I’m working on my next Decoded article, about the limitations of the codes and standards on the hardware that can project into the clear opening of a door. This is more complicated than it should be, because of some code language that could be interpreted a couple of ways. The Decoded article will include information on projections into both the clear width and the clear height, but in the meantime I wanted to break this post out separately where the upcoming change is easier to find.
The International Building Code – 2018 edition and prior, requires doors to have a clear opening height of 80 inches. The code includes an exception: Door closers and door stops shall be permitted to be 78 inches (1980 mm) minimum above the floor. This means that a door closer arm can project down into the required clear opening height as long as there is at least 78 inches of clear height measured from the floor to the lowest part of the closer. But what type of “door stop” is the IBC referring to? An overhead stop? The stop on the frame?
The IBC Commentary includes a clarification which makes it seem like the code is referring to an overhead stop:
Allowance must be made for door closers and stops since their design and function necessitates placement within the door opening. The minimum allowable headroom clearance for door closers and stops is 78 inches. The 2-inch projection into the doorway height is reasonable since these devices are normally mounted away from the center of the door opening, thus minimizing the potential for contact with a person moving through the opening. This is consistent with the exception in Section 1003.3.1. Other items that are mounted at the top of the door opening, such as an electromagnetic lock on a door or a pair of doors, would still require an 80-inch minimum headroom.
However, a change has been approved for the 2021 edition of the IBC, which clarifies this further and contradicts the IBC Commentary. IBC change proposal E41 modifies the previous language to state:
Door closers, overhead door stops, power door operators, and electromagnetic door
stops locks shall be permitted to be 78 inches (1980 mm) minimum above the floor.
This means that an electromagnetic lock mounted in the center of the opening for a pair of doors, or an automatic operator that spans a large portion of the opening, will be allowed by the 2021 IBC to project into the clear opening as long as the minimum clear height is 78 inches.