Attic access through the exterior gable-end vent? Allowed?

In some master plans for new single family dwellings, the only attic access opening provided is through the exterior 22"x30" gable-end vents.

The plans state "removable vent/attic access". Those vents are some 18 ft. above grade.

The question is, do these "vents/attic access" openings comply with the 1997 UBC, section 1505.1, specifically the " ...or other readily accessible location." ??

Thanks in advance for your feedback.
Original Post
UBC Section 1505.1 requires an attic access of not less than 22"x30" to be located in a corridor, hallway, or other readily accessible location and 30" of headroom in the attic space. In my opinion requiring a 18' ladder does not make it readily accessible. I would say NOT PERMITTED, unless waived by the jurisdictions Building Official.

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I would say that this is NOT in compliance with the code and refer to the definition of "Readily Accessible"...Capable of being reached safely and quickly for operation, repair or inspection without requiring those to whom ready access is requisite to climb over or remove obstacles, or to resort to the use of portable access equipment.

R. Villalovos, City of Burbank, CA
I believe the answer is to define "...other readily accessible location." ultimatly determined by building officials definition, or UBC Sec. 104.2.8


quote:
Originally posted by codexman:
In some master plans for new single family dwellings, the only attic access opening provided is through the exterior 22"x30" gable-end vents.

The plans state "removable vent/attic access". Those vents are some 18 ft. above grade.

The question is, do these "vents/attic access" openings comply with the 1997 UBC, section 1505.1, specifically the " ...or other readily accessible location." ??

Thanks in advance for your feedback.


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As a builder, I believe our code makes attic access to accessible. I like the 30' ladder idea. Here in NM we even put lights in all attics. We're encouraging people to use their attic for storage when it is not engineered for that purpose. Trusses are overstressed, insulation is compressed. Let's make the attic accessible but difficult to access. On the extremely rare occasions that require access it would be available but it would not be the "attractive nusiance" our building officials seem to want to make it.
I believe this situation meets the intent of the code. Consider an interior attic access. There is nothing in the code that would prohibit you from having an 18' ceiling, and an attic above with an attic access in that 18'-high ceiling. There is no requirement in a residence to provide a built in ladder to that access, or for the builder to provide the homeowner with a ladder tall enough to reach their attic access. Therefore, what is the difference between that scenario and an exterior access that requires an 18' ladder to reach?

Consider also the context of the code language "located in a corridor, hallway, or other readily accessible location". The intent established by "corridor" or "hallway" is to provide an access not in a room or closet that is likely to be obstructed by furniture or junk. As long as the exterior location is accessible to safely placing a ladder, I don't see the problem.

Depending on definitions provided in the code is certainly useful to determine intent, but the "readily accessible" definition cited in another post clearly has a different context, where there is equipment that needs access for operation or service. Nothing was mentioned in the original post about equipment located in the attic.
thom:

Most people want to use their attic and builders are stupid when they don't "engineer" for that reality.

I agree with the rest of the building officials here: NOT APPROVED. Does not meet my definition of readily accessible.

Tom Jacobs
Plans Examiner
Algonquin, IL
The International Building Code 2000 has a similar provision in section 1208.2. However, it does NOT use the wording "readily accessible". Just requires a 20" x 30" min. opening. I agree that in certain situations, it may be a good idea NOT to have attic space readily accessible.
The IRC (Section R807.1) requires an access to installed in attic areas exceeding 30 sf and having a vertical height of 30 inches or greater. The rough framing for the opening is to be 22 inches by 30 inches and the access is to "be located in a hallway or other readily accessible location".

Only problem is in the IRC definition of readily accessible - "access without the necessity for removing a panel or similar obstruction".

So, the ladder requirement goes out the window, BUT,has anyone ever seen an attic access without some kind of removable panel? Talk about heat loss.

Looks like a potential code change to me.
Some random "thoughts"--

1. Most owners want easy access to attic spaces; they should be "engineered" and accessible. ["accessible" would seem to mean not having to remove clothes in a closet to reach the access panel in the closet ceiling [!!!]

2.Accessibility and the size of the opening is related to fire personnel access and is a safety issue.

3. ALL attic spaces must be accessible, so if the garage attic is not interconnected with the house attic, a second access panel [same criteria] is required.

4. Of course, a closure panel is required, preferably insulated-- submit the code text change!!!

Ralph, Architect
Well Jake, you think any contractor who doesn't engineer for floor loads in attics is stupid. I guess you also believe that people who cannot afford expensive custom homes should not be allowed to live in any housing. Tract homes should be illeagle? How about flat roofs. Many of our flat roofed houses have the minimum 30" headroom between truss cords and require an access panel. I suppose we should engineer theese for storage too? Get real jake. You would outlaw the standard engineered truss and require stick framing with 2X16 dimension lumber in order to get the minimum required insulation in the attic floor and provide adequate ventillation under the attic floor.
Thom, if you reread my post it was a generic stupid, not a specific stupid directed to you.

Where did I say tract housing should be illegal?

If you have a cathedral or flat roof without an accessible attic (a cockloft of less than 30") or truss web openings with less than a 42" high by 24" wide open area over 2 or more trusses then you have nothing to worry about.

I've got these "tract" builder yahoos building $300,000+++ houses with 9/12 and over pitches completely ignoring 802.9.1 which clearly requires the bottom chord of trusses to be designed for a live load of 20 psf under certain circumstances. "Nobody ever made us do that before"...

I have nothing against engineered trusses that are truly engineered.

I'm tired of the code being used as an argument for why homes are unaffordable. Repeat after me: Code is MINIMUM...

Tom Jacobs
Plans Examiner
Algonquin, IL
It's always interesting how an interpretaion that one has always taken for granted, can be so hotly debated by intelligent, qualified people.

While reading another topic, it was illuminating to follow a link to the ICBO site that one reply post provided. I thought I'd research this question on that site as well, out of curiosity.

I still think that the term "readily accessible" is broad, and doesn't preclude an exterior location, or a tall ladder (if you need a ladder to get to an 8' ceiling or an 18' ceiling, what's the difference?).

It could be argued that for purposes of access by FD personnel, an exterior access, outside the burning house, would be preferable.

Anyway, see what these other (mostly) inspectors and plan reviewers had to say...
[URL=http://www.icbo.org/ubb/Forum4/HTML/000206.htm]http://www.icbo.org/ubb/Forum4/HTML/000206.htm[/URL
I once provided attic access through a 2' X 4' skylite. No shaft to the heated space, just a curb mount skylite. It provided access to a single story section of a residence with 2-story sections at each gable end. The inspector accepted it and, I believe, it was a more accessible installation.
As a firefighter, I would encourage the use of a larger gable vent for access to the attic space. My first question is why provide access in the first place - to get to items that may require service. If there is nothing in the attic to service, no access would be needed. When attempting to ventilate a structure, the larger gable vents could reduce the firefighter need to stand on the roof. With lightframe trusses, this is a big concern under fire loads. I would probably accept the gable access if there were no furnace or other issues in the space
Just an observation...

The 2006 IBC, Section 1209.2, requires attic access openings that are 20"x30" in size for attics that are over 30 inches in clear height.

The IBC, as far as I know, does not indicate where those attic access openings can be located in the building Roll Eyes
quote:
"be located in a hallway or other readily accessible location".

Only problem is in the IRC definition of readily accessible - "access without the necessity for removing a panel or similar obstruction".


oldie, but a goodie...
i would allow it, you need a ladder for an interior access, why not an exterior access...
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