Fires are more likely to start in the garage do to flammable liquids, such as gasoline and oils that are often stored in the garage. Many garages are also used as workshops. It is important to have the proper fire separation between the attached garage and the house to prevent a fire that starts in the garage from easily spreading into the house and/or attic. Fire separation also prevents carbon monoxide fumes from entering into the house.
I have inspected a couple older homes lately that have had the carport converted into a garage. The walls and ceiling in these garages were not updated to provide a fire separation between the living area of the house and the house attic area. Although when the conversion was done it may not have been required to install a fire separation, it is a safety issue that should be addressed in a home inspection report. I also come across newer homes that the door between the garage and the house do not self close and latch or the attic access panel is missing or damaged. We have all seen the pull down ladder in the garage ceiling and thought that’s a great way to store items in the attic, but most do not meet current fire separation standards.
Newer houses that have missing self closing devices, missing weather stripping at the door to the house, or missing attic access covers are easy and inexpensive to repair or replace. Older homes that the carport was converted into a garage may take a general contractor to install the proper fire separation. Below are some of the typical fire separation recommendations.
Doors from garage to house
- Doors should be solid wood doors, solid- or honeycomb-core steel doors, or have a 20-minute fire rating.
- Pet doors should not be installed in the door or a wall to the house.
- The glass and frame at windows in the door or wall to the house should be fire-rated.
- Doors should be self-closing and latch.
- Doors should have tight seals to prevent carbon monoxide fumes from entering into the living areas.
- Doors should not lead directly into a room used for sleeping.
- The garage should be separated from the house and its attic area by not less than ½” gypsum board (drywall) applied to the garage side. 5/8” Type X gypsum board or equivalent may be required at the ceiling if a 2nd floor living area is above the garage.
- Drywall joints need to be taped or sealed.
- Drywall should not be damaged or have any holes.
- No air vents or ducts should be installed through the ceilings.
- Attic access covers and / or pull down ladders should be constructed of fire-rated material.