A Fire Door from the Garage to the House
Today’s question is, “Does the door from my garage to my house have to be fireproof or different from the other doors in my house?”
The answer is definitely, “Yes.” Garages along with kitchens, are the places most likely to initiate a fire. Think about it. Your garage has gasoline in it along with paints, thinners, cleaning fluids and other flammables. If your car leaked some gasoline onto a hot engine, a fire could start. Or a bundle of rags with paint thinner might spontaneously ignite when bundled up on a shelf or in a cabinet. It happens all too frequently. You need a good door to keep the fire from spreading from the garage to the house too quickly.
If your garage is separated from your house, you have a built in fire separation by virtue of the space between the buildings. However, most garages are connected to the house and a fire could spread to the house in minutes. So in these cases, the door to the garage must be able to resist the fire for some period of time so you have a chance to escape and avoid injury or death. Most Building Codes require this. The International Residential Building Code, which has been adopted in many locales, requires a 20-minute fire rated door, or a solid wood, or solid or honeycomb core steel door of not less than 1 3/8″ thickness.
I recommend choosing the 20-minute door. The door should have a label that says this. Doors, along with many building products, are tested by the Underwriters Laboratory for safety. A 20-minute rated door has been tested to withstand penetration by a fire for at least twenty minutes. If you want more security, you can always exceed the minimum rating and install a door with an even higher rating.
Fire-rated doors, along with smoke alarms, will let you sleep at night knowing your family is safe.
I’m always interested in hearing your comments and experiences. Please feel free to post them and I’ll answer as many as I can.
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What is the requirement for swing/hinge placement?
I am planning to install a fire door between my garage and home. The door needs to be outswing left-handed (viewing from within the home) due to the meeting of 3 doors (garage, exterior to backyard and finished basement/addition) at this location in a small amount of space. This places the hinges outside the home (although this is in the garage.) Do I purchase a RH outswing and is this safe or is it really a LH inswing and does it matter?
(Are the hinges non-removable in this type of door? I want to make the door as secure as possible to prevent unwanted entry should someone breech the garage door or a window.)
Devenie – I do not know of any special requirement for hinges for a fire door for a garage. But the security issue is important. Using the type of hinges with non-removable hinges should provide the security you are wanting. These are a simple device utilizing a set screw that is only accessible when the door is open to lock the hinge pin in place.
Does a side house door into carport that has a garage door added to front need a fire rated door ?
If the carport is completely enclosed, then it qualifies as a garage and should have a fire-rated door to the house. If the carport is not completely enclosed, it probably does not need to have a fire-rated door to the house. But check with your local building officials just to be sure.
I have a customer that has a doggie door in hos fire door between house and garage that je wants repair what do tell him
Terry – I don’t think s doggie door in the door to the garage would pass muster with the Building Code. You should check with the local building department to be certain.
We’re in Toronto, Canada, and live in a small condo. The basement-to-garage doors are proper fire doors, but there is an issue here as to which way they should open. Version A is they should open out into the garage, with the panic doors on the inside, and Version B says they should open into the building with the panice bars on the garage side. Which of these is the proper installation?
Chris – Your local Building Code will be the final authority on this question. But usually doors into garages of single family residences open swinging into the house. But in buildings like condos where multiple families share the same garage, the issue of emergency egress comes into play. In these cases, the door should swing in the direction of escape. Does your escape path go through the garage? That would be a bit unusual since a garage is a common source of a fire. Check where your fire and emergency exits are and you will probably see that the doors swing in their direction. And check with your local building officials to get the accurate answer for your jurisdiction.
I have an attached garage with a fire door leading into our dining room. Is it safe to paint it and if so, do I need special paint? It is a dark fake wood grain from the 70’s and I would like to paint it white without changing it’s fire-rating.
Thank you for your help,
K – You can safely paint the door. It will not affect the fire rating.
Hello, We live in Sonoma County, Ca and are renting a home in a flood zone. Our attached garage has no other way in or out besides the large garage door itself. There is a window that in a foot wide and 4 feet tall that does not have a way to open. Does there need to be an emergency exit besides the electronic garage door itself? What if a fire starts, someone is inside and the electronic door fails?
Nikkie – Your garage door should have an emergency release to let you lift it even when the power goes out. You should talk with your landlord about this. Some openers can be equipped with a battery backup to let the door work even if the power goes out. You might ask your landlord about that option, too.
What about the shared wall between house and garage in which the door is set? Is there anything we need to know about the materials to be used there? We will be replacing a door and the surrounding wall between the house and garage. Door is hollow-core and will be replaced with a 20-minute rated door. Existing wall appears to be drywall, with two glass windows in it on either side of the door. Thank you!
Stephanie – You need to check your local building codes. Chances are the windows in the wall between the house and the garage are not permitted. They would have no fire rating. You may or may not have a requirement for fire rated drywall on the garage side of the wall. I can’t give you definite answers here. But a local architect or building code official can.
