Smoke detectors save lives. No home should be without at least one, and in most cases there will be many more.
In newer homes the building code requires there to be a smoke detector outside every living area, on every floor and inside each bedroom. The smoke detectors in newer homes are also required to be hard wired, connected together (so if one goes off they all do) and to have a built-in battery backup. Those things are great ideas for older homes too but what is the minimum smoke detector requirement in our area?
Per Current Virginia Maintenance Code VMC 704.2 you would need smoke detectors in ALL of the following locations:
- On the ceiling or wall outside of each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of bedrooms.
- In each room used for sleeping purposes
- In each story within the dwelling unit, including basements and cellars but excluding crawl spaces and uninhabitable attics. In dwellings or dwelling units with split levels and without an intervening door between the adjacent levels, a smoke alarm installed on the upper level shall suffice for the adjacent lower level provided that the lower level is less than one full story below the upper level.
However, if the home was built prior to when the code went into effect you do not necessarily have to follow the new code. Per Fairfax County Department of Code Compliance that will be at some point in the 1990′s. While the code may not require smoke detectors in all bedrooms in older homes, the Fire Marshall will also have a say. The Fire Marshall may require that all bedrooms have a working smoke alarm regardless of the code.
So, if you own or live in an older home, you will have to comply with section 1 and 3 above but section 2 may not apply per the code. For older homes smoke detectors in bedrooms may not be required but the safest would be to call the Fire Marshall or Department of Code Compliance.
There is some ambiguity on this issue as the Fairfax County website states the following:
Every residence must meet the following requirements, according to:
Smoke Alarms: At a minimum, the county code (Section 61-5-1) says there must be:
- 1 smoke alarm outside each bedroom, including basement bedrooms
- 1 smoke alarm on each floor of the house
Emergency Exits: At a minimum, there must be:
- Two means of exit — one of which must go directly outside — for each bedroom.
Basements: There are also other safety rules for bedrooms in basements. These include requirements for lighting, stairways, and fire safety.
If your home has additions or has been converted or finished since, the new portions of the home will have to comply with the new code VMC 704.2.
Regardless of the rules or requirements – the safest is to install a smoke detector in each bedroom in addition to the other required ones. If you are a tenant living in an older home that is what I would suggest you do. Also, you may want to install one or more fire extinguisher and Carbon Monoxide detectors.
On a Carbon-Monoxide-Detector related note. In 2014 the Virginia General Assembly passed “SB 490 Carbon monoxide alarms; required installation by landlord in rental dwelling units, cost to tenant”
Carbon monoxide alarms; required installation in rental dwelling units. Amends the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act to require a landlord to install carbon monoxide alarms upon the written request of a tenant. The bill also provides that the landlord may charge a reasonable fee for the installation of the alarms and that the installation must be in compliance with the Uniform Statewide Building Code.
So, a tenant may ask for a carbon monoxide detector to be installed but will have to pay for the initial installation.