Before the 1950s, a house might have a carport attached to it. After the 1950s and 1960s, garages became common additions to new homes. Because of worries over exposing people to flammable fuels or noxious gases from vehicles and other items usually kept inside of them, garages were subject to more restrictive codes than the rest of a house. Despite a good record of safety, these code requirements remain in place to protect people from potential harm.
When it comes to garages, fireproofing standards are designed to protect the rest of your home from a fire that starts in the garage, rather than the other way around. A vehicle can be a fire hazard if it suffers a major malfunction and ignites. Using power tools or an electric lawn mower that could throw sparks also opens the door to a potential fire. With garages becoming a site of storage for everything from furniture to bed linens, they often contain plenty of flammable material that can feed a fire and endanger the rest of your home.
Specific building codes for garages are intended to protect your home from fire. Garages cannot have a combustible material for flooring. Asphalt is all right for driveway use, but forbidden inside the garage. Non-combustible concrete is used most often instead. Doors leading from the garage into the house must be solid wood or made from steel and must be at least 1 3/8-inch thick. Alternatively, the door can have a 20-minute fire resistance rating. On the garage side, gypsum board at least ½-inch thick must be installed between the garage and the house.
Other Safety Precautions
At least one power receptacle in a garage must be a GFCI outlet. This protects you from exposure to shocks when working with power tools or something like an electric lawn mower. By cutting all power when current starts surging, a GFCI outlet also can reduce the risk of sparks and fire. Although only one is required by code, installing more can better protect you and your home.
A garage cannot open onto a sleeping area in your home. This helps prevent a fire starting in the garage from spreading into bedrooms while you sleep.To fireproof your garage better, exceed the minimum standards required by code. Install fireproofing material over the gypsum board to insulate your home better. Install a fire door between the garage and main house. A building inspector can advise you about minimum standards in your local area and make suggestions for stronger fire protections for your home.
- Building Codes Illustrated; Frank Ching and Steven R. Winkel
- Electrical Wiring Residential; Ray C. Mullin
- Garage Makeovers: Adding Space Without Adding On; Rick Peters