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Firewall in a townhouse, 1980 circa


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Need some help with a townhouse that is on a common slab foundation with three other units, for a total of four single family residences on a single foundation. All share the same attic space with no firewalls between the units.

I called this out as a little problem, and now everyone wants documentation of who says it is required, verse and chapter. The units were built in 1980, the area that I am in followed the Southern building code.

Any help would be great, I can't find anything as I don't have any code books before 1986.

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Scott,

I would definitely call it out as you did. If questioned, I would explain the problems with firespread through the attic and suggest they contact the Fire Marshall for further information.

I don't know when it became code, but it's a real problem if there's a fire and that's all the explanation needed!

Assuming there is a Homeowner's Association involved, that's where the buyer and seller should look for help. The HOA should have insurance coverage for this.

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What Paul & Doug said.

I've had this happen on occasion. I explain that I'm not doing a code inspection, I am giving my opinion of the property. I use the model code system as a guideline basis for my observations. Since all modern fire codes require this fire seperation, it is only prudent that it be considered. If someone wants to ignore it based on someones legal opinion of legal non-conformance (grandfathered), OK, let them. You gave them a good opinion; tell them to consult the fire marshall & let them argue w/ him.

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Not only are the preceeding correct, I had a personal experience to back it up. I suspect this kind of thing happens more often than we hear about.

About 10 years ago I did an inspection for a guy who was just off the boat from China. He was looking for a place in Brookline, MA (a very affluent community) because of the excellent schools, but he couldn't afford much. He ended up buying an unusually dilapidated townhouse in the middle of a row of six rowhouses and renovating it. His English was only a little better than my Mandarin, so you can imagine the scene as I tried to explain to him the existence and significance of a pile of raccoon droppings on the roof. Of course, he had no idea what a raccoon was, and didn't understand droppings. After several minutes, I finally had to draw a picture of a raccoon backing one out on top of his house. It was one of those truly memorable inspections.

Among many other things, I told him to install a firewall in the attic, which he did. At some point during the renovation, he moves his family in. Near the end, the painter's managed to set the place ablaze, and he lost everything, but thankfully everyone got out. He called me to thank me on behalf of the neighbors on both sides, who sustained no damage.

Scott, your client doesn't need a code reference, they need a firewall.

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