Fire-rated doors can help keep your family and property safe from fire, smoke, and poisonous fumes
Fire-rated doors probably don’t come up in conversations about home renovations or building plans as often as hardwood floors or granite countertops do. However, these specialty doors can be vital in protecting your family and home. To choose the best option for the door that goes between your house and garage, take the time to read how they operate. A little prevention can make all the difference.
What Is a Fire-Rated Door?
Fire-rated doors are interior doors leading into the attached garage that have added safety features to protect you, your family, and your belongings from fire, smoke, and carbon monoxide.
“Fire rated” is the term used to describe the length of time the door can withstand the heat and flames from an average-sized fire, for example, fire rated for 20 or 90 minutes. Fire-rated doors are heavy and made of wood, steel, and sometimes glass. They can be pricey but are also important. A commonly used steel fire-rated door costs between $400 and $1,300 installed.
Why Do I Need a Fire-Rated Door?
Fire-rated doors are designed to buy you enough time to safely leave the house because they’re resistant to fire destruction. And, if properly installed, they’ll limit the amount of fumes and smoke that enters your home.
Fire-Rated Door Requirements
Although it might add extra time to find a fire-rated door for your renovation or update, you should know the requirements aren’t arbitrary.
The authors of the International Residential Code (IRC) dictate the standards for fire-rated doors that connect to your garage. You’ll also want to check your local building codes to make sure you're meeting additional requirements. IRC requirements are widely accepted, but each locality has their own specifications.
Here’s what you need to know about Section R302.5.1 Section R302.5.1 of the IRC. As long as your door has one of these requirements, it's safe to use:
Choose a solid wood door that’s at least 1 3/8-inches thick.
Solid or honeycomb steel doors also need at least 1 3/8ths-inches of thickness.
Look for a 20-minute fire-rated door, at minimum (more on this in a second).
All doors need a self or automatic closing device, like hinges, to close quickly.
While you’re cleaning the garage, multi-task and look for the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or Warnock Hersey (WH) labels. If the door is fire-rated, it has a label on the top, bottom, or hinge side. Doors with these labels meet the IRC criteria.
What Else Do I Need to Know About Fire-Rated Doors?
Before buying a fire-rated door, you’ll need to know more about how they work and where to install them.
Fire-Rated Doors and Sleeping Spaces
If you’re considering adding to the amount of sleeping space in your house, know that using a fire-rated door between a garage and a sleeping area doesn’t meet IRC specifications or local building codes.The IRC and local codes do not allow for an adjoining sleeping area attached to the garage. Even with a fire-rated door installed, carbon monoxide and other fumes could enter during the hours someone sleeps.
Fire-Rated Time Frames
Fire-rated doors have times attached to them to give you a good idea of how long they’ll stay protective, but these times aren’t guaranteed. The fire’s intensity, size, and temperature could shorten the length of time the door holds. Fire-rated doors also do not eliminate the need for things like working smoke detectors and sprinkler systems.
Don’t forget, if the door isn't shut correctly, it can’t protect the house from the flames. This is the reason the IRC requires self-shutting doors.
Can I Customize My Fire-Rated Door?
Door companies can customize the time, including 20-minute, 45-minute, 60-minute, and 90-minute fire ratings. They’ll also let you choose the wood species, glass options, color, and panel style.
Fire-Rated Door Swing Direction
The IRC doesn’t mandate a swing direction, so the doors can swing in or out.
Is a Garage Door An Exterior Door?
Yes, a garage door (the one you drive into) is considered an exterior door. It’s in the same category as sliding, glass, storm, screen, and cellar doors, but you’ll need to inspect and maintain the garage door’s condition to get the best protection possible.
Where Do I Need Fire-Rated Doors In My House?
Other than the entry into the attached garage door, you’re likely required to install fire-rated doors in multi-story houses with rooms that connect to the stairwell. Again, check your local building codes so you won’t have to correct any mistakes.
It’s never a bad idea to check your existing interior garage doors to make sure they’re fire-rated as this can help give you some peace of mind. A local door installation pro can also help you identify these doors and guide you through the process.