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Background: My wife and I are foster parents in Texas (Austin specifically, in case it matters), and one of the requirements for that certification is that our house has to pass a fire inspection every two years. We live in a two-story house with an attached garage within Austin City Limits that was built in 2016. The entire front wall of the garage, as well as about 6 feet of the left side wall (facing from the garage door to the interior door), adjoins the house, and none of the living area of the house rests above the garage.

In the summer of 2019, I removed the drywall from the walls and ceiling of the garage from the front of the garage to the streetward side of the stud on the left wall which marks the boundary of the insulated wall shared with the house. I had three motivations in doing this: I wanted to gain access to the otherwise inaccessible attic space above the garage for storage, I wanted to be able to use the space between the studs for tool and lumber storage, and I wanted to be able to run additional electrical circuits in the garage. (I'm happy to provide an illustration or some pictures if it would help someone answer the question.)

In February of 2020, the first fire inspection took place, and only change the inspector required was that I cover the wiring entering the electrical panel. I put a scrap piece of drywall up to cover the wires, sent the inspector a picture of that work, and the inspection was approved.

Fast forward two years, same inspector, same garage, and he tells me

The removal of the sheetrock has diminished the fire protection in your residence. This reduction coupled with the changes to the electrical design in your garage will need to be approved by other trades experts/officials before I can move forward with any approval.

I know I'll need to have an electrician inspect the new circuits. But who do I need to talk to about verifying that the remaining drywall does or does not provide sufficient fire protection for the house?

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  • Who does the inspector work for? Usually a fire inspection would be done by a Fire Marshal, and I'd think his word is going to be pretty much final. If he says you have to reapply drywall, that's probably what you'll have to do. You may be able to do something different (fire wall in a different location) if you want storage space, but you'll have to make a plan and have him approve it.
    – FreeMan
    Feb 1, 2022 at 15:21
  • @FreeMan The inspector is the assistant fire marshal, and he explicitly deferred providing approval - the quoted section is copied and pasted from an email he sent. During the inspection, he told me he wasn't going to make a determination without consulting with "his engineer", so I'm assuming the refusal to approve was based on specific sections of code...
    – Matt Mills
    Feb 1, 2022 at 15:35
  • ...however, the email I lifted the quote in the question from was a direct response to me asking him explicitly which sections of code would need to be remediated. The closest thing to an answer on that point that I've been able to get from him is "The specific codes will fall under the International Building Code".
    – Matt Mills
    Feb 1, 2022 at 15:36
  • That was the extent of my knowledge on the subject. I'm sure others will stop by soon and give you better/more complete info.
    – FreeMan
    Feb 1, 2022 at 15:39
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    My area has requirements that the wall adjoining the residence must have at least 3/4" of drywall. Typically we meet this with two layers of normal 1/2" but extra thick drywall is available. Every garage must have this whether it's fully finished or not; typically that wall is finished and the rest of the garage is bare studs. Feb 1, 2022 at 15:50

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Reviewing Texas and Austin websites it appears any work you do that modifies the electrical or modifies a rated wall requires a permit. Owner occupants of homes don't need to be licensed as an electrical or general contractor to get a permit, but that doesn't change the permit requirement.

A general contractor is qualified to accept the sheetrock work, you may need to get someone with an engineers stamp to stamp drawings for the permit application if you are going to do anything except restoring to previously approved.

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  • I appreciate you taking the time to look through the websites, and provide an answer. I'll get in touch with the permitting department to find out what's necessary.
    – Matt Mills
    Feb 1, 2022 at 23:29

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