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Question DetailsAsked on 5/15/2016

Our inspector found deficient fire walls in a condo we are buying in Dallas. Need 2nd opinion?

We're buying a 3-story condo that is flanked on two sides by other units. Our home inspector noted insufficient fire walls in the attics along the walls that are adjacent to the other units. However, the seller and developer of the condos insist that the current building complies with fire wall requirements. I need a second opinion to determine which is correct and would like to get a copy of the Dallas building code.

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2 Answers

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Couple of matters here -


1) ask him if would be a CURRENT violation, or just not conforming to current code but would not have to be changed unless some other modifications are being done in that area (called "Grandfathering" when conditions not meeting current code are allowed because they existed before the requirement came into effect. Commonly non-conformances are allowed on about all but fire and CO alarms and legal egress windows and fire doors - for single or small multi-unit residences. Commonly have a cdertain number of years to be brought up to code after a code change for large multi-unit buildings [commonly over 4-6 units in one building] or commercial buildings).


Generally, though varies by area and by how many units are in a building, items and conditions that are in existence do not have to be brought up to current code IF they were legal/allowed when they were built - and attic and roof fire barriers (extension of firewall above the roofline for 2-3 feet typically to prevent roof fires from travelling across the roof and back down into an adjacent unit) is a common example of this sort of situation.


2) Of course, how concerned you are about possible fire travel from a fire in an adjacent unit's attic to yours comes into into consideration in the decision of whether to build firewalls or not, or maybe if legal as is to alternatively put in an interconnected hardwired fire alarm in the attic and in the condo for several hundred $ generally, to warn with alarm inside the condo of any attic smoke.


3) You could talk to fire code complaince building inspector at the building inspector's office for your city/county about this issue, and they could show you the code section. Their website might have something on this too, especially if they are requiring this be built on existing buildings upon resale or such. Otherwise, an Architect would be a more definitive opinion than a home inspector.


4) building code - find on city website two things - which building and fire code they are using (Uniform or International version, and what year issue) and also what their code Amendments are. Generally, cities do not have their own extensive codes - they "adopt" a particular year version of the Uniform Building, Plumbing, Fire etc codes - or the International versions in most cases now - and then put out a Code Amendments documents of fromn a couple to maybe as many as 100 pages where they modify or waive certain provisions to adopt to common local practice or to strengthen the code (commonly done for hurricane, fire, earthquake protection). Except for a few major cities like NYC and Chicago and Boston, the amendments are usually free on the web. The building code text (both Building and Fire code probably in play here) you can google for the code and year and find full-content available on the web at several locations - or pay about - oh what did the last set cost me - say $250-500 to buy a copy of the right year's national or international (as applicable) building and fire codes.


5) If currently out of compliance, then I would require that proper fire protection be installed by the SELLER as a contingency item - and require they provide proof of passing the city/county building department (or fire marshalls office in some areas) inspection. If not in conformance with current code but NOT illegal as is (grandfathered because it existed before code required it) then your call on whether you try to require the Seller have it done at his cost as a contingency item (likely a no-go and could cause him to back out of the deal so discuss with your realtor before doing this), or if you intend to do it after closing get a Remodeling - General Contractor to give you a firm bid valid for at least several months after planned closing date to do it, and factor that cost into your post-inspection counteroffer price.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD

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Answered 2 years ago by Member Services




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