-wired, interconnected with battery back-up smoke alarms will be required in compliance with section R313.2.1, I.R.C. *** Please note: The new bedroom and adjacent hallway smoke alarms need to be interconnected with complying smoke alarms throughout the existing dwelling unit, see exceptions, section R313.2.1, I.R.C.
  • Check with a State licensed electrician to see if the existing electrical outlets in the new bedroom can be converted to arc-fault circuit-interrupter circuits, in compliance with section E3902.12, I.R.C.
  • Any existing interior gas-fired appliances (gas-fired furnace and/or hot water heater) can not be located in, nor be in a space that opens only into the new bedroom. See section G2406.2, I.R.C. for exceptions.
  • A carbon monoxide alarm is required outside of and in immediate vicinity of the bedroom, section R315.3, I.R.C.

All I am doing is replacing same size windows throughout my residence to gain higher energy efficiency. Are there any code regulations I should be concerned about in replacing my windows?

Yes. The following window and window glazing requirements must be complied with:
  • The replacement window must have a glazing U-factor (thermal transmittance) of 0.40 or better and a "solar hear gain coefficient" (SHGC) of 0.25 or better, reference Table N1102.1, I.R.C.
  • There are window locations within the residence that are considered as “hazardous locations”, and therefore, require safety glazing in compliance with section R308, I.R.C. The glazing must be listed and labeled as safety (“tempered”) glazing. The “hazardous locations”, within a residence, are listed in section R308.4, I.R.C. *** Please note: If the existing window glazing was not originally safety ("tempered") glazing and the existing window is located in a “hazardous location”, the new replacement window (glazing) must comply.
  • Ensure that the replacement windows in the bedrooms are of the operable type, with clear openings to meet or exceed the minimum required “emergency escape and rescue opening” size, reference section R310, I.R.C.
  • To meet the minimum natural ventilation requirements of section R303, I.R.C. to ensure that the replaced operable windows remain operable.

I'm framing the second story of my two-story residence with open-web floor trusses. The second story floor area is approximately 1,200 square feet. Is draftstopping required?

Yes. Draftstopping is required (to restrict the movement of air and spread of fire) within a concealed space such as a floor-ceiling assembly of open-web trusses, when the concealed space exceeds 1,000 sq. ft. The draftstop shall be located so as to divide the concealed space (floor-ceiling assembly space) into approximately equal areas. Draftstop materials are as noted in section R302.12, I.R.C.

I am remodeling my home and want to add an exterior window (at least 18 inches above the floor) in my existing foyer. The new window will be located adjacent to the bottom of my interior stairway. Does the window have to be safety ("tempered") glazing?

Yes, if the window glazing is within 60 inches measured horizontally from the bottom tread of the stairway (in any direction) and is less than 60 inches above the nose of the tread.