One of the difficulties of staying on top of the code requirements is that just when you think you know the answer – the codes change. if you’ve taken any code classes or spent time reading code books (who does that?!) you may have seen that along with a minimum clear opening width, there is also a maximum door width.
Ann Timme of Allegion sent me this photo the other day and it reminded me to tell you about a potential change to the International Building Code (IBC). Currently, the IBC says, “The maximum width of a swinging door leaf shall be 48 inches (1219 mm) nominal.” NFPA 101 also included this limitation in past editions but it has been removed.
A code change proposal has been submitted for the 2021 IBC, which would remove the maximum width criteria from that publication as well (if it receives final approval). According to the IBC Commentary, the limitation exists is “because larger doors are difficult to handle and are of sizes that typically are not fire tested.” However, the opening force requirements stated in the code will ensure that the doors are not too difficult to open, regardless of the width. It’s not often that a wide door would be used in a location where a fire door assembly is required, but if a fire door of the desired width has not been tested, it’s possible that a code official would allow a construction label to be used.
A few things to note about the doors in the photo…
a) Most touchpad style panic hardware would not have an actuating portion wide enough to measure half the width of the door, but the crossbar device does meet this requirement.
b) It’s important to make sure that the door closer has enough closing force to reliably close and latch the door, but still meets the opening force limitations.
c) The hinges on a wide door need to be able to compensate for the weight of the door and the distance from the jamb to the lock edge. I have seen some wide doors with wheels to keep them from dragging, but I don’t recommend this application.