Most of us keep all the highly flammable stuff we own in a specific area of the house. Typically, this is the garage. Or on the third shelf of the refrigerator (have you ever tried ghost pepper hot sauce? Yee-ow!)
For this post, we’ll focus on the garage and not your condiment collections. So, what if your garage were to catch on fire? Good news: if it was well-made and is up-to-code, garage ceilings and walls are considered fire separation barriers. In other words, these walls and ceilings would (hopefully) burn first, and buy a little time before the fire department arrives and the rest of your home catches on fire.
During a recent home inspection in Mount Vernon, I came across a garage with holes in the sheet rock ceiling that needed to be taped, mudded and sealed. Again, that’s because the ceiling and walls of a garage are considered a fire separation barrier in a home.
Is a fire separation barrier the same as a firewall? Nope. The Uniform Building Code defines a firewall as the following:
FIREWALL: A fire-resistance-rated wall having protected openings, which restricts the spread of fire and extends continuously from the foundation to or through the roof, with sufficient structural stability under fire conditions to allow collapse of construction on either side without collapse of the wall.
“The closest thing you’ll find (to an actual firewall) in residential construction is a one-hour fire-resistance-rated wall,” wrote Minnesota-based home inspector Reuben Saltzman in a recent article. “This is needed between townhomes and two-family dwellings, with a lot of fine print and special requirements.”
While it probably doesn’t have a firewall, your garage should always be considered and maintained as a fire separation barrier and an extra level of safety for your home and those who live in it.
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