In Mark Kuhn’s next post, he writes about a problem many hardware specifiers have faced…a conflict between door width and the code requirements for panic hardware.


Wide door with panicI’ve run across an interesting situation recently that I feel requires some focus. One of the code changes made in the 2021 edition of the International Building Code (IBC) was related to the maximum width of doors in a means of egress. Prior to the 2021 edition, the IBC stated that the maximum width of a swinging door leaf was 48 inches (IBC Section 1010.1.1 “Size of Doors”). So, if you had a door in an egress path you were limited to a width of 48 inches for a single door or 96 inches for a pair of doors, but in 2021 the IBC deleted the reference to a “maximum width.”  This had been removed from NFPA 101 – Life Safety Code several editions prior.

On the surface this would seem insignificant. You might ask, what does it matter, if I can now use a door leaf wider than 48 inches in a means of egress? I should also mention that this would be a custom door, because any door leaf over 4 feet wide is custom (or at least it was prior to IBC-2021 ).

Well in my “day job” as an architectural consultant and specification writer I am now seeing door leaf widths greater than 48 inches being used more frequently. I recently wrote a specification for a church where a 10-foot-wide pair had been requested for the doors serving the sanctuary, which had an occupant load of more than 2,000 people.  The reason for the wide doors was because of a large piece of equipment that the doors had to accommodate.

Now we have a couple of things going on…we have an egress door serving an assembly occupancy with a calculated occupant load of more than 50 people, and we have a door leaf wider than 48 inches.  Does everyone see where I’m going with this?

According to IBC-2021, Section 1010.2.9, if I have an assembly occupancy with an occupant load greater than 50 people, then I am required to have panic hardware or fire exit hardware on any doors serving this area that are equipped with a lock or latch.  And according to IBC-2021, Section 1010.2.9.3 (Item 3), the actuating portion of that panic hardware must measure at least half the width of the door leaf.

Now back before we (and by “we” I mean EVERY panic hardware manufacturer) introduced the touchpad style exit device, this would not be a problem. This was because the old crossbar style panics typically came with what was essentially a long pipe that could be cut to whatever length you needed. But most ANSI/BHMA Grade 1, touchpad style exit devices do not have an actuating portion that would be code compliant for a door leaf greater than 48 inches.

I’d love to know if you’re seeing wider doors more frequently on current projects, and what you think about this.


Thanks to Ann Timme of Allegion for the photo of a wide door with a crossbar panic.

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