03:05PM | 05/01/05
Member Since: 11/06/03
31 lifetime posts
We have a 31 inch outside door that we will no longer be using as an entrance, though I want to keep it as a possible escape route in case of fire. Right now it has 3 concrete steps leading to it. We want to get rid of the steps, put a wrought iron railing ion front of the entrance and replace the door with french doors. Are there French doors that would fit into this space because it is so small? Any iseas for the railing?


04:29AM | 05/04/05
Member Since: 01/30/05
361 lifetime posts
First of all you mention french doorS, and to have a pair of doors that small and custom made would not be such a good idea as the confusion generated in a fire for such a small opening requiring both doors to be open wouldn't be compliant with the more current building codes and fire codes sprinkled throughout the USA and Canada.

If you're intent on installing a PAIR of such doors, you would have to have them custom made.

If you install a single French door-style swing door, you most likely could modify a stock size to fit your application, especially if it were solid wood AND had the more modern (beefier/thicker) kick-plate and frame style.

Standard Doors are now rather uniform in their size for door pannels.

They begin at 18" wide (or 1-foot, six in the lingo), the next size being a 2-foot (24"), the next sizes are increases in 2-inch measurements. In the trade they are called/sized by the number of feet followed by the number of inches, i.e. a 2-4 door is 28" (2-foot plus four-inches). Now it is common for the door itself to be just a bit LESS than that dimmension to accomidate a framed opening that is exactly that dimmension (making room for the hinge plates, etc.) but not an inch short.

Perhaps when you re-measure your door you will find that it is a 2-6 door (30"), or 2-8 door, (32"), or that you could plane down a 32" door to fit your 31" opening?.

When upgrading doors especially for fire-exits they are required to be a minimum width for escape and are to require NO SPECIAL knowledge for their operation. A pair of doors requires that one be able to exit by only operating ONE of them not both for egress. Your local building department, or Fire Inspector can advise you regards to which codes are in effect for your location. Even if your local building department doesn't regulate your replacement; you should still check with with your fire department regards to Fire codes, as your home-owner's insurance may not pay a liability claim if your modification resulted in death/harm to someone trapped in your home during a fire.

NFPA and ICC publish codes on the subject as well as other code bodies. Check with your local offices to determine which code and which VERSION of that code applies in your area.

Good luck to you.


04:43AM | 05/04/05
Member Since: 01/30/05
361 lifetime posts
Also if I get the "jist" of your post correctly, you are looking to remove the steps and not put in any kind of balcony or anything, and this door-way is at least 2' above grade (3-steps) and you're thinking of restricting the opening with a cast-iron guard? This would require the door(s) to swing INTO the room? This would also not qualify as a fire exit. The door would 1) need to swing OUT and a minimum distance supported at floor level to accomodate same to qualify to MODERN codes. Think about it...smoke and related combustion gasses RISE in a fire and fill the room area from the ceiling DOWN towards the floor. In a smoke/fire situation not only would the person have to swing the door IN and further subject themselves to the heat/fire/smoke to open it, but then have to stand TALL and further intoxicate themselves with the fire gasses/smoke to clear that railing!

The newer Fire codes now require that those balconies be 40-42 inches high instead of the old requirement that they could be 36-42" high, so as to prevent a TALL man from flipping over the top of it and falling down unintentionally when encountering it in a "blind" situation (smoke filled room). The same goes for railing seperations in stairwells that are newly constructed.

Usually when things like replacing doors might NOT require a permit from the Authority Having Jurisdiction; re-orienting a fire-exit and removing a stoop for that egress DOES. Again, Please check with your building AND FIRE officials before proceeding further with your project.


05:21AM | 05/04/05
Member Since: 11/06/03
31 lifetime posts

Thanks for all of the info. Sounds like it is going to be much more complicated than we thought. The concrete steps that are there are definitely not to code.They were probably built before there were codes. The top landing is only the depth of a step and is therefore awkward to enter. You must go to the top step, grab the screen door, back down the steps to open and then go back up. It is a challenge for everyone. Our problem is that we don't even own the land past the sill. The city owns the right of way, so we can't build anything out from the house. They even frown on any type of overhang put on the front of the house. Even though it would replace the cheesy white plastic awnings that are there now. As I mentioned, we are moving the front entrance to the head of the driveway. Imagine a 2 story rectangular house. Short side facing the street. The rear addition will make the house an "L". Hubby wanted to take out the original door completely so people would not be tempted to use that door. It would also give us some wall space on the inside of the sun porch. I do not feel comfortable with not having an escape route out of the original house and felt the faux balcony would be a nice alternate. We would then be able to get rid of the front brick sidewalk and landscape the front, drawing folks to the new main entrance. In the addition we will have 2 sets of french doors to the rear. Do you have any alterante suggestions on what we can do with the original entrance? We can not make the door much wider because it is a sunporch with windows placed about 5 inches from either side of the door.Thanks again for your help.


05:38AM | 05/16/05
Member Since: 01/30/05
361 lifetime posts
About the only thing I can think of (but you still need to check with your AHJ) is:

1) relocating the entrance to the sunroom to another side of it, for your "fire exit" on a side of the house that isn't easement restricted and putting a window in this door's space,

2) re-working the stoop so that it is rectangular and runs along side of your house, providing a landing where the stairs presently are and having the steps running parallel to the side of the house. As you are above grade this landing would have to have guard railings to prevent a fall.

Now (if I understand correctly) you have:



..|[_]]]] Steps to easement line


..| (with the area on the left being the porch house line.




[_______________]]]] with steps running along side of house.

See if that works for you. Run sidewalk along side of house towards the back for back orientation and deter formal visitors from it.
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