Installing additional attic access in garage

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  #1  
Old 06-09-05, 09:53 AM
J
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Installing additional attic access in garage

I have an attic space over my garage with a scuttle to access it. I'm using the attic space to store seasonal items such as Christmas decorations. I would like to install new access to the attic space because the current location of the scuttle does not provide easy access to the largest area for storage due to the way the roofline works and the attic space being L shaped.

The issue is that easy access to the largest area of attic space would require installing access such that it might be either fully blocked or partially blocked when the garage door was in the up position. I'm concerned about what I'm permitted to do in this area.

If you look at the garage from above, picture it as a square. Divide the square horizontally and vertically in half creating 4 quadrants. In the upper left quadrant is the current scuttle near the top and the garage door opener near the bottom of the quadrant. In the upper right quadrant is the master bedroom directly above 1/4 of the garage. In the bottom 2 quadrants is the garage door covering all but about 18 to 20 inches of the quadrants near the middle of the garage.

There is no attic above the top right quadrant because that is living space. The attic space above the top left quadrant (where the scuttle is located) is very small and tight because the roofline is essentially a "lean-to" there. The space above the bottom two quadrants is an A-frame which is much more roomy and you can stand in it.

Ideally, I would like a folding stairway. However, I'm not sure I could install one such that if it were in the down position, the garage door wouldn't hit it if someone pushed the button. Also, I've read in other postings on this group that folding stairways in garages are issues because new codes require self-closing stairways now? And then there are issues with fire ratings too?

So if that proves too complicated or impossible, what about installing an additional scuttle? The question is are there issues with minimum dimensions or where the opening is placed in relationship to the garage door when it is in the up position?

I want this to be safe, but hiring someone to do the work or buying expensive materials is out of the question because I'm only addressing an annoyance since I only go up in the attic a couple of times a year. Any major cost item makes the project not worth doing. I've put folding stairways in attics before, so I'm comfortable doing the physical labor myself. I've just never worked in a garage before and don't know what is and is not permitted or could be a fire issue.
 
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Old 06-09-05, 07:17 PM
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From your discription it sounds as if the ceiling of your garage is finished, but it is not considered the required fire seperation, so installing the additional access should not be that concern.
With regards to you door operator, simply disegage the door from the carrier.
 
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Old 06-09-05, 08:13 PM
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jbmdharris,

With the living space partially above the garage the ceiling of the garage is being used for fire separation (unless the wall between the living and the attic is sheetrocked in the attic which I have rarely seen). If this is the case you can purchase a fold down attic ladder for the garage but it will have to be fire rated. You can find anything on the internet or at your lumber yard.

I hope this helps.

Brian Garrison
general Contractor/Professional Building designer
 
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Old 06-10-05, 07:52 PM
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The ceiling in the garage is finished and the drywall is the fire barrier. Interesting enough, I thought the builder was cheap because they used an old piece of drywall for the scuttle door instead of forking out the $$$ for a real piece of wood. It turns out, now that I understand the fire issues, that the scuttle door is made from drywall instead of wood to keep the fire barrier.

Which is odd, because the only thing holding the scuttle door in place is the trim around the opening... which is unpainted, unfinished wood. As soon as that burned, the scuttle door would fall out letting the flames up into the attic. The way codes seem to be these days, this probably wouldn't fly anymore.

In the end, it probably doesn't matter what the scuttle door does because the exposed studs on the side of the garage that aren't next to the living spaces would catch fire and "wick" the flames up into the attic anyway.

Back to the stairway though... I would have thought some code wouldn't permit installing the stairway where the garage door could possibly hit it.

Then there is the question of grandfathering and whether or not installing a stairway might make me have to go back and drywall all the exposed studs in the garage... Which would be really annoying simply because I take significant advantage of that extra 4 inches of storage space between the studs.
 
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Old 06-10-05, 10:37 PM
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jbmdharris,

the pull down access would be allowed, it would only be used when the door is down. As far as gypsum board only as an access it is standard practice. Code only says no flammible materials, and it has to be rated 1 hr. min. So even if the access door is plywood (which they normally are) you can skin it with the gyp board. The other thing is that the frame to hold the door in should have metal frame so as to gain the rating necessary to keep the family safe.

If you buy a fire rated door assymbly there is no interpretation that would not allow you to install this door. As far as I know the only self closing requirement is on the back door to the form the house to the garage. No such code exists on an attic access as you had stated earlier that a piece of sheetrock is used and makes code. No self closer.


Good luck.

Brian Garrison
 
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Old 06-18-05, 01:45 AM
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Originally Posted by jbmdharris
The ceiling in the garage is finished and the drywall is the fire barrier. Interesting enough, I thought the builder was cheap because they used an old piece of drywall for the scuttle door instead of forking out the $$$ for a real piece of wood. It turns out, now that I understand the fire issues, that the scuttle door is made from drywall instead of wood to keep the fire barrier..
Page 1
Excerpts from the Uniform Building Code(UBC) For The US

Sec. 4305(a) General. Fire-resistive floors, floor ceiling or roof-ceiling assemblies shall be assumed to have the fire-resistance ratings set forth in table No. 43-C.When materials are incorporated into an otherwise fire-resistive assemblywhich may change the capacity for heat dissipation, fire test results or other substantiating data shall be made available to the building official to show that the required fire-resistive time period is not reduced.

[/QUOTE],Which is odd, because the only thing holding the scuttle door in place is the trim around the opening... which is unpainted, unfinished wood. As soon as that burned, the scuttle door would fall out letting the flames up into the attic. The way codes seem to be these days, this probably wouldn't fly anymore.[/QUOTE]

Your attention is directed to (b), exception 6.

Floor-Ceilings or Roof-CeilingsSec. 4305

(a) General. Fire-resistive floors, floor ceiling or roof-ceiling assemblies shall be assumed to have the fire-resistance ratings set forth in table No. 43-C.When materials are incorporated into an otherwise fire-resistive assemblywhich may change the capacity for heat dissipation, fire test results or other substantiating data shall be made available to the building official to show thatthe required fire-resistive time period is not reduced.

(b) Ceiling Membrane Protection. When a ceiling forms the protective membrane for a fire-resistive floor-ceiling assembly, the ceiling shall be without openings in order to protect structural elements.

EXCEPTIONS:
1. Openings for noncombustible sprinkler pipe and openings for steelelectrical outlet boxes not greater than 16 square inches in area may beinstalled, provided the aggregate area of such openings through the ceiling is not more than 100 square inches for any 100 square feet of ceiling area.
2. Duct openings protected with approved ceiling fire dampers.
3. In other than corridors that are required to have fire-resistive ceilings,duct openings may be unprotected when tests, conducted in accordancewith U.B.C. Standard No.43-1,have shown that opening protection is notrequired to maintain the fire resistance of the assembly
4. Other ceiling openings and penetrations may be installed where such openings and penetrations and the assemblies in which they are utilizedare tested in accordance with the provisions of U.B.C. Standard No. 43-1.
5. Openings enclosed in fire-resistance rated shaft enclosures.
6. Access doors may be installed in such ceilings when they are approved horizontal access door assemblies listed for such purpose.

The code didn't relax, the inspector did.
 
 

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