Smoke Detector Spacing Guide

Updated February 21, 2017

Smoke detectors are an essential component to protect your family, so much so, in fact, that states generally make it a matter of law that smoke detectors must be installed and used in residential homes. Some states go so far as to regulate which rooms need to have smoke and where in the rooms the smoke detectors must go to ensure they will offer the most protection. Whether a matter of legal compliance or not, a few careful steps can help you install smoke detectors so they offer full protection in each room.

Installation Basics

Every floor of your home should have smoke detectors, including the basement. Every sleeping area and common area such as living rooms and dining rooms should have smoke detectors; bedrooms should have smoke detectors inside and outside the room. If anyone tends to sleep with the bedroom door closed, it is wise to have an electrician install the smoke detectors in an interconnected fashion so that when one alarm is tripped, all the other alarms in the house trip as well. If anyone in your home is hearing-impaired, smoke detectors should also have flashing lights.

Location and Spacing

If the bedrooms in your home are upstairs, install a smoke detector near the top of the staircase since smoke rises. Avoid installing smoke detectors near windows, doors or air conditioning and heating ducts as the extreme changes in temperature can interfere with their operation. Smoke detectors on walls should be placed at least 6 inches from the nearest adjoining wall; the space inside this 6-inch area is a dead air location where air does not circulate. Thus smoke will tend to not gather there.

Height and Other Positioning

A good rule of thumb is to mount smoke detectors as high possible since smoke rises. Additionally, the higher the smoke detector is installed, the less likely is that people and animals will accidentally damage the detectors. Install smoke detectors as high as possible on the wall but still allowing 12 inches of space between the detector and the ceiling. Smoke detectors on vaulted ceilings should be placed as close to their highest point as possible.

Other Installation Tips

There are many types of smoke detectors. Unique technology used in certain smoke detectors may require specific installation techniques for the detector to work properly. These guidelines are generalised so they can apply to many types of commonly sold smoke detectors. But you should always follow the manufacturer's instructions.

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About the Author

Eoghan McCloskey is a technical support representative and part-time musician who holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in English and political science from Texas State University. While at Texas State, McCloskey worked as a writing tutor at the Texas State Writing Center, proofreading and editing everything from freshman book reports to graduate theses.