Back in the 80’s, there was a lot of confusion about how to measure the clear opening width of doors. The codes and standards weren’t clear, so on doors with panic devices the fire marshals were looking for 32″ between the panic device and the stop on the strike jamb. As each code and standard was revised to include information clarifying this requirement, I would periodically call the State Fire Marshal’s office in the state where we most often had the problem. They stopped taking my calls but they eventually changed the way they measured clear opening width.
In a nutshell, the requirements for egress doors are as follows:
- 32″ clear width minimum, measured between the face of the door and the stop on the frame with the door open 90 degrees
- one leaf of a pair shall provide 32″ clear width
- maximum width 48″ nominal
- Group I-2 occupancies – doors used for the movement of beds – 41 1/2″ minimum clear width
- minimum height – 80″ nominal (78″ to closer or overhead stop arm)
- projections of up to 4″ allowed between 34″ and 80″ above the finished floor
- refer to the exceptions for additional requirements
Here is the text from IBC 2003, 2006, & 2009 (slight changes in exception #7), which is consistent with the requirements of the ADAAG and ICC/ANSI A117.1:
1008.1.1 Size of doors. The minimum width of each door opening shall be sufficient for the occupant load thereof and shall provide a clear width of 32 inches (813 mm). Clear openings of doorways with swinging doors shall be measured between the face of the door and the stop, with the door open 90 degrees (1.57 rad). Where this section requires a minimum clear width of 32 inches (813 mm) and a door opening includes two door leaves without a mullion, one leaf shall provide a clear opening width of 32 inches (813 mm). The maximum width of a swinging door leaf shall be 48 inches (1219 mm) nominal. Means of egress doors in a Group I-2 occupancy used for the movement of beds shall provide a clear width not less than 41 1/2 inches (1054 mm). The height of door openings shall not be less than 80 inches (2032 mm).
1. The minimum and maximum width shall not apply to door openings that are not part of the required means of egress in Group R-2 and R-3 occupancies.
2. Door openings to resident sleeping units in Group I-3 occupancies shall have a clear width of not less than 28 inches (711 mm).
3. Door openings to storage closets less than 10 square feet (0.93m2) in area shall not be limited by the minimum width.
4. Width of door leaves in revolving doors that comply with Section 1008.1.4.1 shall not be limited.
5. Door openings within a dwelling unit or sleeping unit shall not be less than 78 inches (1981 mm) in height.
6. Exterior door openings in dwelling units and sleeping units, other than the required exit door, shall not be less than 76 inches (1930 mm) in height.
7. In other than Group R-1 occupancies, the minimum widths shall not apply to interior egress doors within a dwelling unit or sleeping unit that is not required to be an Accessible unit, Type A unit or Type B unit.
1008.1.1.1 Projections into clear width. There shall not be projections into the required clear width lower than 34 inches (864 mm) above the floor or ground. Projections into the clear opening width between 34 inches (864 mm) and 80 inches (2032 mm) above the floor or ground shall not exceed 4 inches (102 mm).
Exception: Door closers and door stops shall be permitted to be 78 inches (1980 mm) minimum above the floor.
Graphic: International Building Code (IBC) Commentary
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I’m always confused by the wording of this part of the code. It says there shall be no projections into the required clear width below 34″. What if your door opening exceeds the required clear width – can you then have projections on the door below 34″?
Hi Justin –
According to the IBC, the limitations pertain to the REQUIRED clear width (32″). So if you had a 4′ door with a panic device that projected 6″ off the face of the door, you’d still meet the clear width requirement. Unfortunately, not all of the codes and standards that incorporate this requirement use the same wording, and some AHJs interpret it differently.
Here’s the text from the 2009 IBC: “1008.1.1.1 Projections into clear width. There shall not be projections into the required clear width lower than 34 inches (864 mm) above the floor or ground. Projections into the clear opening width between 34 inches (864 mm) and 80 inches (2032 mm) above the floor or ground shall not exceed 4 inches (102 mm).”
Hope you are doing well. I would like to ask the following:
1- What is the minimum opening height per 2003 NFPA 101? (Is it 80′?)
2- What is the clear opening width of a door opening in a ballroom with 200 persons occupant load per 2003 NFPA 101? (Is it 40”?)
Hi Mohammad –
The minimum door opening height is 6′-8″…this is usually considered a nominal dimension so that a 6′-8″ door with a 5/8″ stop would be accepted, although NFPA 101 does not spell this out. The International Building Code and ICC A117.1 (accessibility standard) both allow the closer arm to project down to within 78″ of the floor, but I did not find this exception in NFPA 101.
Without knowing more about the ballroom situation, I can give you the general answer that the room would require at least 2 exits, and that they must be remote from each other (not 2 doors together). The minimum clear opening width for each door is 32″ (measured from the face of the door to the stop on the strike jamb of the frame), and 2 of these doors would provide enough egress width for the occupant load. The doors would require panic hardware.