Victoria Carter
Victoria Carter
973-220-3050973-220-3050

Recent Changes to the New Jersey Fire Code and What Home Sellers Need to Know

It is hard to imagine, but a smoke detector only 6 inches in diameter can throw your home sale. The same is true for a fire extinguisher if you cannot show a recent receipt of purchase or Certificate of Approval and comply with a lengthy list of requirements. On January 1, 2019, New Jersey changed its Fire Code, and the new rules impact smoke detectors, carbon monoxide alarms, and fire extinguishers. Unless your home is compliant, you will not be able to sell it, so let’s take a look at what home sellers need to know about the recent changes to the New Jersey Fire Code.

One note of caution–each town may have slight additions to the core Fire Code regulations which guide the issuance of a Certificate of Smoke Detector, Carbon Monoxide Alarm and Fire Extinguisher Compliance. This Certificate is required when you sell your home and issued after an inspection. Towns typically only offer inspections on certain days of the week and request applications for inspection 2 weeks to 10 days in advance. To get the documentation for your town, contact their fire prevention office. Often, town guidelines will include helpful drawings that demonstrate the proper placement of units.

Smoke Detectors

As of January 1, 2019, each level of your home, including the basement, is required to have a smoke detector, and the smoke detector must be a 10-year sealed battery-powered single station unit. If, however, the home has an alternating current (A/C) powered single or multiple-station smoke alarm system that was installed with the original construction, the smoke detector units do not need to be replaced. A “level” is typically defined as a floor level separated by three or more steps from another floor. In the basement, the smoke detector should be located on the ceiling beam at the bottom of the stairs. 

In addition, you must also install smoke detectors in every separate sleeping area, and specifically, within 10 feet of each bedroom door. Also, if there is a loft or attic area that can be used as a living space with a headspace of 7 feet or more, a smoke detector is often required. If the home has an alarm or central station monitoring in place, the homeowner must be able to provide the alarm company name, know how to silence the alarm, and reset the code after the inspector performs a test. 

Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Similar to smoke detectors, single-station carbon monoxide alarms should be placed in the immediate vicinity of sleeping areas, according to New Jersey’s Fire Law. Some towns also require that each floor has a carbon monoxide alarm. In the case of carbon monoxide alarms, the units can be battery-operated, hard-wired, or plug-in. If the home has combination carbon monoxide and smoke alarm single station devices, these alarms must similarly be 10-year sealed battery units. 

Fire Extinguishers

The detail of the new fire extinguisher regulations may surprise you. The rules are multi-faceted and very specific, so it’s worth taking a look at them even if you are not selling your home. 

  • The extinguisher must be labeled, charged and operable.
  • Extinguishers must be within 10 feet of the kitchen and located in the path of egress, or near the way out.
  • Units must be readily accessible and visible.
  • Extinguishers must be mounted using the manufacturer’s hanging bracket, so the operating instructions are clearly visible.
  • The extinguisher cannot weigh more than 10 pounds.
  • Extinguishers must be an approved type with a minimum rating of 2A-10B:C.
  • Upon inspection of the home, the owner’s manual or written operational instructions must be provided and left for the new occupant.
  • The unit must be serviced and tagged by a certified Division of Fire Safety contractor within the past 12 months, or the homeowner must have a receipt for a recently purchased extinguisher.
  • When the unit is mounted, the top cannot be more than five feet above the floor. 

Additional Fire Safety Tips

Having read the documentation from many different northern New Jersey towns about smoke detectors, carbon monoxide alarms, and fire extinguishers, here are some additional regulations and tips that my team has seen outlined by different towns. These differ from township to township, so they are just provided for information and you should ensure you check your town-specific requirements.

  • Because stairways act like chimneys for smoke, consider locating additional detectors near stairwells.
  • For smoke detectors located inside the rooms of the home, mount the detectors in the center of the ceiling. Smoke rises to the ceiling and spreads horizontally, so placing the smoke detector in the center is closest to all points in the room.  
  • If it is not possible to locate a smoke detector in the center of the ceiling, make sure to mount it a minimum of 6 inches from a sidewall and 2 feet from any corner.
  • If the smoke detector is mounted on a wall, mount the detector a maximum of 6 inches below the ceiling and at least 2 feet from any corner. 
  • Smoke detectors should be a minimum of 3 feet from any air registers.
  • Smoke detectors must be under 10-years old. 
  • Carbon monoxide alarms must be less than 5-years old. 
  • Place carbon monoxide detectors in any room with a gas-operated fireplace.
  • Make sure the number of the house is clearly visible on the outside of the home so emergency services can find it.  

If you’re thinking about selling your home in the next year or so, it’s an excellent time to get your smoke detectors, carbon monoxide units, and fire extinguishers up to code. The New Jersey Fire Code can be confusing, so if you have questions about it or any aspect of selling your home, I would love to assist you. Contact Victoria Carter at (973) 220-3050 or email victoria@victoriacarter.com.

 

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