Firewall separation Garage/Living

In the construction process. General Contractor reluctantly framed out wall between Garage/Shop area and living side…shop is big 32x40 with high ceilings…at peak about 24’. Yesterday a drywall contractor was looking at the job to bid on the drywall. He informed my General Contractor that as of a few years ago it was not necessary to provide any firewall barrier between the garage and the living side of the house(Washington State…Steven’s county). Right now there is nothing but insulation in the wall. The GC turns to me and says do you want to put drywall on any of this wall? an additional expense…since there is no code I have to comply with the choice is yours. At this point quite out of necessity I have agreed to pay an additional sum to drywall up to about a 14’ height…which leaves the rest open. You can see my quandry…are there no national/universal codes that apply…as in common sense? I am flabbergasted that firesafety is allowed to be accepted or ignored based on region of the country?? Help please…


While your waiting for someone here from Washington State I would call your local building inspector or permit issuer and ask them. In my region we have required fire seperation between the garage and residence for a very long time. Firecode rated drywall is required on the garage side from florr to ceing including the attic area and the drwall must also have at least a layer of tape and drywall compound on the joints. Any penetrations from the garage to the residence must also be closed with a fire stop material.

From IRC 2003

**R309.2 Separation required.**The garage shall be separated from the residence and its attic area by not less than 1/2 " gypsum board applied to the garage side.Garages beneath habitable rooms shall be separated from all habitable rooms above by not less than 5/8 " Type X gypsum board or equivalent.Where the separation is a floor to ceiling assembly , the structure supporting the separation shall also be protected by not less than 1/2" gypsum board or equivalent. (not Type X per se)

Basically the garage and living space must be separated by drywall or equivalent.
Your contractor should have bid according to code and you shouldn’t have to pay for his/her oversite.But if you already authorized the work you may just have to bite the bullet.
Good luck


…in addition , as Michael mentioned , the separation needs to go from floor to ceiling.It seems in your case you should be going to the 24’ peak rather than 14’.

Happy New Year! , Eh?

Note: The IRC is only for those states that have adopted it. In my state, they do not recognize the IRC. We have our own (which includes fire separation).
The point is, that each state recognizes their own set of codes (some use IRC some use other codes) so it’s important to know what the code actually requires in the state in which you reside.

As home inspectors we would probably RECOMMEND a firewall separation between the garage and living space regardless if it is required or not. (common sense)

Well said Kevin and a good reminder to all of us.:slight_smile:

True enough.
Which is why one should check with their local building authority.In fact some areas use portions of the IRC in addition to their own prescribed code requirements.

According to the ICC:

Washington Statewide

  • 2003 International Building Code
  • 2003 International Fire Code
  • 2003 International Mechanical Code
    *]2003 International Residential Code

True also…in my state we adopted some of the IRC codes, but not all.
The ICC site also says my state adopted the IBC code…well that’s not entirely accurate. We use different parts of many different codes…

Sorry Tim I’m getting off topic. As was stated earlier, contact your local building official and ask. Only way to be 100% sure…I would be shocked to hear that firewall separation is not a code in your state or local jurisdiction.

So you are saying in this post that Washington Statewide requires the 2003 IRC R309.2 as quoted by Cheremie above? Without exception? Thanks to all for your help…

I also am shocked at the likelihood of this blatant disregard for safety.

We have a call to our local building inspection office. All the inspectors are out and about…hopefully we can get ahold of one of them this afternoon and get this issue put to bed…

THANKS so much for everyones input and suggestions…REALLY appreciate it.

My understanding is that when a state adopts one or more of the many ICC codes that are available then those codes are in place throughout the state. Now, local municipalities and the AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) may further adopt additional codes, rules, requirements, etc that are more stringent, but not less stringent, that the state adopted codes. Also, in many rural areas you will hear ‘we don’t have any building codes here’. That is not the case in those states that have adopted codes, it’s just that there is no one in the rural area to inspect and enforce the state adopted codes. That doesn’t exempt the builder or homeowner from needing to abide by the codes however. Like others have said & you are doing, you really need to discuss this with your local AHJ, building official, etc. I too find it hard to believe that a firewall separation would not be required.

Amen; Michael isn’t that the truth. :slight_smile: :slight_smile:


Hey Tim ,
Let us know the out come.


I personally have not heard of any jurisdiction in Washington not requiring the fire separation, though I have never worked in Stevens County. Generally in unincorporated areas, if the county does not rule, the state will. I hate to badmouth the contractor, but it sounds to me as though he is just trying to get more money (both the drywall contractor and the general).

Cheremie…et al…
County inspectors agreed is was code and should be floor to roof. I informed the GC of my post and discussion on this board and also the Building Depts concurrence that it was code. He is now going to complete the job right…has not mentioned anything about the extra $$$ he was going to charge me…I am assuming it’s back in his expenses. Thanks again all for the quick and informative responses…this is a great place for professional information and help…take care…

That’s great news Tim. Where do I send my consulting invoice to? :smiley:

Don’cha just luv it…

BTW, Tim, if it’s not too late I recommend hiring an experienced NACHI inspector in your area to perform phase inspections on your new home under construction.