Building Codes and Inspections/Utility Room Fire Code

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Question
I failed a fire inspection on a project because the utility room does not have a fire door and for being not properly vented? The inspector thinks the furnace and boiler will suck the air out of the bathroom room, he wants a fire rated door for both the utility room and laundry room doors, a vent in the wall between the two rooms (laundry & utility) and a vent in the ceiling so the fresh air is taken from the attic. The tankless has a fresh air intakes and exhaust from the outside but the boiler does not, the plumber does not want an outside fresh air intake to the boiler because of freezing? I talked to a few other builders and two plumbers, all said the same thing, fresh air for each unit and louvered doors to dissipate heat is correct. Both the laundry room & utility room have louvered doors, the main bath entry is a solid core door. The laundry room and utility room are in the master bath, the entire bathroom with utility rom & laundry included is room is 13x 9 (117 SQ FT), the laundry room is 4x3, the utility room is 3x3
What is code and what are my options?

Answer
I suggest that you ask the fire inspector what code sections are being violated. I would also suggest that you contact the building official, not the fire official, and determine which walls are required to be rated assemblies. Generally speaking, your obligation in an existing building is to maintain whatever design features were included in that building when it was constructed. Generally, it would take another action, like renovating the space, to make you have to comply with more recent regulations, unless there has been more recent legislation passed by the municipality. With regard to wall ratings, once you determine which walls have to be rated, then those walls, as well as all openings in the walls, are required to have particular design details to provide the rating. This includes doors, louvers, the wall itself, closing mechanism on the door, latches on the doors, etc..

The issues are that of providing make up air to replace air which is used, like in the laundry room where dryers are exhausting air continuously. There must be a means of providing air to that room to make up for lost air. Makeup air is generally provided from the exterior, Not surrounding rooms, Unless the design is code compliant.

The other issue you have is a fresh air to be provided for combustion. This applies to the heater room, and also maybe to the dryer room if there are gas dryers. This air is usually ducted in from the exterior with vents provided near the floor and near the ceiling of the room being ventilated. The codes have a specific definition of confined spaces as it relates to equipment in the spaces, and you also have the listings of the equipment in the spaces, which are basically the manufactures installation instructions.

I have a concern that if you were told to provide a duct in that room to the attic for air exchange; that sounds like it also violates the requirement for a fire stop at the ceiling height. So, you would be trading one violation for the other.

In some climate zones, you may have a need to install an air to air heat exchanger so the temperature of the air coming in from outside more closely meets the temperature of the room into which is being fed. This has to do with energy compliance And it also addresses the issue of freezing pipes.

All these issues in building of other than single-family dwellings, are usually the design responsibility of a design professional, that being an architect or engineer. Be careful to not get yourself involved in design work that is required to be done by one of those professions in your state. Also, I'd be in touch with your local building official to iron out any issues as they are aware of the local code amendments that I would not know about. The building and fire officials can get together and review the actions of the inspector that spoke to you to see if that person was correct in what they told you.

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Keith Fuller

Expertise

I'm an ICC Certified Master Code Professional fielding general building code questions. My experience has been heavy in fire related issues.

Experience

I've been employed since 1985 as an inspector and plan reviewer, and am a municipal Assistant Building Official and Deputy fire Marshal. I've had fire service experience since 1972, having served as a three time Fire Chief and Fire Marshal in years past. The increasing workload, mandatory certifications, and continuing education requirements in recent years have caused me to concentrate my efforts on code related issues. I hold national fire service certifications as well.

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ICC Master Code Professional

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