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Garage Fire Safety

Remodeling a single-family home with an attached garage? Be sure to check the garage fire safety requirements in your local code. You probably will need fire-resistant structural elements in any remodeling that involves an attached garage and the adjacent living space.

What constitutes fire-resistant construction? According to the International Building Code, fire resistance means that the construction restricts the spread of fire for a period of time, which gives the occupants time to escape the building.

There is a slew of different products that tout fire resistance: thermal and insulation materials, gypsum panels, fire doors, sprays, foams, sealants, cushions, wraps and more. Fire-resistant products are tested by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Northbrook, Ill.

Where is a fire-resistant structure required? For detailed specifics, check your local ranking code body, also known as the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ). Ultimately, they set the rules for your area as far as where fire-resistant construction is required and what methods, procedures and products can be used to meet code requirements.

Some jurisdictions follow the International Residential Code. Others enforce the Uniform Building Code, whose requirements are generally more stringent. If you are remodeling a multifamily residence, such as condominiums, apartments or townhomes, even more stringent requirements apply.

Garage wall construction.

Following are tips from the IRC and UBC on fire-resistant construction for garage walls:

The wall separating the garage from the house needs to have 1/2-inch-thick gypsum board on the garage side. The UBC requires the use of Type X gypsum board, as well as fire tape to seal joints on drywall and gypsum board. UL has tested and assigned a one-hour rating to a wall assembly with Type X gypsum board on both sides and fire-taped.

If there is any habitable space above the garage, 1/2-inch gypsum board is required on the garage ceiling. In addition, all of the supporting walls need to be clad with 1/2-inch gypsum board. The UBC requires a fire-rated floor-to-ceiling assembly. (For more information on how this rating is achieved and what products are applicable, see

The entry into the house from the garage must have a 20-minute-rated fire door—a minimum 1 3/8-inch thick solid wood or steel door. The UBC additionally requires the door to be self-closing and self-latching.

There should be no opening for air duct systems in the garage, such as returns or vents. These might actually "fuel" a fire. Any ducts passing through the garage or penetrating its walls or ceilings are required to be a minimum of 26-gauge sheet steel or other material approved by the AHJ.