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    Existing apartment fire separation wall

    Existing apartment fire separation wall

    New postby mombapo on Tue Mar 11, 2014 4:48 pm

    Hiya,
    Turns out one of the apts in my multi-family was divided off after a special permit was received by the former owner for only 3 units, currently there are 4. One large apt was subdivided to create 2 smaller units. This situation has existed for 30 years...We're in Massachusetts.

    The inspector say that everywhere the illegal unit touches the rest of the building must be fire separated, but none of it is new construction. Only a door was closed to make the separation. So, I have 4 units, all the construction done at the same time, but 1 must be fire separated from the rest, apparently.

    I have seen in instructions for accessory units from Portland, for example, where only the new construction needed to make the separation is required to be fire separation...

    How does this sound to you?

    Thank you!
    mombapo
     
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    Joined: Tue Mar 11, 2014 3:34 pm

    Re: Existing apartment fire separation wall

    New postby Jerry Peck - Codeman on Tue Mar 11, 2014 8:02 pm

    mombapo wrote:Hiya,
    Turns out one of the apts in my multi-family was divided off after a special permit was received by the former owner for only 3 units, currently there are 4. One large apt was subdivided to create 2 smaller units. This situation has existed for 30 years.
    .
    .
    The inspector ...


    First, a few questions and observations:
    - "The inspector" ... What type of inspector? The end result may, or may not, be affected by the type of inspector (as it also depends on the following items).
    - "a special permit" ... Was the permit for dividing the unit into two units? Who issued that permit? Was the work done under that permit inspected, a final inspection passed, and a CO (Certificate of Occupancy) or CC (Certificate of Completion/Certificate of Compliance, depends on which is used by that department).
    - "has existed for 30 years" ... The one apartment was divided into two apartments 30 years ago or the building is 30 years old and the apartment was divided up sometime later?

    Some "IF" observations:
    - IF ... the inspector is from a city/county/fire department, you pretty much have to do what they say unless you can prove otherwise, thus the questions above for starters.
    - IF ... the inspector is a private inspector (such as a home inspector for a sale) you will probably have to address the concerns of the buyer in a manner which shows that it was properly done, with a proper permit, all inspections, and final inspected and approved ... at the time of the permit.
    - IF ... the permit was given but no inspections were made, the permit has expired and is as though it never existed, other than being evidence that work was permitted and some AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) dropped the ball and did not follow up on the permit, and the open permit is now raising questions.
    - IF ... the original construction was with fire-resistance rated walls, you would need to get a copy of the original permit for the building to determine that, but if the original construction was with fire-resistance rated walls between dwelling units (apartments) then the walls separating the two smaller apartments which used to be one large apartment also required the same fire-resistance rating for the walls between the two smaller apartments.
    - - UNLESS ... the permit included approved documents which showed those walls as not being fire-resistance rated and that was approved by the AHJ at the time of the permit .
    - - UNLESS ... the plans were approved improperly, then the approval for the plans may be invalidated.

    Those are for starters, however ...
    - IF ... the permit was accompanied by approved documents (plans) and the work was inspected, and the work was approved, and the two apartments received a CO/CC, then there may be a defense behind it being grandfathered in to the code at the time of the permit, however, if it did not meet the code in effect at the time of permitting, then there is nothing to grandfather in.

    Too many questions, too little information to go on.
    Jerry Peck - CodeMan
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    Re: Existing apartment fire separation wall

    New postby mombapo on Wed Mar 12, 2014 8:53 am

    Thanks for the response! Here is more info:

    This is a antique house. 30 years ago, the former owner divided one of the existing apartments.

    The Special Permit is not related to the units in question. It was to put an apt. into an accessory building, but it specifies the number of units allowed on the property.....

    The town building inspector is requiring the fire separation, (and other things) etc. in order to get a C.O. for the illegal apartment. The work to make the illegal apartment was done without any permitting... None of the other apartments have COs or fire separation.

    What a great service you have here, I appreciate your time!
    mombapo
     
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    Re: Existing apartment fire separation wall

    New postby Jerry Peck - Codeman on Wed Mar 12, 2014 1:16 pm

    I'll respond with some additional information later, but ... what a can of worms has now been opened because of the unpermitted splitting of that apartment.

    Have you considered un-splitting that apartment back into one apartment?

    Not knowing the details, but that could result in putting all the worms back in the can and re sealing the can (making all the related problems go away).
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    Re: Existing apartment fire separation wall

    New postby mombapo on Wed Mar 12, 2014 1:31 pm

    Yes, it's a mess.
    Yes, rejoining the units is the fallback position...

    In a 4 unit property, what is the code expectation for smokes/co? When is hardwired required?

    Thank you
    mombapo
     
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    Re: Existing apartment fire separation wall

    New postby Jerry Peck - Codeman on Wed Mar 12, 2014 8:15 pm

    mombapo wrote:Yes, it's a mess.


    Quite possibly more than you think and possibly more than the inspector is pointing out.

    Yes, rejoining the units is the fallback position...


    That is very likely the easiest and least costly solution, but there are many things I am not aware of in your situation which might affect that.

    In a 4 unit property, what is the code expectation for smokes/co? When is hardwired required?


    The code expectation is not so much a 'was it required by the code at the time of construction' as much as it is about the property maintenance code adopted for your area. You could probably find what property maintenance code your area has adopted, and if it has adopted an Existing Building Code as either, or both, may have requirements which could trigger installing permanently wired smoke detectors and CO detectors which are interconnected.

    Fortunately, most codes address smoke detectors and CO detectors are being permanently wired to 120 volt supply with a battery backup, most also require interconnection ... but do not specify the method of interconnection - smoke detectors, and likely CO detectors too, which are permanently wired and battery backup and which are wirelessly interconnected. While it is fairly easy (relatively speaking) to add smoke detectors which are permanently wired and battery backup, most often it would be extremely difficult to run the wires for interconnection - thus the allowance for some other form of interconnection, and wireless interconnection is available.

    I can see all kinds of additional potential problems, some of which may be picked up on during the next inspection or in the future at some future inspection.

    Apartment_splitting.jpg
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