What do you use your garage for??

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 1 3/8 inches in thickness, solid or honeycomb-core steel doors not less than 1 3/8 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: www.SuperiorHomeInsp.com for details!







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Belinda Spillman
Aspen Lane Real Estate Colorful Colorado - Aurora, CO
Colorado Living!

I don't think most people know about the need for fire doors and feel they can just cut a hole for the fur babies.  Not smart.

Apr 14, 2017 11:29 AM #1
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

I find that most garages function as sheds!  And I had one today where the attic opening into the entire house was in the garage and the opening had had no cover in, um, since 1981!

Watch the sellers  thumb tack a Rebel Flag over the opening!

Apr 14, 2017 12:04 PM #2
Fred Hernden, CMI
Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area - Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque area Master Inspector

Belinda - The fur babies would be better served outside... in the fresh air!

Jay - Yikes, can you say el burno fasto? If I'm not mistaken, that's perfect spanish!

Apr 15, 2017 07:09 AM #3
Kasey & John Boles
Jon Gosche Real Estate, LLC - BoiseMeridianRealEstate.com - Boise, ID
Boise & Meridian, ID Ada/Canyon/Gem/Boise Counties

We technically have a 3 car garage but one bay is awkward and would be difficult to pull our car in.  We use it as an exercise and storage space :-)  We do see a lot of inspections with the fire door either not a proper fire door or with the pet door cut in.  It gets called out all the time...-Kasey

Apr 15, 2017 10:07 AM #4
Fred Hernden, CMI
Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area - Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque area Master Inspector

K&J - I see a lot of them too.... TOO many!

Apr 15, 2017 12:26 PM #5
Gene Allen
Fathom Realty - Cary, NC
Realty Consultant for Cary Real Estate

My two garage really is a shed and one garage.

Apr 17, 2017 06:39 AM #6
Fred Hernden, CMI
Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area - Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque area Master Inspector

Gene - You are not alone my friend... lol

Apr 17, 2017 06:40 AM #7
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Fred Hernden, CMI

Albuquerque area Master Inspector
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