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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2017
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    Washington
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    Default Can I Put An Opening Wall In My Living Room?

    I have a single family house that has a living room with a south facing wall looking onto a garden. I would like to add an attached greenhouse to cover the garden, and cut in a carriage house door or opening wall from the living room to the greenhouse. I have been trying to read the building code to figure out what is required and so far it's been heavy sledding. But then I see web sites like this:
    https://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/8477...pivoting-doors
    Which shows that it might be possible in some price brackets, anyway.

    The house is a single story group R-3 and the greenhouse will be group U. This would be a true uninsulated single pane greenhouse with no floor, not a sunroom. It would cover the south side of the house from end to end. The door into the living room would be two 8 foot doors and a central column to make a 16 ft opening. The structural, solar gain, and ventilation aspects are no problem. I'm wondering about energy code, infiltration requirements, fire code requirements, and whatever else I haven't found out about yet.

    About the doors: It looks like the doors have to be 1 hour fire rated, is that correct? Can they be site built, or do they need to be a purchased assembly? If so, how do they permit those opening walls in the fancy architectural magazines? Is there a limit on gasketed length for exterior doors or some specific gasketing requirement? I can build it to pass the blower door test, but is that enough or does it need some particular label on it?

    About the greenhouse: Can the greenhouse cover existing doors and windows? And finally, can I build the greenhouse with a wood frame, or does it need to be fire rated? Can I even do this?

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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Orlando, FL
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    1,336

    Default Re: Can I Put An Opening Wall In My Living Room?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Wahr View Post
    Can I even do this?
    You have a lot of good questions, and it appears this project is too complex for your skill set, and likely involves permits and a general understanding of local codes/building practices.

    I would recommend you seek out a competent and reputable contractor before you make any plans. There may significant portions of the puzzle that are being overlooked.

    Dom.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Ormond Beach, Florida
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    26,185

    Default Re: Can I Put An Opening Wall In My Living Room?

    I agree with Dom, additionally ...

    "May" ... would be the key word -so many variables, including, but not limited to:

    - The greenhouse would be outside the thermal envelope of the building, thus "an opening" would not be allowed, a proper exterior door would be required.

    - The wall framing would need modified with a header and proper supports/tie-down anchors/etc.

    - Natural light and ventilation need to be considered if you are taking out a window. (Added this with edit)).)

    Hire a contractor, and because you never know about the knowledge and experience of the contractor, hire an engineer for a signed and sealed engineering design. It will save you a lot of headaches in the long run.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Maryland
    Posts
    2,763

    Default Re: Can I Put An Opening Wall In My Living Room?

    Sounds like a Mother Earth News project.

    Doable with time, material, knowledge and experience. To do it half way right you need the experience that you don't have. Especially with opening up the wall to install a large door, restructuring the opening needs experience to carry load correctly. Permits office can help with code requirements, go in personally and speek to them face to face.

    Good luck with project.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2017
    Location
    Washington
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    Default Re: Can I Put An Opening Wall In My Living Room?

    Thanks for the comments. I should have clarified in the OP, I am a retired ironworker and mechanical engineer with a background in industrial plant engineering and construction management. The structural, solar gain, and ventilation aspects are no problem. I have also designed and built HVAC systems including cascaded differential pressure containment zones with air locks and blowout walls. It's not an exaggeration to say that I can build a door to any requirement.

    What I don't have is knowledge of residential code or a bottomless pocket book. I am currently chipping away at reading the building code, but the table of contents looks like 20 miles of bad road from here. Even some pointers to particular sections would be helpful. I donít mind doing my homework but donít expect to ever know the code like a pro.

    Unfortunately our county building department has adopted a policy of not talking to homeowners. I can get as far as a receptionist, but anyone knowledgeable just plain does not speak to the public at all. The receptionist will write down one specific question at a time and get back to me, but cannot tell me what I need to do to comply or even point me toward relevant code sections or approved examples. The only other response is either submit a set of plans with permit request or go away and read the building code.

    Iím willing to deal on the design if thatís what it takes. I would prefer an opening wall using rolling doors that are built using the same construction as the wall. Iíve seen a house just like this, but that was 30 years ago in a different state. So far Iím not finding such a thing described However a standard pair of french doors opening into the greenhouse area would be alright too. They would leak a lot more heat on a cold night, but I can use thermal drapes. There is plenty of room for shear walls on both sides of the opening so I hope to keep the center post between the doors reasonably narrow.

    As far as the greenhouse itself, I would like to use a three season design as described in this report from the University of Minnesota:
    The Cold Climate Greenhouse Resource.pdf
    So the roof and end walls would be of the same exterior finish as the house, except unfinished on the interior. According to the ASHRAE transmittance/reflectance calculations, a 40 ft x 8 ft high single pane south facing glass wall should gather 15 to 20 kW of heat on a sunny winter day, warming an uninsulated but reasonably air-tight structure 40 to 50 degrees above outside air temperature. That would make a very pleasant indoor-outdoor space to enjoy during the winter, on a reasonable budget.

    Specific questions:
    1) Can someone point me toward relevant sections of the IRC, IBC, and/or IFC?
    2) Can someone recommend a decent For Dummies book?
    3) Is there some online or reasonably priced book resource for code interpretations that might apply?
    4) Is there a prescriptive design available for site built code-compliant exterior doors and windows?
    5) Is there a requirement for separation of two exterior door openings?
    6) Does the greenhouse need to be of fireproof construction, or is a wood frame acceptable?
    7) Would a wood greenhouse structure need to be covered with a firewall inside?

    Thanks once again for your advice.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Ormond Beach, Florida
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    Default Re: Can I Put An Opening Wall In My Living Room?

    Bob,

    With that attitude from the building department, I would do this:

    Draw up what you want to do and submit it for review - it is then up to them to tell you (precisely) what does not comply and why (you figure out what changes to make from their answer.

    Building departments like that "think" they are going to do less work that way, but if you submit your plans, it is their JOB to review it and tell you what is wrong ... make them work their butts off.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Southern Vancouver Island
    Posts
    4,533

    Default Re: Can I Put An Opening Wall In My Living Room?

    Good advice from JP. To open the lines of communication, draw up the proposed plan with as much detail as possible, and submit it.

    I built an addition here last year using that same strategy, with knowledge of the local building code, of course. The building inspector called me, wanted changes to my foundation, drew them on my plan in red. Asked for additional details, specifically, rain screen details. He questioned my roof structure, which was to be a custom stick-built, not the typical manufactured truss design. He wanted details in the area of the vaulted ceiling.

    I submitted a corrected plan, including the pages he had corrected himself, all hand drawn in ink and copied on my scanner/printer. Plan was approved.
    Inspections were called for at various stages of building. I used those times to discuss my plans for completing the next stage. Good luck.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    MONTREAL QUEBEC-CANADA
    Posts
    1,826

    Default Re: Can I Put An Opening Wall In My Living Room?

    Why not opt for a manufactured solarium addon?
    The manufacture would have pertinent specs you desire and building code standards would be moot if they use established contractors, and you have a warranty.

    Likely save you time and money in the long run.
    Just my 2 cents.

    Robert Young's Montreal Home Inspection Services Inc.
    Call (514) 489-1887 or (514) 441-3732
    Our Motto; Putting information where you need it most, "In your hands.Ē

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