Hangar restrictions vary widely by local official

Recently a subscriber asked about the limitations on hangars in his community, particularly those larger than 2,000 square feet.

Recently we got responses from different parts of the country – California and Washington State.

A California resident responded:

“In our county (the larger hangars commonly referred to as commercial buildings) are not too much of a problem … at least not yet,” reported Ralph Eschenbach of Woodside, CA.

“All of the hangars here are bigger than 2,000 square feet and we have had no compliance problems. The only issue is when there is living space above the hangar in which case they require a 2-hour fire wall … two layers of drywall.” He went on two describe hangars with living spaces they are designing. They will feature prestressed concrete floors so the firewalls won’t be an issue.

“The commercial building business seems to have started with the insurance people who want to control everything. In some cases, as I am sure you know, homes with hangars in rural areas are called barns! Funny how that makes a difference eh!”

At the Sequim, Washington Discovery Trail Farm, Dave Le Roux says “plans for the first hangar were recently submitted to Clallam County’s Building Division. The hangar is greater than 2,000 square feet and taller than 20 feet. According to the international Building Code, a residential hangar is defined by its height and square footage. If it is larger than 2,000 square feet or taller than 20 feet, it is not considered a residential hangar.

“Like many counties, Clallam County has its own fire protection standards. If the hangar’s use meets the IBC definition of residential (size and height), then the county’s fire protection policy does not affect the structure. According to county building officials, if the hangar does not meet the residential definition, the owner has a variety of fire protection options including: sprinklers, 24-hour monitored fire alarm system, structure compartmentalization, fire resistive construction that will reduce or contain the fire until emergency response arrives and building setbacks.

“For this hangar,” Le Roux continued, “the architect has kept the hangar 30 feet from the road and property lines, designed a 2-hour firewall where the hangar connects to the house and specified the hangar be constructed with exterior 1-hour firewall material. According to the architect, this type construction is adding about $5,000 to the cost of the hangar.

“The bottom line for people building hangars is the interpretation and policy of the local jurisdiction in which they are building,” Le Roux concluded.