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Mar 20 2018

Is your garage door self-closing or automatic-closing?

Category: Fire DoorsLori @ 10:58 am Comments (4)

This photo is from a different garage fire. Click on it to see the other photos from this fire – you’ll be a believer!

This morning I saw a video (embedded below) that was posted on Facebook by the Sacramento Fire Department.  It is helmet-cam footage of a fire captain entering a home and closing the door between the living area and the garage.  Unfortunately, the smoke from the fire had spread extensively from the garage into the home by that time; if the door had been closed when the fire began (and remained closed), it’s likely that the damage would have been reduced.

Watching this video reminded me of a change to the 2018 International Residential Code (IRC) that I was involved with.  In my opinion, it is extremely important for the door between a garage and a house to be closed if/when a fire occurs – here’s some info from FEMA on garage fires.  The IRC already included a requirement for these doors to be self-closing (equipped with a closer or spring hinges), but for some reason it is still common to find garage doors that are not self-closing.

One theory is that it is inconvenient to have a self-closing door in that location.  New products are becoming available which will close a residential door when a fire occurs, so the IRC was changed to address the possibility of using an automatic-closing device on a garage door.  The term “automatic-closing device” is not defined in the IRC, but NFPA 80 does include a definition:  “A device that causes the door or window to close when activated by a fusible link or detector.”  Installing an automatic-closing device on a garage door (or a bedroom door!) would allow the door to be opened and closed manually but would help to ensure that the door is closed if there is a fire.

Here is the applicable section from the 2018 IBC:

R302.5.1 Opening protection. Openings from a private garage directly into a room used for sleeping purposes shall not be permitted. Other openings between the garage and residence shall be equipped with solid wood doors not less than 1 3/8 inches (35 mm) in thickness, solid or honeycomb core steel doors not less than 1 3/8 inches (35 mm) thick, or 20-minute fire-rated doors, equipped with a self-closing or automatic-closing device.

And here’s the video from the Sacramento Fire Department:

I don’t have an attached garage, but if I did, I would make sure that the door is self-closing or automatic-closing.  Is this something you have considered for your own home?

Photo:  Glassboro Fire Department

4 Responses to “Is your garage door self-closing or automatic-closing?”

  1. cda says:

    It would be interesting to find and read the hearing notes on that change.

  2. Raymond Holman, AHC says:

    I’ve lived in multiple states and in homes of various ages and I can say that all those built with attached garages had spring hinges on the house-to-garage door. Not my doing. They were on there when I moved in. I do believe strongly that references to fusible links should be eliminated when referring to residential buildings. And most commercial applications. Considering the damage smoke can do to people and property, I think it’s only logical.

  3. John Dalrymple says:

    I have had a LCN 4130H on my garage door for the past 22 years. I know that I shouldn’t have a mechanical hold open, but we only use the hold open feature when we are bringing things from the garage to the kitchen and we never leave the door held open un-attended because Wendy is certain that’s how mice get in the house.

    I so prefer the controlled closing of a closer over spring hinges. And yes, the door is hung on ball bearing hinges.

  4. Joel Niemi says:

    Thanks for the reminder that I need to upgrade from the spring / “Bommer” hinges (which haven’t held their springiness over time)(despite several re-tighenings) to door closers on the garage-to-house doors.

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