Isn't the firewall separation between the attached garage and the house supposed to extend up through the attic?

In a house I inspected recently when I inspected the attic (from the only access I could find - in the garage, it looked like this access was to the whole attic above the garage and the house. I thought that the firewall between the garage and the house was supposed to continue through the attic to prevent (or slow down) the spread of fire that could start in the garage.
The pictures I have are not very good quality but was thinking that if I am right the picture quality is not that relevant to the answer of my question.
Here is a picture of the garage ceiling with the attic access (top right). Note there is a jut in the wall to the left (of about 3-4 feet) where the the HVAC & water heater are. To the left of the HVAC on the other side of this wall is the kitchen.

and here is the best shot I have of the attic in that direction. It seemed like the attic extended farther than where the firewall (if I’m right) should have extended up through the attic.
This next picture seemed to go into the attic space above the house to the right.

I know the drywall above the garage is to be 5/8" as a firebreak and I was wondering if they did all the ceilings with 5/8" if that would satisfy this requirement in some areas.
The house was only 10 years old.
If I am right that the firewall should extend through the attic are there any exceptions to this or any way of getting around this?

If the ceiling is properly drywalled, then the drywall does not need to extend to the bottom of the roof sheathing.

The fire separation between the garage and the house only needs to be 1/2" fire code rated drywall and if the ceiling of the garage is also protected with the same, the drywall does not have to go to the underside of the roof.
But the access in the garage to the attic has to be rated the same as the ceiling separation.
5/8" Type x is only needed in the garage ceiling if there is living space above it.

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So the wall itself (separation between the garage and the house) does not need to extend up through the attic?

No, as long as the ceiling in the garage is protected along with the attic access.

The wall between an attached garage and the house living area is required to be minimum 1/2” drywall. Most garages have a ceiling secured to the bottom chord of the roof trusses or rafters, and that has to be 1/2” drywall also. If there is no ceiling and the roof structure is exposed in the garage, then the wall separating the garage from the dwelling must extend up to the underside of the roof sheathing.

Robert, Marcel is giving you great information for this and future use. He’s a master builder and a nice guy, too. You can’t beat that! :smile:

Robert you can find most of your answers here:

Thanks for all the responses. This forum is a great resource. You guys are the best.

Well the pictures are relevant, and looking at it closer, I see that the drywall on the ceiling was not installed in a staggered fashion and provides a susceptibility to future cracking. The access has to be also has to provide the same protection as the rest of the ceiling, so wood moldings or expose wood is not allow to provide the proper protection.
It is hard for us to comment when we really do not see the whole picture and expect us to be accurate.

I apologize for the quality of the pictures and I appreciate everyone’s help very much.
Marcel, thank you for pointing out the non staggered pattern of the drywall I did not notice that. I will have to try to look for that in the future. The access hatch itself was heavy and thick drywall. I did not think the wood framing was a problem. That is what I think I have always seen to hold up (or at least trim out - I guess it makes a difference if it is merely trim or support) the access hatch to an attic.

When I said that the picture quality might not be that relevant I was only saying that I was wanting to know if I was correct in my assumption that the the firewall (as a structural unit) between the garage and the house was generally required to extend up through the ceiling to the roof. Not just asking about this particular situation in this house.

As was pointed out to me by Rodney, a firewall is to continue to the roof deck but technically the wall between the garage and the house is a fire separation. However, I’m curious if there are circumstances where this wall (between the garage and the house) DOES need to continue up to the roof, and how I would know those circumstances exist. I know mine in my house does, but maybe that was beyond the requirements. I also know that my attic (or I guess I should say attics), separated by that wall, do have separate access hatches. Maybe that makes the difference, but I would have thought that wall had to extend up to the roof as a fire separation or fire wall in any case but I am happy to be corrected and learn the correct requirements.

I truly do appreciate the education and insight of those of you much more experienced than I am. I want to learn as much as I can and be able to give my clients the best service I can. I realize I will always have more to learn and I am curious enough to ask questions about things I don’t know and/or don’t understand.

Keep the instruction coming and I will keep asking questions when I can’t find the answer (or don’t understand them) on my own.

Thanks gentlemen.

Actually, to be honest, I think I did notice the non staggered pattern of the drywall on the ceiling (it’s pretty blatant) but it did not register.

Robert, typically if a dwelling has a proper fire separation, it will go up to the underside of the roof. And in most cases when you see that, the framing is exposed in the garage ceiling.
Then you have the case where they build the house and the whole gable end gets sheathed over and the garage built afterwards and the fire separation gets drywall along with the ceiling in the garage. That scenario, the attic will stay with just sheathing and no drywall.
The open gable with no sheathing in my opinion is few and far between. Only happens when you have a complete separation with drywall in the garage ceiling and the home.
In older homes, you will encounter many with no fire separations at all. Meaning no drywall, just sheathing.
Here is an article for your reading pleasure;


Good resource, Marcel. Saved in my Building Standards Resource File.
I was with another inspector inspecting a triplex (pictures not available) that were all in a row with attic space above. The attic was not separated between units although each unit had its own access hatch into the space. I’m not sure what the material or the thickness of the access panels were, which may have some barring, but I’m thinking in that instance the separation should have gone all the way up to the roof especially since each separate unit had its own access to the attic. Would that be correct?

Is it existing? Year built?

Wood is not a problem if it is at least 1 3/8" solid, like the door to the house…IMHO. :smile:

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The year build wouldn’t matter if the inspector made a recommendation to enclose the attics up to the bottom of the roof sheathing, for enhanced safety. That way he stays away from code and covers himself. :smile:

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I was trying to tell him what he showed in that picture was not the way it should get done for a fire separation.
The garage shall be separated from the residence and its attic area by not
less than ½-inch gypsum board applied to the garage side.
Interpretation: This includes the horizontal attic access located in the ceiling of garages when the
ceiling is used as the fire separation. This requirement means that the attic access must be constructed of:

  1. a 2x framed access hatch with ½ inch gypsum
    applied to the bottom side or
  2. ¾” plywood drop-in hatch/door with ½” gypsum board applied to the
    garage side. Hatched /door shall be supported by ¾” wood shelf/ledge.
    If a Folding Stairway is installed, a framed enclosure shall be constructed as above and around the
    folding stair rough opening. Minimum ½” gypsum board shall be installed on the garage side of the
    enclosure. An access hatch as described above shall be mounted at the top of the enclosure. Supported by
    ¾” shelf/ledge around the stairway. The gypsum covering shall be tight to the surrounding ceiling.
    It is just a little common sense to have less exposed framing as possible to maintain that separation.
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Okay, gotcha, Marcel… :smile:

Great discussion. I find a good percentage of the access hatches either not 1/2” min. Drywall or it it is drywall and supported by thin wood molding. Fire starts, wood molding burns away and access panel falls to floor!

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But there is no defect present. What would be his reason for recommending this?

Robert don’t ‘look’ for things that aren’t there. BTW, if hired and asked I would say that it is code compliant and that no serious hazard or safety hazard exists.

Please study the new SOP and follow it as closely as possible.