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Why Do Doors Open Outwards in Florida?

Doors opening inward is the norm in most places. And it makes sense too. It’s more intuitive and convenient to open a door into your home instead of swinging it open outward. You don’t have to step outdoors and it doesn’t pose a problem for visitors.  

But there are exceptions, and it’s especially followed in Florida. You may wonder why though. Why do doors open outwards in Florida? The answer lies in the state’s hurricane mitigation efforts. To prevent damage to life and property, building codes require exit doors to open outwards.

In this article, you’ll find answers to:

  • Why Do Doors Open Outwards In Florida?
  • Florida’s Doors Must Open Outward Law
    • Florida building code on exterior doors

Why Do Doors Open Outwards In Florida?

Doors in Florida open outwards following changes in its building code that were enacted in response to Hurricane Andrew (1992).  It was a Category 5 hurricane that caused devastating effects on people, land, and property, and led to the revision of building codes to mitigate the effects of future disasters.  

As a result, exterior doors in residential, commercial, and public buildings are now required to open outwards for ensuring safety in several ways as we’ll discuss further. 

Florida, especially South Florida, is prone to hurricanes and deadly storms. Due to the torrential wind during such disasters, there is a high risk of door locks and bolts failing and hinges getting detached altogether, in case of doors that open inward.

This could lead to wind, rain, snow, and heavy objects dragged in by them to enter homes at breakneck speed and injure people. 

On the other hand, doors opening outward have a better chance of not sustaining any damage from the winds due to their structure. In general, this setting also helps prevent drafts and leads to considerable savings on energy and utility bills. 

Also, in times of evacuation, it is difficult for a crowd or bunch of people to exit via doors that open inwards, as it can create deadlocks and cause delays – delays that could turn deadly in dire times. Outward opening doors pose no barrier to exit any property and therefore are a more suitable arrangement than the alternative. 

An outward opening door also comes in handy when you have a small entryway. They are a suitable choice when you have less interior space to spare and want to optimize every bit of it. 

Florida’s Doors Must Open Outward Law

All exterior doors are required to open outward, as per law in Florida. According to Section 6 of Chapter 823 of the 2011 Florida Statutes, all public buildings meant for entertainment purposes shall open outwardly and be so arranged as to readily allow people inside the buildings to escape therefrom in case of fire or other accident.  

The law is in place, alongside special building codes, to reduce the chances of blockage at the time of exiting any public facility in case of emergency. Failure to comply with this law by the owners of such establishments could result in a felony charge filed against them. 

This law also proves advantageous during natural calamities, as the outward opening front doors play their part in providing swift exit and safety from wind or water damage to residents. 

Florida building code on exterior doors

Florida building code mandates exterior front doors to follow a certain set of rules and tests of resilience against natural disasters. The building code was revised to reduce the risk of loss and damage in the aftermath of hurricanes. 

The building code dictates exit doors to be easily recognizable as doors. Mirrors or reflecting materials, doors, curtains, drapes, or such materials that could hinder their visibility, should not be used on said doors.

Exit doors in residential and public buildings are also required to swing outward (with a few exceptions) according to this code. Except specifically permitted in the code, exit doors must be readily openable from the outside without the use of keys or any special arrangement in place. 

Furthermore, there are special rules focusing on the accessibility of the front door. The code for revolving doors, power-operated doors, horizontal sliding, and folding doors come with their own set of regulations. There are several rules in the code to employ locking arrangements, security grilles, emergency escape, and rescue openings so that occupants don’t face any hindrance when exiting the premises. 

All door and window jobs, both to be constructed or replaced, need specific permissions from your municipality to come to fruition. The use of impact doors and windows is preferably encouraged to fortify your house from high-speed winds and rain. 

The latest Florida Building Code guidelines require glazed openings in a structure to be impact resistant. All exterior window and glass doors must undergo several tests by approved independent testing laboratories. They must pass tests including water and air infiltration tests, full structural load, and forced entry tests to be compliant with the code. 

No matter what materials you use to make doors, windows, or other structural openings hurricane-resistant, you will have to consult the building department and pass several inspections to get the green light for any construction or renovation project. 

Takeaway

Outward opening doors are in place in Florida for a host of reasons. With the history of the state in dealing with hurricanes, the doors open outward for enhanced safety of the public in times of duress. Ultimately, they offer better peace of mind with improved security from forced entry and savings on energy bills. Doors that open outward are here to stay.

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