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Door Opening Force | Building Code Explained

When it comes to the International Building Code (IBC), means of egress doors within a building must comply with Section 1010. There are many requirements within the code for doors that serve as a means of egress but one of the ones we would like to discuss for today is the Door Opening Force.

An occupant of a building must be able to physically open an egress door. One of the functions involved with opening a door is the force required to push or pull it. This, within the building code, is known as the doors opening force.

This might sound like a simple requirement but there are a few things you should know since the opening force can vary by the type of the door and its use. There is no minimum amount but there is a maximum limit which is measured in pounds, meaning how many pounds must be applied to a door for it to open.


What is the maximum opening force for a Door?

The code recognizes that there are different types of doors for specific uses and that this number can vary but it does set limitations which you can find in Section 1010.1.3 of the IBC that reads as follows:

1010.1.3 Door opening force – The force for pushing or pulling open interior swinging egress doors, other than fire doors, shall not exceed 5 pounds. These forces do not apply to the force required to retract latch bolts or disengage other devices that hold the door in a closed position. For other swinging doors, as well as sliding and folding doors, the door latch shall release when subjected to a 15-pound force. The door shall be set in motion when subjected to a 30-pound force. The door shall swing to a full-open position when subjected to a 15 pound force.

What is trying to be achieved here is to ensure that the building users are physically capable of opening a door that is part of a means of egress system. The force required to open a door is a function of the usability of the door and therefore must be considered.

What is the maximum opening force for Accessible Doors?

For doors that must be accessible, the International Building Code refers us to the technical code sections of ICC A117.1-2009. This is where you would find the construction related accessibility requirements for buildings and facilities that fall under the provision of the IBC.

For door opening forces of accessible doors, we must look at Section 404.2.8 within ICC A117.1-2009 which reads as follows:

404.2.8 Door-Opening Force – Fire doors shall have the minimum opening force allowable by the appropriate administrative authority. The force for pushing or pulling open doors other than fire doors shall be as follows:

  1. Interior hinged door: 5.0 pounds maximum
  2. Sliding or folding door: 5.0 pounds maximum These forces do not apply to the force required to retract latch bolts or disengage other devices that hold the door in a closed position.

These forces do not apply to the force required to retract latch bolts or disengage other devices that hold the door in a closed position.

You can see that the values are very similar but must be mentioned separately since it is separated that way into 2 different code standards.

How do you measure the door opening force?

Before we can talk about how to measure the opening force of a door, we must discuss where this load is applied in order to take the proper measurement. For this we have to look at Section 1010.1.3.1 of the IBC which reads as follows:

1010.1.3.1 Location of applied forces – Forces shall be applied to the latch side of the door.

You can see here by this code section that the forces must be applied to the latch side of the door. Again it is important to note that the opening force required to open the door is different than the force that is required to retract bolts or operate door hardware. This is discussed above in Section 1010.1.3.

You just have to make sure the doors are openable with a force that is less than the maximum limits noted in the above sections. To check this you can use a door pressure gauge which you can find on Amazon at the link below.

Door Pressure Gauge

If needed you can adjust periodically by adjusting the door closers and the fit of the door must be check when necessary.

For a more detailed list of requirements, be sure to check out Section 1010.1.3 of the 2018 International Building Code (IBC).


* Reference Source – 2018 International Building Code – [Buy on Amazon]

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