Do garages have to have a side door?

Garages have the main door for vehicles to enter and go out. But it’s also possible for it to have other doors. If you have a garage without a side door, you may want to know, is it compulsory for a garage to have a side door?

Garages don’t necessarily need side doors unless your local building code requires it. But adding a side door can be beneficial as it ensures convenience, safety, energy conservation, and privacy. If you decide to add a side door, the best materials to use are steel, fiberglass, wood, or aluminum.

However, you need to make sure that the door is strong and withstand break-ins. You don’t need to worry about using a fire-rated material since the door isn’t an entry door. Here, we discuss whether side doors are compulsory for garages.

Rule on Side Doors for Garage

The International Residential Code doesn’t require garage doors to have a side door. So, it won’t be necessary for you to install a side door. But the building codes in a locality might require adding a garage door. If the side door is another door leading outdoors, there are no special rules to follow. But if it’s an entry door to your house, there are safety regulations you have to comply with.

Even though there may be no special rules, it’s still important to use strong materials for your side door. Also, every other part of the door, such as the knobs, locks, hinges, deadbolts, etc., should be strong quality. If you’re adding the side door as part of the garage door, you may need to add a safety module to ensure the garage door won’t open when the personnel door is open.

Why Add A Side Door To Your Garage?

Although unnecessary, you may still add a side door to your garage. You can get several benefits from having a side door in your garage. That includes:

1.  Convenience

Having a side door in your garage will allow easy access without opening the main door. This provides a lot of conveniences if you’re using the car for other purposes besides parking your car. For example, if you store items in your garage, it’ll be more convenient to get them through the side door instead of opening the whole door every time you need to pick up a hammer or shovel.

2.  Increased Safety

The side door of the garage also makes it safer. During an emergency such as a fire, the accessibility of the side door allows you to vacate the premises faster. It’ll also ensure that you can bring your car inside if there’s a power outage. Usually, the garage door will no longer work when there’s a power cut. But you can still open it with an emergency release rope. This rope is usually at the back of the door. So the only way to access it will be if you have a side door.

3.  Energy Conservation

Your garage side door can also help you conserve energy. Although the garage door opener doesn’t use much energy to operate, the energy consumption will rise if you’re constantly using it to go in and out of the garage. With a side door that usually operates manually, you’ll be using less energy. The garage door opener will also last longer.

Normally, the door operates about 4 times during the day. But if it’s the only door, it’ll function more, which means the springs will wear out faster. If you’re heating or cooling your garage, opening the big garage door lets outside temperature affect the garage.

4.  Privacy

A side door also offers privacy. When the big garage door opens, everyone can immediately have a view of your garage. This isn’t always welcome. You could be using the garage for other personal purposes, such as a home office or a gym. In that case, you want to reduce the prying eyes that can see what you’re up to inside. A small access point like a side door makes that possible.

Does The Garage Side Door Have to Be Fire Rated?

The garage side door is usually the small door that connects the garage to the outside. This shouldn’t be confused with the entry door linking the garage to the house. Thus, there aren’t any rules that require the door to be fire-rated. That’s unless the building code states otherwise.

But if it’s an entry door that connects the garage to the house. It’ll have to be fire-rated. Generally, there can’t be any entry door that connects the garage to a room used for sleeping.

Cost of Adding a Side Door to your Garage

Are you thinking of adding a side door to your garage? First, you’ll need to know the cost. Depending on the door type, size, material, and mechanism, the cost will vary between $790 and $3,000. There’s also the need to consider the installation costs. This depends on whether you want to retrofit the door into the garage door or you’ll install a door on the outside wall. It’ll cost you more to do the latter.

Materials for Side Door

Since the side door will be outside, you need to select the right material for it. Usually, you’ll have one of the following options:

1.  Steel

This is a great material for a side door. It’s strong and weather resistant while also costing less. With insulation, it can be energy efficient. You also have multiple options in terms of the finish. However, you must paint it, or it’ll dent and rust easily.

2.  Fiberglass

It comes in various textures and can resist wear and tear better than other materials such as steel and wood. Fiberglass is quite flexible in how you can design it. But it can crack due to heavy impact.

3.  Wood

Wood is great and will make the garage look more beautiful. If you go for hardwood, you can also count on the strength. But it’s very expensive and will require constant maintenance.

4.  Aluminum

An aluminum side door requires less maintenance than all the other types of doors. It’s especially great for modern homes and is completely weather resistant.

In Conclusion 

You may not need permits to install the side door to your garage. But it’s better to ask your local authority. A side door makes your garage more vulnerable. Thus, you need to see the side door as an exterior door that should be sturdy. Use materials that can withstand break-in attempts and avoid adding glasses to the door. If need be, it should be tiny glass windows at the top made from impact-resistant or tempered glasses.