Real estate is scarce in Hoboken, N.J., so a few years ago our client decided to double his family's living space by buying the condo next door to his own and connecting the two units. After a lengthy permitting process involving both the condo association and the town, the project finally won approval. A key hurdle was the new 6-foot-wide passageway through the fire wall separating the condos. To maintain the wall's integrity, the local building department required a set of fire-rated doors that would automatically close and completely block off the opening if a fire broke out in either unit.

Automatically released fire doors are common in commercial and institutional work, but we had never installed one in any of our residential remodels. To bring myself up to speed, I asked subs, suppliers, and technical reps about the required components and their associated costs while I worked on the estimate. After the 6'0"x8'0" doors...

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