unequal-leaf2One of the top 5 questions which I receive almost weekly is regarding the replacement of a 5′-wide equal pair with a 3’+2′ unequal pair.  Because automatic flush bolts and a coordinator can be problematic, and most panic hardware will not fit on a 2′ wide door, I’m constantly being asked if it’s ok to use manual flush bolts on the 2′ leaf.  That’s a tough question to answer because the code-compliant solution isn’t the best application as far as function and durability.  The IBC (2003) says this:

1008.1.8.4 Bolt locks.  Manually operated flush bolts or surface bolts are not permitted.


  1. On doors not required for egress in individual dwelling units or sleeping units.
  2. Where a pair of doors serves a storage or equipment room, manually operated edge- or surface-mounted bolts are permitted on the inactive leaf.

1008.1.8.5 Unlatching.  The unlatching of any leaf shall not require more than one operation.

Exception: More than one operation is permitted for unlatching doors in the following locations:

  1. Places of detention or restraint.
  2. Where manually operated bolt locks are permitted by Section 1008.1.8.4.
  3. Doors with automatic flush bolts as permitted by Section 1008.1.8.3, Exception 3.
  4. Doors from individual dwelling units and guestrooms of Group R occupancies as permitted by Section 1008.1.8.3, Exception 4.

That seems pretty cut and dried, but what about the millions of pairs of doors with manual flush bolts on the inactive leaf?  In the Good Old Days, we specified manual flush bolts when the inactive leaf wasn’t required for egress width, BUT…I’ve recently heard of some code officials rejecting the use of manual flush bolts, period.  Since we always try to err on the side of caution, there’s been a lot of talk in the office about how to handle these pairs in a way that won’t be a maintenance/security nightmare.

This morning I got a call from one of our customers, let’s call him Maurice, regarding an unequal pair on a stairwell.  Since these doors are fire-rated, the code requires the doors to be self-latching so manual flush bolts are out.*  The code consultant told Maurice that he needed a 3′-6″ wide door for egress width, leaving a 1′-6″ door that ideally would be fixed in place.  The doors are on a college campus and the auto flush bolts/coordinator wouldn’t be a long-term solution.  I suggested using a sidelite frame with a hollow metal panel instead of glass which means that the 3′-6″ wide door would be a single door, and since only 3′-6″ of egress width is needed, there’s no problem using a sidelite to fill the remaining portion of the rough opening.  Maurice seemed to like it.

UPDATE:  The 2009 edition of the IBC introduced some new language regarding manual flush bolts.  Check it out here.

If anyone sends me a clear photo of a sidelite frame with a panel, I’ll send you a small token of my appreciation.

*Manual flush bolts can only be used on fire-rated doors leading to unoccupied spaces such as a mechanical room.

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