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Question DetailsAsked on 9/24/2016

Hi! We're building a non-profit theatre & need to add an emergency exit through a concrete wall.

The wall is a typical cinder block and we are looking for a standard exit (7ft. x 3ft). We get a good amount of the buildout, but we weren't sure where to even start with this cost besides googling. We'd love any help in this direction - we're spending crowdfunding money and a LOT of our own to help a community, so any way to navigate cost savings is really helpful for us as an art non-profit. We'd also love to hire a licensed contractor if anyone is interested, but that's after we hear the bad news. ;) Thanks so much.

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2 Answers


For this sort of thing, because fire, lighting, safety and handcapped access codes are very strict for performance locations, you should have an architect at least advising - though in most jurisdictions you will not be able to get a building or occupancy permit without full plans from an architect.

And unless a very small theater or a backstage egress (rather than from the theater seating area itself) I would expect minimum 4 foot door width, or maybe even two 3-4 foot doors side by side (a double door, generally required to be WITHOUT a center divider like are used in schools and hospitals) will be required by code.

On the door cut into the wall - depends on type of wall (fully reinforced or just nominal reinfrocement), whether this wall is a half-wall or full height and so forth - but for normal cinder block full-height wall construction on a concrete footer, assuming there is no unusually concentrated load coming down on top of the door area (like supports for a second story wide-bay window or balcony door or such), and notlocated at a steel or concrete support column, I would expect this cuttingand install steel frame and header (usually C-channel steel stock with the open side of the C bolted to the cinder block rough opening and grouted in) to run in the $700-2000 range depending on actual construction of the building and door width. Rarely as low as the $700 range even for a 3-4 foot wide door but can sometimes come that low when the cut is done in conjunction with the new door installation. [Door installer will commonly hire a Masonry sub to do the cut and steel framout before they do the door installation but soem door come with the frameout steel inclluded - note that cost is for the rough opening only, NOT including the installed door cost which is typically $1000-3000 more for a metal theater egress door.

Plus $200-300 probably for architect/engineer to work up a plan for the cut and reinforcing of the opening for the building department and for the contractor.

As for the bad news - I would talk to an Architect NOW (might be able to find one who will give you a discount rate for a public service type project, maybe) - because the big surprises are commonly going to come in fire and egress and handicapped service requirements, and bathroom facilities under the new increased sizing requirements in the new code - and not to mention the nebulous issues of "inclusive" bathrooms and such. That issue alone is requiring doubling or tripling of bathroom square footage in remodels and new construction versus just a year or two ago.

Security can also be a surprise, but not normally vastly expensive if done along with the fire alarm and lighting installation - but you need to consider security (intrusion or sneak-thief) issues in conjunction with the egress requirements under the fire code - the issue of having to have emergency exits unlocked from the inside during use conflicts with physical security requirements and needs detailed consideration of alarming and of where egress doors are placed to make them more visible to staff during operation.

One other thing on the architecture firm - is he/she prepares plans and specs for the jbo not only will it make building permit and planning and zoning approval a lot easier, but it also provides the basis for a sciope of work for contractors to bid on the job. Generally you want the scope of work to be tied down as much as possible in plans and specs, both so you can get multiple (usually at least 3 RESPONSIVE bids is desireable) bid and know you are comparing apples to apples as far as scope of work goes, but also that provides the scope of work basis for the actual contract so you are not caught up in endless change order or unauthorized overruns. The architect (or Architect/Engineer firm probably in this case) can commonly help with preparing documents and contracting with a General Contractor as well, with evaluating any contractor-requested change orders, with budgeting and cost estimation, with inspection and measurement for payment, etc.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD



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Answered 4 years ago by Member Services

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