Garage Entry Door To House: 15 Important Things You Need To Know!

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THIS POST HAS BEEN UPDATED WITH ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AND TO INCORPORATE THE LATEST 2021 INTERNATIONAL RESIDENTIAL CODE

An attached garage has a few advantages over a detached garage. Convenience tops that list. The convenience of stepping out of your car and being able to walk right into your house without having to brave the elements.

This convenience is only possible because of the garage entry door. A garage entry door is a really special door in your house. It can not be treated like other normal doors. Below is a list of 15 important things you need to know about your garage entry door.

  1. What do you call the Door that Leads to the Garage?
  2. What is the Building Code for a Garage Entry Door to the House?
  3. Do Garage Entry Doors to the House need to be Self-Closing?
  4. Should the Garage Entry Door to the House Swing In or Out?
  5. Can a Bedroom have a Door to the Garage?
  6. Do I Need a Fire-Rated Door between my Garage and House?
  7. Do Fire Rated Doors Need Fire Rated Frames?
  8. Does a Garage Entry Door Have to Be Steel?
  9. Can a Garage Entry Door Have a Pet Door?
  10. Should the Garage Entry Door Have a Lock?
  11. Can a Garage Entry Door to the House have Glass?
  12. How Do You Install a Garage Entry Door?
  13. Is a Garage Entry Door Considered an Exterior Door?
  14. What Size is a Garage Entry Door to the House?
  15. How Much is a Garage Entry Door to the House?

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ThermaTru Garage Entry Door 1
PHOTO CREDIT: THERMATRU

1. What do you call the Door that Leads to the Garage?

Do you have an attached garage but you do not have access to it from within the house? Well then you are missing out on the biggest advantage of having an attached garage. What you need is a “Garage Entry Door to the House”.

Yes, that is what it is called. The door that leads from the house to the garage is called a “Garage Entry Door to the House”.

This term clarifies that you are not talking about the main garage door or the door that you use to bring in and take out your car. The car garage door is simply called the “Garage Door”.

Other Types of Garage Entry Doors

The garage entry door is also not the same as the pedestrian door or the man door or the wicket door. The other terms are used to describe a door that is built into the large garage door. 

The pedestrian door is a man sized door designed to enable you to enter the garage from outside, through the garage door, without the need to open the large garage door. Pedestrian doors are not very common for a variety of reasons including high cost and safety risk.

What is common though is the garage side entry door, especially in detached garages. This is a regular sized door on one of the sidewalls of the garage. It is used to enter or exit the garage from the outside of the house.

Garage Entry Door is Convenient

The garage entry door to the house is a huge convenience in an attached garage, especially in extreme weather conditions.

Even in the case of a detached garage if you have a studio apartment above it, a small house or any other type of “dwelling unit” attached to the garage, all the same rules apply. The rules also apply in case of a RV garage with living quarters.

However, since the garage entry door to the house links the garage to the house (ADU – A Dwelling Unit), it is subject to strict building codes.

2. What is the Building Code for a Garage Entry Door to the House?

The opening between the garage and the house must be equipped with a door that provides protection per Section R302.5.1 of the 2021 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC).

The garage entry door to the house is possibly the most unique door in your house. It has the most demanding safety regulations. The reason is that a garage is considered to be a hazardous zone. 

Carbon Monoxide, emitted from an idling car is a toxic gas. Other inflammable fumes are also generated in the garage and are a high fire risk.

The garage entry door opens from the garage into the house, a dwelling unit (ADU). It is imperative that the garage entry door safeguards the lives of the inhabitants from potential danger. 

The International Residential Code

The opening between the garage and the house must be equipped with a door that provides protection per Section R302.5.1 of the 2021 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC).

R302.5.1 Opening protection: Openings from a private garage directly into a room used for sleeping shall not be permitted. Other openings between the garage and the residence shall be equipped with solid wood doors not less than 1-3/8 inches (35 mm) in thickness, solid or honey-comb core steel doors not less than 1-3/8 inches (35 mm) thick, or 20 minute fire-rated doors. Doors shall be self latching and equipped with a self-closing or automatic-closing device.

Do keep in mind that the Local Building Code authorities may have their own interpretation of the IRC. So please check & abide by the local building code interpretation.

A garage entry door, meeting the IRC Code, would also be required for a garage under house, even though access to the house from the garage to the house may be through a staircase.

Building Code for Garage Entry Doors to House (Adjoining Walls)

For your information the 2021 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC) specifies the type of doors, adjoining walls and floor that an attached or a built-in garage should have.

R302.6 Dwelling Garage Fire Separation (applies to adjoining Garage Walls & Ceilings) states that

The garage shall be separated as required by Table R302.6. Openings in garage walls shall comply with Section R302.5. This provision does not apply to garage walls that are perpendicular to the adjacent dwelling unit wall.

