How many exterior exit doors are required for a house?
Wednesday, July 4, 2018
An exterior exit door is called an “egress” door in the building codes. A minimum of one exit door is required, and it should provide direct access from the living areas of the home to the exterior without traveling through a garage. Shown below is an example of a code violation: a conditioned living space that has been enclosed in a garage, and the only exit door opens into the garage.
The door must be side-hinged (not sliding), and the minimum clear width of the door opening, when measured between the face of the door when open at 90º and the adjacent stop at opposite jamb, must be a minimum of 32 inches. Translated into simpler terms, this means the actual opening to get out in an emergency must be 32 inches with the door open. Because the thickness of the door reduces the clear opening, a 32-inch door would not be pass, but a standard-thickness 36-inch door is satisfactory.
Additional exterior doors can be a smaller width. The height of the opening must be a minimum of 78 inches, when measured from the top of the threshold to the bottom of the stop, so a standard 80-inch door would be fine (FBC and IRC R311). Each exterior door (required egress door and others) must have a floor or landing on either side, except when steps with two or fewer risers are located on either side of the door. The width of the landing should be not less than the width of the door and 36 inches measured in the direction of travel.
Although only one egress door is required, two doors positioned at opposite sides of the house give you an alternate route to get out if one is blocked by flames. Also, the building code requires an “egress window” in each bedroom that opens wide and tall enough for a person to climb out and fireman to climb in to rescue you.
Also, see our blog post How many exit doors are required for a mobile/manufactured home?
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