Load Bearing Walls: Are Fire Doors Required?

If load bearing walls are required to have a fire-resistance rating based on their construction type per IBC Section 601, wouldn’t all doors within the wall need to be protected accordingly? This question often comes up where load bearing walls are located within residential units, and if interpreted incorrectly, could result in substantial cost implications on a project.

The short answer to the question is not necessarily.  The fire-resistance ratings required for load bearing elements are for structural integrity, not fire separation, purposes under IBC Section 601. This section (shown below) states that “the protection of openings, ducts, and air transfer openings in building elements shall not be required unless required by other provisions of this code”.

2015 International Building Code Section 602

Therefore, the doors located in load bearing walls are not required to have a fire rating unless due to other requirements mandated in the code (i.e. residential corridor walls, unit separation walls, etc.).  The IBC Code & Commentary further clarifies the intent of Chapter 6, which is solely for structural integrity.

2015 International Building Code & Commentary Section 602.1