Table R302.6

SeparationMaterial
From the residence and atticsNot less than ½-inch gypsum board or equivalent applied to the garage side
From all habitable rooms above the garageNot less than 5⁄8 -inch Type X gypsum board or equivalent
Structure(s) supporting floor-ceiling assemblies used for separation required by this sectionNot less than ½-inch gypsum board or equivalent
Garages located less than 3 feet (914 mm) from a dwelling unit on the same lotNot less than ½-inch gypsum board or equivalent applied to the interior side of exterior walls that are within this area

You can check out Attached Garage Fire Containment blog from Inter­national Association of Certified Home Inspectors for more details.

3. Do Garage Entry Doors to the House need to be Self-Closing?

A Garage Entry Door to House has to be equipped with a self-closing or automatic-closing device as per Section R302.5.1 of the 2021 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC).

A new addition to the 2021 update is that Entry Doors to House also need to be ‘self latching”.

A garage entry door to the house has to be fire-rated as per the code. The objective is to prevent any fire in the garage from spreading to the house.

This objective can not be met if the garage entry door is open.

Human beings can forget to shut the door behind them, at times. A self-closing garage entry door, on the other hand, will ensure that the door is automatically kept closed at all times.

There are two ways to make the door self-closing. Use spring loaded hinges or use a door closer.

4. Should the Garage Entry Door to the House Swing In or Out?

The International Residential Code does not specify, so either way should be fine. 

However, as always, the local building code may have a specification. So better to check out with them.

If the local code does not specify one way or the other, then I would say that the garage entry door should swing out of the house and into the garage. 

There are many advantages to this from a safety point of view.

  • If there is a fire in the house and you are trying to escape, it is far easier to open a door that swings out of the house to the outdoors (in this case through the garage).
  • If there is a fire or explosion in the garage then the additional pressure in the garage will not be able to blow open the garage entry door into the house. The fire will be contained in the garage for 20 minutes since as per code the door has a fire-rating of 20 minutes.
  • Outswing doors are more difficult for burglars to break-in.

This arrangement kind of works like a one way valve. 

I know that most garage entry doors available are inswing and it is quite difficult (and possibly costlier) to find an outswing door. There are many instances of doors meant to be used for evacuating a building, in case of an emergency, are outswing.

  • Doors in commercial buildings always swing outward, per the International Building Code. This ensures safety and order during an evacuation.
  • In hurricane-prone areas such as Florida & Texas, front doors are always outswing, as inswing doors can be pushed open more easily.

Garage Entry Door are not the same as Garage Side Doors. Garage Side Doors can be installed in both attached and detached garages.

Garage side doors open to the outdoors, not to the house or any other living space. A garage side door should swing out as explained in my earlier post.

5. Can a Bedroom have a Door to the Garage?

No. You can not have a door between a bedroom and the garage. The Section R302.5.1 of the International Residential Code is absolutely clear on this.

The very first sentence of the section reads as under:

Openings from a private garage directly into a room used for sleeping purposes shall not be permitted.

The garage entry door can therefore lead to a hallway, mudroom, laundry room, kitchen, the living room, etc. Basically any room other than the bedroom.

6. Do I Need a Fire-Rated Door between my Garage and House?

Most definitely. The Section R302.5.1 of the 2021 International Residential Code is absolutely clear on this.

The later part of the section reads:

R302.5.1 Opening protection: Openings from a private garage directly into a room used for sleeping shall not be permitted. Other openings between the garage and residence shall be equipped with solid wood doors not less than 1-3/8 inches (35 mm) in thickness, solid or honeycomb-core steel doors not less than 1-3/8 inches (35 mm) thick, or 20-minute fire-rated doors. Doors shall be self latching and equipped with a self-closing or automatic-closing device.

Basically it gives you three options. The first two are not explicitly stated as fire-rated but the fire-rating is implied by specifying the material and the thickness. The third option is of course explicitly fire-rated.

7. Do Fire Rated Doors Need Fire Rated Frames?

Section R302.5.1 of the 2021 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC) requires a 20 minute fire rated door as a garage entry door. The entire door assembly, including the door, the frame, the hardware and the components, must pass the test.

The actual material of the frame is not important, but the frame must meet the 20 minute fire rated door requirements. The tests must be conducted by a certified, independent test facility in accordance with the test parameters laid out by Underwriters Laboratory (UL)

To be approved as a 20 minute fire rated door, the complete assembly, including the door frame, must stay intact and the flames should not reach the other side.

8. Does a Garage Entry Door Have to Be Steel?

A garage entry door does not have to be steel. It could be any material as long as it complies with the code.

A garage entry door, like any door in the house, could be made from wood, steel, fiberglass, aluminum or even PVC. 

Each door material has its pros & cons. The comparison of different materials for garage entry doors is as under:

Code Compliance

The opening between the garage and the house must be equipped with a door that provides protection as per Section R302.5.1 of the 2021 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC).

