Fire barrier hazards are warning signs for house hunters, homebuyers, and home sellers, yet most often misunderstood. Fortunately, a certified Home Inspector can detect fire barrier hazards, defects, and safety items before your closing date. Correcting safety issues before moving into your new home should take precedence.
The dangers of Fire barrier failures
Foundations Property Inspection’s Home Inspectors consider it an ethical and moral responsibility to disclose fire barriers hazards that are an imminent danger or reveal a clear risk of death or bodily harm. The health and safety of your family are one of the reasons why our professional Home Inspector provides a detailed Home Inspection report. See why we are Pittsburgh’s best real estate home inspectors.
House Hunters Sound The Alarm
Fire-protected doors, walls, ceilings, and entry points are pinnacle fire prevention safety features built into a house. They are among the various passive safety features most often overlooked during a Home Inspection. Fire resilient house construction materials used in building a home are much like airbags in a car, we can’t see them, but we hope they deploy when we need them.
The intent of a fire break between the attached garage and inside area is intended to slow the spread of fire, but inadequate use of materials are fire barrier hazards. Improperly installed fire-rated garage doors, basement entry doors, ceilings, and unprotected areas can allow a residential home fire to grow rapidly. A certified Home Inspector can check these components to determine if they are made of fire-resistant materials, properly installed, and void of necessary repairs.
Drywall Damage Opens The Door For Fire barrier Hazards
Type X “fire-code” drywall that is installed on the garage side of the walls shared by the interior living zone is recommended to have a 60-minute fire-resistant surface. If the garage ceiling isn’t covered with drywall, then the common walls must be completely covered and butted up to the underside of the roof sheathing. Open rafters in the garage are acceptable as long as there is no living space above the garage. As an example, let’s say a fire starts in the attached garage, it cannot easily spread throughout the home or into the attic above. Correctly installed, fire opposing material can adequately contain a fire outbreak in the garage area.
Garage Storage Can Be Explosive
A garage area is considered compliant when the walls and ceiling are covered with fire-rated drywall. The surface must display no visible damage or exposed areas. Also, a fire-rated or its equivalent basement entry door is to be installed and operating correctly.
The Attic Can Be A Tinderbox
Traditionally, Pittsburgh’s one-story neighborhood homes are built with the attic directly over the garage and or above the living area. This access point is a potential fire hazard and should be carefully examined by the Home Inspector. The attic entrance with a pulldown ladder is dangerous because there is no fire barrier protection. Most pulldown ladders are made of lightweight wood that is easily combustible and will burn quickly. Additionally, the ceiling door offers easy access to the attic storage area but also exposes the rafters and roof where a fire is uncontainable.
Homeowners who don’t realize the importance of fire barrier hazards often attempt to remedy this by attaching drywall to the underside of the pulldown ladder. This can also be problematic because the added weight of the drywall prevents the ladder from closing and tightly adhering to the ceiling. Even the smallest gap can funnel the airflow and accelerate the fire.
Do I Need A Basement Fire-Rated Door?
Yes. International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI®) states a fire-rated door or its equivalent is required between the garage and residence. Fire doors can help contain and prevent the spread of smoke and fire. It protects egress routes that can save your life. However, proper installation and maintenance are required to operate efficiently. Improper installation, hinge fatigue, frame and jam misalignments, threshold gaps, and deteriorating weatherstrips are frequently reported. Furthermore, lock and door handle replacements and re-painting can affect the performance and safety of the fire door.
Fire Grade Garage Ceiling
A fire-grade garage ceiling is an essential part of residential house fire containment. The horizontal ceiling is a lifesaving fire barrier that seals the above framework and floor joist. This containment helps slow the spread of a garage fire to the living rooms above. Rooms directly above an internal garage fire are extremely vulnerable. A fire-grade garage ceiling increases the time and likelihood for occupants to evacuate. Because our Home Inspectors live, work, and raise their families in traditional Pittsburgh neighborhood homes we frequently catch safety violations that other real estate Home Inspectors overlook.
Recessed Lighting Can Be A Hidden Danger
Installing recessed lighting in the garage is problematic and a common homeowner do-it-yourself (DIY) mistake that could become deadly at any time. Correctly installed, a fire-safe housing box must contain the wire connections and lighting fixture to secure the integrity of a fire-retardant ceiling. Furthermore, improperly mounted lighting fixtures and missing or cracked switch plates are accidents waiting to happen.
Fire Safety Breaches Are Code Red Alarms For Home Inspector
Our Home Inspection report lists voids and unprotected areas which should be addressed by the buyer or seller to repair the integrity of the containment material.
Repair damaged drywall, patches, holes, water intrusion, electric wires, exposed lighting fixtures, plumbing, heating, and cooling vents, missing switch plates, in any area which may provide an opening to access the home or attic. Otherwise, a fire could race up the wall and rapidly engulf the home.
It's you're right to get a professional home inspection
DIY Home Repairs Are A common source Of Deadly Fire Barrier Hazards
Too often our Home Inspectors record safety hazards as a result of drywall holes between the garage and house to run electric wires, cable lines, plumbing, and vents into other areas of the house or attic more easily. All gaps within and along the perimeter of the fire barrier must be patched and seams must be properly sealed with drywall compound. Cracks and misalignments should be caulked to prevent fire penetration.
Smoke Alarm & Fire Detectors Send Early Warning Signals
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania requires all residential homes to have a minimum of one automatic, working, smoke detector, and fire alarm per floor, including the basement and attic. Additionally, smoke detectors and fire alarms need to be located within 15 feet of each bedroom, common areas, and/or hallways. Play it safe, permanently install smoke detectors and fire alarms that are hardwired into the electrical system is a popular choice.
Identify Fire Barrier Hazards before you buy or sell a house
Foundations Property Inspection strongly recommends homebuyers, sellers, real estate agents, brokers, lending services, and for sale by owners get a certified Home Inspection before engaging in a signed contract to purchase or sell a home. FPI’s certified inspection report details fire barrier hazards and the condition of the home that should be reviewed and addressed. We encouraged homeowners and home sellers to ask questions so they can make an informed decision to safely purchase or sell real estate property.
Hopefully, this information provides some insight into what our Home Inspectors look for during a Home Inspection. In conclusion, this evaluation is not a thorough explanation of local building codes or a substitute for an expert Home Inspection by Foundations Property Inspection. Identify existing fire barrier hazards and protect your family before you buy or sell a home. Don’t play with fire. Schedule your Home Inspection now!