Do you need to replace the door frame if you are removing a hollow core door and replacing it with a solid wood door? I am going to replace it with the same dimensions. Again this is a door from the garage entering into the kitchen.
Rufus – No. You can hang the new door on the existing frame and jamb, unless the building department in your area has a more stringent building code than the International Building Code.
Hi, Do we need to fire rate the garage wall if it is built attached to the granny flat?
Rashmi – You should check your local Building Code for that information. It can vary from place to place.
Can I add decorative trim to my fire door or will poking nail holes harm the fire rating? I wanted to paint the door with magnetic chalk board paint and frame the area.
I live in California.
Desiree – I cannot give Building Code advice on this website because building codes can vary from locale to locale. You need to ask your local building department about the fire door requirements. There is no cost in asking them. They are the people who are expert on your local codes. And they are the people who interpret and enforce your local codes.
Use fire rated caulking on the holes after installed you’ll be upto code.
Can I use a ‘pocket door function’ with a fire rated door from my kitchen into the garage? (Right now the main door swings into our kitchen and the storm door swings out.) I’d like both on a track so that we save space. You stated in a previous comment that the main door should swing into the home…could it swing out if the pocket door is not an option?
Thank you in advance for your advice.
Kelly – I would suspect that a pocket door would not qualify for a fire rating since it does not close tightly and has no weather-stripping. Yes, the door could swing out so long as the steps are not immediately there. You should have a landing of some sort to step onto at nearly the level of the inside floor to make it safer to walk through and preventing tripping and falling.
We live in a townhouse complex and would like to install a door in our garage leading to the basement of our unit. Can we install a steel door with a window insert in it?
Susan – You need to check your local Codes carefully for this. According to most Codes, you would need a door with wire-glass and only a limited size. The door would likely be metal. It must have a specific fire rating. Check the Code for this. And if you have stairs leading from the garage to the basement, you probably need a step up at the door to prevent gasoline, carbon dioxide, and other dangerous liquids and gasses from falling down the steps, filling your house with poisons, and killing you. I’ll say it again. Check the local Building Codes!
Hi I own and rent out a bungalow with an attached garage, the home was built in the 70’s. The door from the kitchen to the garage (Original) has an asbestos sheet fixed on the garage side of the door, other houses in the street are identical and my question is :
As it is original is it legal ?
If so if i decided to change it what would i need to replace it with ?
Many thanks your help would be greatly appreciated
Graham – You’ll have to check with the local building inspector’s office to be sure, but in most places, a solid core door will give you the fire rating that is required. The original door with the asbestos sheet may have been legal when the house was built. It is even possible there was no building code at all in that area when the house was built.
One note, check where you can dispose of the asbestos sheet legally before dumping somewhere. Asbestos is one of those materials that is overly regulated. There are lots of rules and regulations regarding the handling of it.
Hi. I have a garage that is attached to the house yet does not have an entry into the house. It does have s door that leads to a porch. I need to replace that door. Does it matter which way the door swings?
Sarah – There is no building code requirement for the swing of a door from a garage to a porch. But exterior doors are usually purchased “pre-hung” and set up to swing in. the weather stripping and threshold are planned for this direction of swing. If you installed it turned around, it would not be weather-tight. Also, by swinging in, the door is not subject to wind blowing it around when open.
Is there a minimum door width for a residential firedoor to the garage?
Glenn – I do not know of a size restriction on a door from the house to the garage. that door does not qualify as a “means of egress” since a qualifying exit cannot go through a garage. but I would suggest a 32″ wide door just for convenience.
Does a door from the garage to the substructure (non-living area) have to meet fire requirements as outlined for door to living area?
Mike – If it leads to another storage space, it probably does not need to be fire-rated. But you should call you local building department and ask them. That would give you the most definitive answer.
I live in a 1980 house /the kitchen door leads to garage opening into the kitchen there is a chain going int the door and frame hinge side half way up (how can I tell if this is a fire door as it is a flush door also will it need a lock on door)thank you.
Alan – The kind of “fire doors” most building codes require is only “20 minute rated.” most solid doors will meet that requirement. If this door is hollow, it probably does not comply. If the door has an actual fire rating, it would probably be a 45 minute rating or higher. This would have a label on the edge of the door where the hinges are stating its rating. If this door is already existing, the building code may not apply to it or it was installed without an inspection. To be sure of the Building Code requirements, ALWAYS check with your local building department. Codes vary from locale to locale.
I currently do not have a door to my garage from inside my home. I would like to install a door to access my garage from kitchen. Is any code that would prevent installing the garage door directly from kitchen? What about the fire-rating of such a door?
Thank you so much,
Daniel – Yes, you can install a door directly from the garage to the kitchen. You should confirm the local Building Code requirements for the fire rating and not just depend on my advice. Codes vary from place to place. But most Codes require a “twenty minute” door to the garage from the house. This would be a standard solid interior door, in most cases. Hollow-core doors would never work.