The take away from the above section is that the garage entry door must be:

  • solid wood not less than 1-3/8 inches thick OR
  • solid or honey-comb core steel not less than 1-3/8 inches thick OR
  • 20 minute fire-rated

A garage entry door made from any material will comply with the code provided the door is 20 minute fire-rated. But a 20 minute steel door will generally perform to a three hour standard

Affordability

The three most popular material choices, when it comes to garage entry doors, are:

  • Steel
  • Fiberglass
  • Wood

A steel garage entry door will be cheaper than a fiberglass or wood door with similar specifications.

Corrosion Resistance

Rusting is often cited as a weakness for steel. The fact is that iron rusts quite easily but steel, depending on the grade may not. For example, good quality stainless steel does not rust.

Steel can also be made corrosion resistant by galvanizing or by applying an anti-corrosive coating. Fiberglass does not corrode. Wood does not corrode but can warp & rot. Aluminum can corrode. 

Impact Resistance

Fiberglass has very high impact resistance. The impact resistance of steel is quite high. However, it can get dented or scratched by sharp objects. Wood & aluminum do not fare too well on impact resistance.

Weather Resistance

Wood, aluminum and fiberglass have a much lower weather resistance than steel.

Based on a test conducted by Steel Door Institute only steel doors can pass the FEMA 361 and ICC 500 tornado test (250 mph wind speeds).

For more details, please check out my earlier blog post, 5 Reasons Why a Steel Garage Entry Door is the Best Choice!

In conclusion, a steel garage entry door is often the best choice!

9. Can a Garage Entry Door Have a Pet Door?

A garage entry door can not and should not have a pet door. Remember, the specifications of a garage entry door are dictated by Section R302.5.1 of the 2021 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC). The requirement is a 20 minute fire rated door.

A fire door can not have a pet door. At least not a normal pet door. You could however, install a fire rated pet door in a fire rated garage entry door. Check out FireSafe Pet Doors for more details.

NOTE: To comply with the code you can not have a pet door, not even a fire rated pet door, between a bedroom and a garage.

10. Should the Garage Entry Door Have a Lock?

Many homeowners believe that there is no need to secure the garage entry door as the main garage door is secured. Actually this is a false sense of security. Believe it or not, for a determined burglar, a garage door is fairly easy to break into.

Once the burglar has gained access to your garage, the only thing that can prevent him from getting into your home is the garage entry door. Make sure that you make it really difficult to break into your home. Install an old fashioned deadbolt on your garage entry door.

To find out more about how to improve the security of your home, by installing a high quality garage entry door lock, check out my earlier blog post, How To Make Your Home Secure? (Importance of Garage Entry Door Lock!).

11. Can a Garage Entry Door to the House have Glass?

A garage entry door can have glass provided the glass used in the door as well as the entire door has a 20 minute fire-rating.

The International Residential Code is primarily concerned about the 20 minute fire-rating, not about the actual material used to make the door. So the door material could be steel, wood, aluminum, fiberglass or anything else, such as glass.

Of course the fire rated garage entry door with glass has to be tested and certified by an independent and authorized test laboratory for a 20 minute fire-rating.

The area of the fire-rated glass door that can have fire-rated glass is limited to 5268 square inches with the width and or height of exposed glass not to exceed 109 3/4″.

You can get a 20 minute fire-rated option on a glass garage entry door from ThermaTru.

ThermaTru Glass Garage Entry Door  (Fire-Rated Option Available)
PHOTO CREDIT: THERMATRU

While the addition of glass adds class to a door it also increases the price substantially.

12. How Do You Install a Garage Entry Door?

In some ways installing a garage entry door is not very different from installing an ordinary door in your house. The difference is that in case of ordinary doors, installation errors may not be pretty but the door would still be functional. 

However, there can be no installation errors, when it comes to installing a garage entry door. You may be in violation of the code.

When you buy a garage entry door from Home Depot, Lowes or any other store, they will not only ship it to your home but also arrange to install it for a fee. In my opinion, it is better and safer to have a professional install the garage entry door.

13. Is a Garage Entry Door Considered an Exterior Door?

Yes. A garage entry door is legally considered as an exterior door. The excerpt from Law Insider is reproduced below:

Exterior door means a door providing access from a dwelling interior to the exterior. The term includes a door between a living area and a garage but does not include a sliding glass door or a screen door.

14. What Size is a Garage Entry Door to the House?

The most popular garage entry door sizes are width ranging from 30” to 36” (2’ 6” to 3’) and a height of 80” to 84” (6’ 8” to 7’). 

However, you can get garage entry doors as narrow as 24” (2’).

15. How Much is a Garage Entry Door to the House?

A decent looking & functional fire-rated garage entry door will cost between $400 to $500 at Home Depot, Lowe’s or Amazon. However, the installation cost can set you back another $500 to $800 depending on the nature of work involved.

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Thank you very much for reading the post. I do hope you found it informative and useful.

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