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Can the attic access opening be outside the house according to the building code?
Monday, February 25, 2019
The International Building Code (IRC) and the 2017 Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC R807.1) both state that the attic access must be “readily accessible” and also provide specs for the size of a ceiling or wall access opening. But they do not mention or prohibit exterior access to the attic.
We have entered a few attics in pre-World War II houses in Gainesville through a access panel in the gable end, so it was allowed at one time. Some newer houses also have outside attic access through a porch or garage ceiling, and we consulted Jerry Peck, a code expert and retired building inspector, for the reason gable end access is no longer done.
"I doubt a modern day contractor would install an attic access opening through the end of a gable wall for access from exterior,” according to Jerry. “Especially, given the needs to make that attic access door comply with the requirements for meeting design pressures and weathertightness. And, if the house is in the HVHZ (High Velocity Hurricane Zone), in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, there may be additional requirements for such an attic access.”
So, nothing in the code says attic access has to be from inside the building, but outside access should be limited to protected ceiling locations. To learn more, see our blog post What is the building code requirement for an attic access hatch, scuttle, or door? Also, the minimum size opening that is considered accessible is 22” x 30”, and a small gable end vent like the one shown below is only good for sticking your head in and looking around.
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To learn more about roofs and attics, see these other blog posts:
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