How To Look At A House

McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of  

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Where are smoke alarms required to be located?

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Here is the current requirement for smoke alarm placement:

  •  Hard-wired smoke alarm in each hall or access room to bedrooms
  •  And every bedroom
  •  And at least one on each floor of a multi-level home
  •  And must be interconnected and have battery backup.

    The diagram below shows the correct locations in a typical multistory home.


    Smoke alarms should be located on or near the the ceiling, where smoke will first accumulate in a room. This diagram shows the correct areas for installation.    They should not be located above shelving, cabinets, or cove molding that would divert the smoke away from the sensor. The photo, of cove molding installed over an existing smoke alarm, is one example of what not to do.

  Also, since July 1st, 2008, new homes must have carbon monoxide (CO) alarms within 10-feet of the bedrooms. Although you can install separate CO alarms, most contractors install a combination smoke/CO alarm at these locations. To learn more about CO alarms, see our blog Are carbon monoxide alarms required to be installed in homes in Florida?

   Now for the question that we often get asked at home inspections: does an older home have smoke alarms that meet the standard at the time it was built? It’s a difficult one to answer with precision because, until Florida instituted a state-wide building code in 2002, the state was a hodge-podge of different codes from one county to another. 

   For example, in the 1990s we were building and remodeling homes in the Florida Keys, and Monroe County used the Southern Standard Building Code. But as soon as you set foot on the mainland in Dade County, the South Florida Building Code ruled. Even with adjacent counties that used the same building code, sometimes one county would not adopt the new version of the code until several years after it was issued.

   So this is a rough approximation of when the smoke alarm requirement was implemented around Florida, and when the the standard was ratcheted up:

Approximately 1980 - required to have a single hard-wired smoke alarm in the access area to bedrooms.

Approximately 1990 - required to also have smoke alarms in each bedroom.

Approximately 2000 until today - smoke alarms also required to be interconnected (so that when one senses smoke they all go off) and have a battery backup. 

    Also see Are smoke alarms required to sell a house?

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Here’s links to a collection of our blog posts about SAFETY: 

Why is it important to use "cabinet screws" to mount the upper cabinets in the kitchen?

Is the door between an attached garage and the house required to have a closer (self-closing device)?

Can the smoke sensors in a home security/fire alarm system replace the smoke alarms required by the building code?

Should I get a lightning rod system to protect my house? 

What are the "Aging In Place" features to look for when buying a retirement home?

What is aging in place? 

How do I safely remove a dead rodent (rat, mouse or squirrel) from the attic?

Does pushing the test button on a smoke alarm test the smoke sensor device inside? 

What is the minimum height of a ceiling fan above the floor?

Should a smoke alarm be installed in the kitchen? 

Why is a double cylinder deadbolt lock on an exterior door a safety hazard? 

Why are rubber washing machine hoses a safety risk?

What can I do to avoid kitchen accidents and injuries? 

Are old vinyl tile floors dangerous?  

How can I use safety checks to limit my tenant liability for a rental house?

Do you inspect for trip hazards around the home? 

When should I replace my smoke alarms?

• Why is an anti-tip device now required behind the range? 

• What are the hazards to avoid when going into an attic? 

• What are the warning signs of a dangerous deck?
    Visit our SAFETY page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.


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