QOD for 1/22/07 (Smoke Detectors)

Is the following statement true or false?

It is false for at least the reason that there is no additional smoke detector required on the sleeping floors besides the ones in and adjacent to the sleeping areas.

Answer: True

Very true


I’ll play Devil’s Advocate.

What of requirements for existing structures, say originally built in 1980?


I’ll attempt to make this as short as possible.

Smoke alarm laws have been part of the building code for more than 20 years, yet are among the most frequently violated of home safety requirements. A significant number of homes either have no smoke alarms, have too few, have ones that are incorrectly placed, or which are simply inoperative. So let’s take a quick look at the proper deployment of these imperative life-saving devices.

Smoke alarm requirements are not the same for every home. They vary according to local municipal standards and by the age of the dwelling. For homes built prior to 1979, battery-powered smoke alarms are permissible. In newer dwellings, (which NFPA 72 covers) alarms must be powered by the electrical wiring. The problem with battery units is that people often neglect battery replacement. On the other hand, what good are wired-in smoke alarms if you have an electrical fire accompanied by a power outage? The safest arrangement, therefore, is to install wired-in alarms, equipped with battery back-up. This type of integrated alarm can be obtained at most hardware stores and is required for homes built as of 1993.

As to smoke alarm placement, requirements also vary according to the age of the dwelling. In older homes, most municipalities require alarms in the following locations: Within close proximity to all bedroom entrances, on each story of a multi-level home, and in basements. The latest standards, enacted in 1993, require that there be an additional alarm in each bedroom. Another practical location, although not required, is the garage.

Additionally, wherever smoke alarms are installed, ceilings are the best specific locations, primarily because smoke rises. However, it is permissible to install an alarm on a wall, as long as it is within 12 inches of the ceiling.

One final requirement involves homes that are remodeled or enlarged: When the cost of an addition or alteration exceeds $1000, and whenever a permit is required, smoke alarms must be installed in compliance with the latest standards, regardless of the age of the building.

For further details regarding specific smoke alarm requirements in your area, it is advised that you consult your local fire department or code department.

Unfortunately, I do not have the regulation requirments for NYS on the selling of a home. But I do believe that the home must be properly equipped when put up for sale. Some states require certification. New Jersey for example: http://www.longhillnj.org/departments/dpw/sumppump.html](http://www.longhillnj.org/departments/dpw/sumppump.html)

Attached is a NYSDOS Bulletin on the smoke alarm requirements for existing residential buildings in New York.

If no permits were recently pulled for additions, or alterations requiring removal of finishes, then it appears the requirement is one smoke alarm in each unit or house on/near the ceiling certified by the seller upon transfer (see table at end of Bulletin, and FCNYS 907. Pretty minimal.

JMO … :wink:

Thanks Robert.

This is my point, exactly.

We are not code compliance officials. We should be familiar with the laws of our area, and we know that smoke alarms are important. Here in NY, every realtor knows the law as it pertains to what requirements exist for smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. This was why I asked a question that I already know the answer to. It is important to be able to parse what is required from what one might recommend.

Re-stating… essentially, in NY State, only a single smoke detector would be required in homes that existed prior to 2003, and that have had no additions or alterations to the interior which required a building permit. Battery operated units are okay.

John makes an excellent point with his reference, and the addition of more smoke detectors can never hurt. I have a simple hand out I provide my clients explaining all of this.

Good post, John


I also made mention in my original post: