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:

 Why is my roof sheathing sagging between the trusses?

Is a house required to have an attic?

 Why is granule loss a problem for an asphalt shingle roof? 

 What are the mistakes to avoid when doing attic improvements?

 What causes roof shingles to curl up at corners?  

 What causes shingles to buckle along a line on the roof?

 What causes leaks at a fake roof dormer? 

 What causes a sagging roof ridge line?

 What causes bubble-like blisters in a built-up and gravel roof?  

 Why does it cost so much more to replace a steep roof than a low slope roof? 

 What is "ponding" on a flat roof?

 Is an attic required to have a light by the building code? 

 How can I inspect my roof for hurricane damage?

 Why is premature curl of roof shingles a problem?

 How can I tell if a roof has more than one layer of shingles? 

 What are the common problems with attic insulation? 

 What is the life expectancy of an asbestos cement shingle roof? 

 What's the average lifespan of a roof?

 Why is it a mistake to replace a roof and not replace its flashings? 

 Why is there no attic access hatch in the house?

 What is the building code requirement for an attic access hatch, scuttle, or door? 

 Does a roof with multiple layers of shingles last longer?

 What can I do to prevent roof leaks?

 Are roof trusses better than roof rafters (stick framing)? 

 Why is a popped nail in a shingle roof a problem? How do I fix it?

 What are the most common problems with wood roof trusses?

 What causes a lump or dip in the roof? 

 If my roof is not leaking, why does it need to be replaced?

 How can I be sure my roofing contractor got a permit?

 How many layers of roofing are allowed on a home? 

 What are the dark lines running parallel to shingles on my roof?

 Can metal roofing be used on a low slope/pitch roof? 

 How can I make my roof last longer?  

 What are the warning signs of a dangerous attic pull-down ladder?

 How can I find out the age of a roof? 

 Should I buy a house that needs a new roof?

 Should I buy a house with an old roof? 

 What are those metal boxes on the roof?

 What does "lack of tab adhesion" in an asphalt shingle roof mean?

 Why do roof edges start leaking?

 Why do my dormer windows leak? 

 Do home inspectors go on the roof? Do they get in the attic?

 Should I put gutters on the house? 

 How much of a roof truss can I cut out to make a storage platform in the attic? 

 What's the difference between an "architectural" and a regular shingle roof? 

 What does a home inspector look for when examining a roof? 

 Do stains on the ceiling mean the roof is leaking?

 How can I tell if the house needs a new roof?  

 Why does my homeowner's insurance want a roof inspection?

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

     Visit our ROOF AND ATTIC 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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