Garages, is yours safe?

Home Inspector with Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area InterNACHI 10041206

A good majority of homes have attached garages these days. People use them for everything! Modern garages have evolved to the point that a recent straw poll indicates a mere one quarter of homeowners are able to park a vehicle in their garages. About half say they can squeeze one car in, and the other quarter is somehow able to park multiple vehicles there. Most folks use their garage space to store personal items. Other uses run the gamut, from hobby shops to rehearsal studios to a budding dot-com headquarters.

My rule of thumb has always been, if you want to park one car in the garage, you need a two car garage, and two cars needs a three car garage... etc. Junk, errr... I mean "stuff" is almost always prevalent in most garages. Regardless of how you use your garage, parking vehicles, or storing items (stuff), Stuff like paint, gas for the lawn equipment, small propane tanks for BBQ, cleaning solutions, paper or clothes... if a fire starts in your garage, you do not want it to spread to the attached house. Additionally, if you start up your vehicle in the garage, you do not want carbon monoxide entering your home. 

Fire separations are required between residences and attached garages and their attics, but are not well defined by the prevalent building codes. These are often not constructed correctly, do not perform as intended, and constitute health and fire safety hazards for homeowners, especially where the homeowner modifies the space. Curiously, there is no mention in the prevalent building codes regarding gases or vapors other than CO. Even when properly configured, given the lack of clarity and comprehensiveness of the pertinent building codes (such as the International Residential Code or IRC), safety is often not maximized. So some common sense must prevail!

One example and in my experience, the biggest problem area is the entry door between the garage and the residence. The IRC (International Residential Code) 302.5.1, states that a fire-rated door or its equivalent is required.

R302.5.1 Opening protection. Openings from a private garage directly into a room used for sleeping purposes shall not be permitted. Other openings between the garage and residence shall be equipped with solid wood doors not less than 13/8 inches in thickness, solid or honeycomb-core steel doors not less than 13/8 inches thick, or 20-minute fire-rated doors, equipped with a self-closing device.

I have seen people cut holes in the door to install a pet door. Yes, send your pet out into the garage to breathe in some Carbon Monoxide, or gas vapors! Cutting or modifying the door like this destroys the integrity of the door and is dangerous! Letting vapors into the home, or a fire to easily spread throughout the home quickly. In the case of residences that have natural gas water heaters in the garage, there is already a flame in the garage in the pilot light.... waiting for fuel to ignite. That is why it is required to be installed 18" above floor height. If there are any vapors present, vapors are heavier than air and will run across the floor in the lowest area and sit, unless there is enough ventilation to let it escape to the outdoors. Garage ventilation is imperative!

So, before you close in half your garage space, think about the consequences. All holes in the drywall, both ceiling or walls should be sealed. Any opening to the attic must be sealed, even if it's pull down stairs, the door should be sealed when it's closed. If you're not sure, get some professional advice from a qualified contractor or your local handsome Home Inspector before the hammer and saw comes out. It could mean yours and your families lives!



Posted by

Fred Hernden 


 Superior Home Inspections





 Albuquerque, Rio Rancho New Mexico and surrounding areas...


“My mission is to provide superior quality home inspections to my clients to ensure peace of mind so they can confidently make the largest investment they may ever make!"


Please visit my website at: for details!







Re-Blogged 3 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Roy Kelley 12/26/2015 05:00 PM
  2. Julius Schoenherr 12/08/2015 03:34 PM
  3. Praful Thakkar 02/23/2016 10:39 AM
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Maureen Bray Portland OR Home Stager ~ Room Solutions Staging
Room Solutions Staging, Portland OR - Portland, OR
"Staging that Sells Portland Homes"

Thanks for sharing these important tips about garage safety.  I believe that many people aren't aware of the pet door safety issues when installed in a door leading to the garage.   

Dec 08, 2015 01:29 AM #37
Sharon Parisi
United Real Estate Dallas - Dallas, TX
Dallas Homes

I enjoyed this post and was surprised about the statistic that one fourth of all garages are used for vehicles. Precious few homes in Dallas have basements, so garages are used for storage of vehicles and stuff.

Dec 08, 2015 02:27 AM #38
Mandi Null
Friends & Neighbors Real Estate - Elkhart, IN

Thanks for sharing valuable information! We had one of "those" garages until I couldn't stand it anymore and told my husband it was time to do something about it. So we did and now 2 cars, the boat motor and an organized shelving and bench system are the only thing that exist. We have not made any major modifications to the garage beside adding insulation to the attic. Hopefully your information helps people in the future, great job!

Dec 08, 2015 04:54 AM #39
Barbara-Jo Roberts Berberi, MA, PSA, TRC - Greater Clearwater Florida Residential Real Estate Professional
Charles Rutenberg Realty - Clearwater, FL
Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, Safety Harbor

Our garage is UNDER the house, do whatever is down there can probably get inside. We don't keep cars there, but the boat and Ronnie's 'workshop' or should I say 'play area'......boys and their toys.....

Dec 08, 2015 09:48 PM #40
Fred Hernden, CMI
Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area - Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque area Master Inspector

Patricia - We can't be sending our pets into a danger zone! :-)

Pamela - It may be a cleaner look with the Air Handler in the attic, but you may feel differently if you had to swap it out or service, and I bet that most people tell their insurance companies they DO park in the garage, even if they can't get it in there!

