When I hear about a residential fire where the door between the garage and the house prevented the fire from spreading, I like to use it as a reminder to iDigHardware readers. This morning I was surprised to realize that my last reminder was almost 5 years ago! An article in the Hampshire News arrived in my inbox yesterday, and although the residential fire occurred in England, it illustrates the value of a fire door in deterring the spread of fire from the garage to the home. The garage was a complete loss but the house suffered no damage. Here is the local fire department’s tweet:
If you have a garage attached to your home, it is very likely that the swinging door between the garage and the house is required by code to be a 20-minute fire door assembly or the equivalent. According to the International Code Council, the International Residential Code (IRC) is in use or adopted in 49 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The IRC requires the door between the house and the attached garage to be a minimum of 1 3/8 inches thick – either a solid wood door, a solid or honeycomb-core steel door, or a 20-minute fire door. The door must be self-closing or automatic-closing – this ensures that the door closes each time it is opened, or closes automatically if a fire occurs.
Here is the 2018 IRC section for reference:
R302.5 Dwelling-garage opening and penetration protection. Openings and penetrations through the walls or ceilings separating the dwelling from the garage shall be in accordance with Sections R302.5.1 through R302.5.3.
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.
Even if your home predates the IRC requirement, a solid core or 20-minute fire door that is self-closing or automatic-closing provides important protection for your family. According to an NFPA report on home structure fires, about 3% of residential fires in the US begin in the garage – this equates to approximately 10,600 fires annually. If your garage door is standing open when a fire occurs, it has no value as a fire door. Adding spring hinges or a light-duty door closer is a minimal investment but may have a considerable impact on safety.