Featuring America's Home Inspector: Nationally Syndicated Columnist, Barry Stone

The House Detective by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry: I have several questions involving garage firewalls. What materials should be used to finish a garage firewall? What type of entry door is required in a firewall between a garage and a house? Why are no penalties imposed on home inspectors who fail to report firewall violations? And finally, are sellers required to disclose firewall violations in a garage? Deb

Dear Deb: A garage firewall is commonly covered with 5/8-inch fire-rated drywall, with all seams taped. Wall penetrations such as ducts must be made of metal. A door through a firewall can be a solid core slab door with a minimum thickness of 1 3/8 inches, it can be a sheet metal door, or it can be a 20 minute fire-rated panel door. A fire door must also be self-closing, typically accomplished with a spring hinge.

Failure of a home inspector to disclose a substandard firewall or fire door is often a matter of professional negligence. A common exception would be a firewall that has 1/2-inch drywall only. Unless the edges of the drywall are exposed, it is not always possible to determine the thickness of the material.

Sellers are required to disclose defects of which they are aware. Most sellers, however, have no knowledge of firewall requirements and would be unaware of related violations.