Maureen - I just can't understand why people would banish their sweet little kittys out to the garage...

Dec 08, 2015 11:32 PM #42
Fred Hernden, CMI
Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area - Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque area Master Inspector

Sharon - I guess that big ol empty room comes in handy for lots of stuff!

Mandi - Good job, getting rid of all the "stuff" that we humans like to collect... and you can park your car in the garage... what a concept! LOL 

Barbara-Jo - We gotta have toys!!

Dec 08, 2015 11:35 PM #43
Pamela Seley
West Coast Realty Division - Murrieta, CA
Residential Real Estate Agent serving SW RivCo CA

Fred Hernden one of my neighbors uses his garage for storage and parks their car in the street. When his car was vandalized in the middle of the night by kids playing pranks, his auto insurance wouldn't cover the cost because he wasn't parked in the garage. They had thrown eggs on it and ruined the finish on one part of the car. It is something homeowners need to be aware of if they use their garage for storage and not for parking cars.

Dec 09, 2015 02:41 AM #44
Gene Mundt, IL/WI Mortgage Originator - FHA/VA/Conv/Jumbo/Portfolio/Refi
NMLS #216987, IL Lic. 031.0006220, WI Licensed. APMC NMLS #175656 - New Lenox, IL
708.921.6331 - 40+ yrs experience

Being from the Chicagoland area, garages are common, Fred Hernden.  Weather dictates it .. and it's definitely desired.  That said, when garage doors are open or view unrestricted inside, you see that many use their garages as extra storage space.  Amazing what you can see!  Your post reminds us, if attached to the house, extra precautions and safety concerns are called into play ... great post ... and one I'm sharing ...


Dec 09, 2015 03:01 AM #45
Carol Williams
Although I'm retired, I love sharing my knowledge and learning from other real estate industry professionals. - Wenatchee, WA
Retired Agent / Broker / Property Manager

Great subject for a post, Fred.  Very enlightening.  Thanks!

Dec 09, 2015 11:00 AM #46
Fred Hernden, CMI
Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area - Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque area Master Inspector

Pamela - I'm betting he made room for it after that, huh?

Gene - I have seen some doozies! Thank you!

Carol - Mrs. Santa - Santa Lady - LOL, love the pic! Thank you!

Dec 09, 2015 11:07 PM #47
Praful Thakkar
LAER Realty Partners - Andover, MA
Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale

Fred Hernden - it makes sense to have that separation between garage and living area. (And I think that's a code here, too.)

Dec 10, 2015 02:50 PM #48
Fred Hernden, CMI
Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area - Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque area Master Inspector

Praful - Sure is... IRC (International Residential Code)

Dec 10, 2015 11:02 PM #49
Rich Cederberg
eXp Realty - Albuquerque, NM
eXp Realty Agent Albuquerque

Fred, I can't tell you how many houses I've sold with unsafe garages here in Albuquerque. Cat doors, disabled self-closing mechanisms and missing attic covers seem to be the rule here, not the exception. 

Dec 30, 2015 01:04 AM #50
Fred Hernden, CMI
Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area - Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque area Master Inspector

Rich - I know, older houses are usually the culprit, they have been remodeled and added on to by the homeowner. I have found that there are three problems that creep up here quite often, garages, stucco damage, and roof coverings! See that waaay to often! Happy New Year!!

Dec 30, 2015 11:46 PM #51
Anna Hatridge
Goodson Realty - Farmington, MO
Missouri Realtor with Goodson Realty

Fred Hernden great reminder to pay attention to our surroundings.  I had not thought about the pet door.  Thank you.  Congratulations on the feature too!

Jan 02, 2016 06:20 AM #52
Fred Hernden, CMI
Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area - Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque area Master Inspector

Anna - Thank you, most people don't think about those things.... it's a disease I have!

Jan 02, 2016 11:32 PM #53
Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude


This is a well-deserved feature on a issue that I find many are not as concerned about, especially from a safety perspective, as they should be. I have seen all sorts of issues with wiring, plumbing issues with the water heater, fire wall and fore door problems and more. Thanks for sharing your wisdom

Garages here in SoCal seem to serve more as storage in many homes than for vehicles.


Feb 23, 2016 12:29 PM #54
Sandy Padula and Norm Padula, JD, GRI
HomeSmart Realty West & Geneva Financial, Llc. - Carlsbad, CA
Presence, Persistence & Perseverance

Fred Hernden Excellent post, but too few will heed your advice. We see these issues in so many homes we visit.

Feb 23, 2016 08:24 PM #55
Paul S. Henderson, REALTOR®, CRS
RE/MAX Northwest. - Tacoma, WA
Tacoma Washington Agent/Broker & Market Authority!

There you go bursting my bubble of a safe garage Fred Hernden! Thanks for the heads up! 

Feb 23, 2016 09:16 PM #56
Fred Hernden, CMI
Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area - Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque area Master Inspector

Jeff - Thank you, I see it waaaay too often myself!

S&N - You're probably right... spread the word!

Paul - Better straighten up that garage Paul! 

Feb 23, 2016 11:17 PM #57
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