What is Fire Resistant Garage Construction?

September 12 / Stacey / Comments (0)

It is of utmost importance to build a garage, home, addition or shell home with fire safety as the #1 consideration. As stated in the International Residential Building Code 2012, all materials and construction, projections, openings and penetrations of exterior walls of dwellings and accessory buildings, garages and barns shall be fire-rated in compliance with State and Federal guidelines.


First of all, the key focus to residential and commercial construction is stopping the spread of fire. This is a key consideration when adding a garage to any property. The local principality’s zoning regulations guide homeowners and contractors to prevent construction that could ignite either itself or any building next to it.


Garages and barns must be built with fire-rated materials, if they are closer than 10’ to any other structure, whether a home or type of building. Some building projects cannot be closer than 5’ to a property line, whether there is a building there or not. The International Building Code 2012 requires that any garage attached to a main dwelling’s parallel walls must be fire-rated. Any opening from a private garage directly to a bedroom is prohibited by Code. Other openings inside the garage must be a solid wood door or a fire-rated steel door, 1-hour fire-rating is acceptable.


There are several different ways to construct a fire-resistant garage, barn or addition. Sheetrock is used as a means to fire-rate walls. Sheetrock burns slowly in comparison to other combustible materials and therefore acts as a protective layer. Using fire-resistant lumber is another way to slow the spread of fire in homes, offices, warehouses, garages, barns and additions. Commercial construction walls are frequently steel-framed and therefore are fire-resistant.


Trade work, whether it is plumbing, electrical, mechanical or HVAC penetrations also have fire-resistant measures that are required by building codes. Every hole or area left open in a construction project, whether it is in a wall, a ceiling, an attic, etc., allow air to flow which helps fire spread. Therefore, there are specific building codes that affect the way plumbing, electrical, mechanical and HVAC are installed. Insulation materials have a specific flame-spread index level that must be met or that material will not be able to be used in some applications.


There are 2 types of electrical receptacles that are used in residential and commercial construction that serve 2 very important tasks. GFCI’s prevent electrical shock and are used in damp areas and outside. AFSI’s prevent fires. They are put in all habitatble spaces, kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, dens, every room. Plastics and adhesives are made to be fire-resistant as well. Every garage is required to have one AFCI (Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupter), if wired.


Call H.W. Enterprises, Inc., Newport News, VA, for help planning of your next garage, barn, addition or shell home. Or email us at contactus@hwenterprisesinc.com. We want your building to last a lifetime and beyond!


Are Egress and Escape openings required in a garage, barn, accessory structure or addition?

September 7 / Stacey / Comments (0)

Egress is the provision for a person to escape safely from a building. There are tons of products stored in garages, barns and additions. Paint, solvents, lumber, plastics, gasoline, oil, cleaners, heaters, and electricity are all hazardous in the right situation. Most garages store some or all of the above on a daily basis. Not all garages have windows. Most garage doors are operated electrically. And many accessory buildings have second floors, whether created by attic trusses or true wooden floors. In the event of fire, the garage doors may malfunction, making it impossible to lift them. If there are no windows or windows that are large enough to fit through, only the entry door would be an escape from the building.

Garages, apartments or accessory structures that have collar ties above 6’11” must have at least one egress window. A collar tie is the interior ceiling height of a room. Rooms that have ceiling heights of 7’ or higher are considered to be full 2-story buildings. Second floor habitable spaces, regardless of use have additional code requirements for fire safety. Two story garages are required to have an egress opening of at least 5.7sf per code.

An egress window has a glass area that is at least 5.7sq feet or larger. This is large enough for a fire-fighter with full gear to pass through. Means of egress provides a continuous and unobstructed path of vertical and horizontal travel from all portions of the dwelling to the exterior of the dwelling, without traveling through a garage. Exterior entry doors therefore, do not satisfy the egress requirement by themselves. That is where the need for windows comes into play.

Also, there are code requirements for floors and landings that need to be complied with to provide an unobstructed path. For instance, all floors and landings, whether a garage, addition or home must have a landing or floor on both sides of any doorway. The landing or floor on the exterior side – an exterior landing – shall not be more than 7 ¾” below the top of the threshold of that door, provided the door does not swing over the landing or door. This is an attempt to prevent entrapment due to overhead or blockage from conflicting planes. It also helps to prevent tripping and falling.

Call an expert Contractor before building. Call HW Enterprises, Inc. at 757-595-4562 office or 757-696-1927 cell or visit www.hwenterprisesinc.com and we will help you build a safe and quality garage, barn, apartment, addition or shell home.

How do I choose a garage building contractor?

September 4 / Stacey / Comments (0)

Once you decide that you need a garage, barn, addition or shell home, there are a number of important considerations to make. How large or small do you want your accessory structure? What are you going to be using your garage or barn for? Do you want your building finished? Do you need additional wall height to accommodate a lift? Do you want it to have insulation and sheetrock? Do you need electrical service run to the building? What kind of electrical panel do you have in your home now? Does it have enough amperage to power your new garage, barn or accessory structure?

What things are important to know when you are hiring a building contractor? How important is experience in the field of garage construction? Does the longevity of the contractor – its years in business an important consideration? Do you want your building contractor to be a planner, or do you want to control your building process? Are you going to participate in the building of your garage, apartment, barn or shell home? Is reputation important to you? Does the company you are interested in have any awards or special recognition for its performance?

Residential building in general is governed by specific building codes that the State and Federal governments have mandated. A responsible builder keeps themselves informed of current and changing building and zoning codes.

Every 10 years, the State of VA reviews and makes appropriate changes to flood maps which changes the zoning requirements each landowner has when building. Protecting and preserving our watershed is very important. The unfortunate wash out of each property, slowly but surely, affects our natural resources. We must protect our natural resources or we won’t have them anymore. This slow change creates the need for protective measures for both the landowner and the community-at-large. Therefore, the placement of each garage, accessory building or barn changes over time. You certainly don’t want to construct a new building, only for it to flood a few years down the road. Our zoning and building officials keep track of erosion and settlement control for this reason.

As zoning changes, so does building. The way we build our foundations, even for a storage building, changes proportionately. A good building contractor wants to build a garage or barn to last a lifetime. An experienced garage builder will evaluate the topography of each property, and plan how to best do the foundation, whether using block or concrete and at what elevation. An experienced building contractor will make sure the sole plate for every building is above grade, or use the appropriate salt-treated studs to withstand water infiltration.

Call H.W. Enterprises, Inc. at 595-4562 or 696-1927 or at www.hwenterprisesinc.com to discuss your next project and the best, most effective way to build your garage, barn, shell home or addition. H.W. Enterprises, Inc. has 59 years of experience and success. What more could you want?