We are replacing a door that swings out to our garage from our family room. We are looking at either a solid pine door or a wood composite door. It will be painted, but we want it to look like it belongs sitting next to the laundry room door which is painted pine. We live in California’s Central Valley. After several years of drought it is pouring rain today and our front door (mahogany) is sticking a little. We’d about settled on the solid pine door for esthetic reasons, but now I am wondering. Which do you think would hold up better?
Janet – The composite doors are more stabile than solid wood doors. They are less prone to warping and swelling.
William. I’m going to replace my garage entry door. I have an attached garage and the door swings out into the garage due to limited space in the laundry room (hinges on the left, lock set and knob on the right if I’m standing in the garage. All of the in-store stock doors at Lowe’s for this situation have the brick mold on the wrong side and the sill plate is notched for the brick mold, which doesn’t work for my application. Can I order a door that is specifically built for my garage application?
Neal – Yes, you probably can. You may have to go to a contractor’s supply type of lumber yard rather than Lowe’s. They will have more sources for custom items. But even though this will be custom, I would not expect the price to be too much of a premium.
Hi can you please help.
I am in middle on installing a fire rated door from the first floor kitchen going down in to the basement.
Should the door swing in the kitchen or out towards the basement.
The house is located in the city of Toronto.
Thanking you in advance.
Domenic – You MUST check the local building codes to be sure. But usually there is no restriction. However, if the doors are right at the top of the staircase, you will want to swing the door back into the kitchen so you don’t create a danger of opening the door and immediately falling down the steps. The is a provision in most codes for the distance the steps must be from the stairs if the door swings toward the stairs.
Is there a 20 minute fire rated door with a window in it?
Jack – There probably is. You can do a Google search and probably find one. It may have tempered or safety glass in it. You could also check with your local building department and see what kind of door they would accept.
My question is this:
Does the door from the house leading to the garage have to have an automatic door closing device in order to meet requirements for fire insurance purposes?
Cindy – You should always double check with your insurance company and the local building department to be sure. But I have never run into this requirement for residential work.
Hi, I’d like to flip my fire door so the door knob is on the right side (looking from the garage to the house). It’s currently on the left side. I’d have to move the hinges to the other side as well and chisel out the frame to set them in. Any advice or concerns for me doing this? Thanks, David
David – I don’t see a problem with the. You just don’t want the door to swing out over the step(s) down to the garage if the steps are immediately outside the door. That would become a falling hazard. Also, it is a good idea to weatherstrip the door to the garage to improve your home’s energy efficiency.
Hi, I live in Miami, Florida and I’m looking to replace an interior door, opening out to the garage. The door (32″x80″) is located in hallway by guest bathroom and laundry room. We have a automatic door closing device for my son who uses a mobile wheelchair and uses this door to enter and exit. We also would like some kind of metal sheet covering (like you see in hospitals) to protect the door from his foot petals so to keep the door from being damaged. Any advice and/or suggestions on what kind of door to use? Thank you
Claudia – Any “solid” or “filled” interior door would work. One that is flush, without panels, would be the easiest for the application of a protective metal sheet. But a door with panels could also work with maybe a plexiglass sheet installed over the lower panels. Most door from a house to a garage need to be “20 minute rated” to comply with the building code. You should check your local codes to make sure of the requirement in your jurisdiction. Just call the building inspector’s office to ask.
I learned a lot reading through your blog and feel confident that I made the right decision to install a fire rated door from garage to laundry room. We just purchased a HUD foreclosed home with several doors missing one being the garage to inside. Thank you for your superb public service.
Is a fire door necessary if the door leads from the garage to outside? There is no door that allows access to the home.
Lauren – No. A door from the garage to the outside does not need to be fire-rated. Doors only need to be fire-rated when they are in walls that separate spaces and the building code requires those walls to be fire-rated.
Hi, I’m replacing a door that leads from the garage to the kitchen with a 20 minute rated fire door and jam. Do I have to also install a threshold or can I use a door sweep? The flooring is tile so would rather not have a threshold on my tile.
Jeff – I don’t believe you will need a threshold to meet the Code since other interior doors that meet fire ratings of an hour in commercial buildings to not need a threshold. You would only need a threshold for weatherproofing. You might want to look into a “drop seal” for the bottom of the door. This is a device that automatically drops from the bottom edge of the door to the floor when the door is closed. And it automatically raises up when the door is opened. It can either be surface mounted or routed into the bottom edge of the door.
My contractor recently installed a fire door from the garage to the house with the door opening into the garage. We have no steps. The current door also opens into the garage. My problem is that the contractor put the metal plate on the inside. It looks horrible. I asked that he remove it. He claims that it has to stay that way because I asked for the door to swing out. Am I being overly demanding?
Mary – I’m not sure how a Building Code official would view this, but I would think the fire protection should go on the side of the door where the fire might be. That would be the garage side. Who cares if the fire originates in the house and travels to the garage. What you want to slow down is a fire that starts in the garage from coming into the house.