I have been seeing a rash of fire separation issues this week. So many times we cause safety issues in the name of convenience without even knowing what we have done. Fire separation is one of those things we rarely think about, but has great importance in the event of fire.
What is Fire Separation?
Fire separation in the garage is something a home inspector should check every time. However, many home owners are not aware of its importance if at all. Many fires in the home start in the garage. Overheating systems, vehicles, exposure to the elements all can contribute to the likelihood of a fire. In addition many homes have living quarters above the garage. Many kids rooms are above the garage, so of course their safety is paramount.
A garage is also where we do a lot of work. We drill holes for mounts in the ceiling, or attach cabinets to the walls, and ladders in the attic space over a garage. A garage can change many times over its lifespan, and because it isn’t part of our daily lives it gets neglected. The holes we drill are not patched, the drywall we remove for running new wire is never replaced, the access doors are left removed, ect…
Fire separation requirements state that the space between living space and garage must have 5/8″ drywall, and seams must be taped. The reason is that this provides valuable space between the start of a fire and the rest of the home. As a result it provides your family valuable seconds to escape in the event of a fire. Remember most homes are made of wood, just like our campfires. So when a fire gets going it doesn’t take long to spread to the rest of the home and plays an important role.
Some Things to Look for
I have seen a rash of folding attic access ladders in the garages lately. These are great for giving quick access to the attic above the garage for added storage. Unfortunately, these are typically made of wood and therefore a perfect access for fire to spread throughout the house. Any areas that separate the living area from the garage should be covered with drywall. So if there is a space like this in your garage, you should remove the ladder and replace it with drywall.
Drywall is made of two paperboards that sandwich gypsum, a powdery white or gray sulfate mineral. Gypsum is noncombustible, and compared to other wall materials, like solid wood. If you must have an attic access in your garage, you should at least replace it with a drywall access door. I would still write it up as a concern but not so much as the solid wood ladder access.
Fire separation is one of those things typically built into a home, but as homeowners, we don’t understand its important role and often damage or remove it creating a safety hazard which can put our families at risk. Protecting your family is an important responsibility, let us help you make sure its done right. Give Home Resource Solutions a call today to schedule a home safety inspection and get $25 off when you mention this blog with coupon code PC25. (253) 271-0402 www.HRSinspects.com
By: Daniel Arnett
Certified Master Inspector
Home Resource Solutions