Separation requirements for parking under a pier home

I inspect homes on the NC coast and most homes are slab, crawlspace or pier, I question the ceiling fire requirements for a parking area under a home in an open area (pier). I just did one today (New construction) and the ceiling above the parking area was vinyl soffit material. The requirements for a garage is 5/8" sheetrock. I guess it passed code but also maybe overlooked? Much of the information is about the walls not the ceilings. A grill or car fire under the house?

Looking for some understanding of current practice.



Hi Bob, what building code does NC use?

Thanks for the quick response Brian!

Well, I don’t know from what I can see online the latest one is 2018? I don’t think they have adopted the current electrical code (as of last year).

As a side note, if it is required in the most current code I would call it out. “While not required at the time of construction current practice is… for safety etc… recommend considering updating.”


I was running thru NC IRC 2018. It’s difficult on my phone. Sorry, can’t be more help. I only found this. I’m sure there is more there.

Thank you, I have seen some of those statements (I indicated the limitation to inspect the insulation) but I’m sure you agree that it’s not clear. I have seen plywood etc. on other inspections but it has always concerned me that I am not calling out something that needs to be called out. I also don’t want to be misinformed and call out something that doesn’t need to be. I want to get to the bottom of this after this last new construction.

Call the AHJ where the house is located, and ask them what code the current permits are issued for, or similar. In my area, many locales post that data on their permitting portal.

Once you have that, you can research the specifics.


Thanks Dominic, Good suggestion, I will do that and post what I have found.

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you said - garage 5/8 sheetrock, I agree for a garage. This may not be considered a garage. In Tucson they are carports…

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I think the difference is the living space above. But my GA code does not address this either, only garages.
Carports are defined as no less than 3 sides open, everything else is a garage. It says nothing about a living space above a carport :frowning:

Not sure about NC, but around here each municipality have specific provisions or changes added to what ever building codes were adopted. As @ddagostino suggested, check with the local AHJ.

Waiting for a reply, I will post updates.

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OK all,

First thank you for your responses and advice.

I made the call but unavailable at the time so I asked via. email the AHJ for the area and have not gotten a response. The email was simple and to the point “What code current permits are issued”. I guess he’s busy, the person that answered the call said “I have specific orders not to answer any code questions you have to ask him”. SO I went to my AHJs (town next door) and they both agree that the only thing for carports (=/<2 walls) is about insulation.

Now I need to vent:
BUT then the conversation became about the comparison of garages and carports and they were telling me about the attic access in the garage does NOT need to be 20min fire rated! The one said “only if there is a habitable space above” (as he sat leaned back in his chair with that visual attitude we all know). I was ??? a habitable space in an attic? Do you mean a second floor? The garage needs to separated to the roof if you don’t have the proper fire rated door to the attic, I see that for storage in an attic space above a garage if the door isn’t fire rated. I ended the conversation as soon as I could. I hope my views were valid but I also have a problem with someone who isn’t willing to accept that they might be wrong or mistaken and don’t have the personality to learn something. That’s something I feel has helped me in my endeavors, I’m always willing to listen and learn but when I feel I’m in the right… well…

NC Department of Insurance
Office of the State Fire Marshal - Engineering Division
1202 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1202
Garage Fire Separation Opening Protection

Code: 2018 Residential Code
Date: March 21, 2019
Section: R302.5.1

A garage is required to be separated from the dwelling and its attic area by gypsum board (taped
or blocked) applied to the garage side. What types of openings are permitted in the gypsum
board membrane and what level of protection is required?

Doors, including attic access, are required to be either 1-3/8-inch solid core wood, 1-3/8
honeycomb core steel, or 20-minute fire-resistance rated. A standard frame and hardware (dead
bolt, peep hole, etc.) are acceptable. Door glazing must be either wire glass in a metal frame or
20-minute fire-resistance rated. Ducts located in the garage must be 26 gage steel and have no
openings into the garage. Other penetrations (electrical, plumbing, etc.) must be fireblocked as
required for top plates. Section R302.5.1 prohibits openings from the garage directly into a
sleeping room.

There are several different configurations in my area.

Many times there is a 20 min firewall from the floor of the garage to the underside of the roof decking, directly applied to the adjoining wall of the garage and home, including the attic section. In this case, you do not need a fire rated garage ceiling.

Other times, the attic of the garage is open into the attic of the home. In this case, a 20 minute firewall needs to be applied to the entire ceiling of the garage and any walls that adjoin the home.

Now if you have living space above the garage, then there should be 5/8" type X drywall applied to the entire garage ceiling.

Should I be surprised the local building inspector disagrees? Yes…

Thanks Ryan!