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Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Guidelines for Mounting Cabinets

The ADA, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and International Building Code (IBC) have created guidelines for the mounting of cabinets and extinguishers to provide safe and easy access to the equipment. 


Neither NFPA or ADA require cabinets for fire extinguishers, however, recessing a cabinet into a wall, can help to meet the maximum 4” projection requirement detailed on page 2. Please note that since extinguishers are considered a “non-fixed” component by the ADA, they are not required to meet standards for operability. 

Person using wheelchair at fire extinguisher cabinet with labels noting:  operable portions meet usability criteria and are within accessible reach ranges (non-operable portions can be located outside reach range); clear floor space for approach and positioning; and an unobstructed side of the clear floor space adjoins a connecting accessible route.Side reach 15" min. to 48" max. shown in elevation

Mounting Heights for Cabinets

According to the ADA Standards for operable parts (Sections 205, 308 and 309) the cabinet handle cannot be mounted higher than 48” above finished floor (AFF) for applications which allow for a forward or side approach in a wheelchair to the object. See Section 308 for reach ranges for children, which are lower than 48”.

Operable parts including alarms, pulls, and hardware for fire extinguisher cabinets, must be usable with one hand and without tight grasping, pinching or twisting of the wrist, or more than 5 lbs of force. Some manufacturers provide a key-operated latch with a bendable plastic cam. These doors can be opened without a key by pulling firmly, but appear to be locked to deter theft and tampering.

Non-fixed elements, such as fire extinguishers, are not subject to the ADA standards. Fire hose cabinets and other elements used only by fire fighters are not required to comply (309). 

IBC and NFPA Codes: 

IBC and NFPA provide coordinated codes addressing the mounting height of a fire extinguisher, based on the weight. 

IBC 906.9.1 and NFPA 10 - Fire extinguishers having a gross weight not exceeding 40 lb shall be installed so that the top of the fire extinguisher is not more than 5 ft above the floor. 

IBC 906.9.2 and NFPA 10 - Fire extinguishers having a gross weight greater than 40 lb (except wheeled types) shall be installed so that the top of the fire extinguisher is not more than 3-½ feet above the floor.

For more information: Operable Parts


Projection Requirements

Wall-mounted objects with leading edges above 27” and less than 80” are limited to a 4” max. projection (4 ½” max. for handrails).  Notes and labels:  Protruding object limits apply to the full width of circulation paths; Objects above headroom clearance can protrude any amount; Protruding objects cannot reduce the minimum width of accessible routes; Objects with leading edges within cane sweep can protrude any amount.

The federal regulations for ADA Standards for Accessible Design Section: Protruding Objects Section (Sections 204 and 307.2) specify that “objects projecting from walls with their leading edges between 27” and 80” above the finished floor (AFF) shall protrude no more than 4” maximum horizontally into the circulation path. Extinguishers that are not in the circulation path (a circulation path is a way of passage for pedestrian travel such as walks, hallways, ramps, stairways, landings, platform lifts and courtyards) are exempt from these ADA protrusion rules.

Please note that a surface-mounted, recessed or semi-recessed cabinet with a 4” or less projection that is installed with the bottom edge at least 27” AFF, meets ADA projection requirements.  Objects with a leading edge lower than 27” can protrude any amount. See drawing above.

These are national standards which are subject to change by local authorities having jurisdiction.  ADA requirements, in particular, are constantly evolving through ongoing legislative and judicial actions.  

For more information: Protruding Objects


Choosing an ADA-Compliant Cabinet

Cabinet manufacturers offer many ADA-compliant recessed and semi-recessed models. 
  • Fully-recessed flat trim or trimless cabinets
  • Semi-recessed cabinets up to 3” projection with 1” standard pull 
  • Semi-recessed cabinets with 4” projection and flush pull

Example of Trims that can be ADA compliant - Trimless, Flat Trim, 1-¼” or 1-½”,	2-½”,  3”, or 4” with recessed handle

Calculating Mounting Heights

  1. Use the “Wall Opening” columns from the most current submittal online to calculate height. 
  2. Calculate where the bottom of the opening for your cabinet will need to be situated based on the formulas provided. Some manufacturers’ models with a theft-deterrent latch, mount the pull 4” higher than the center of the door.  Those cabinets would be mounted 4” lower than cabinets with a centered pull.

Showing Cabinet with a wall opening of 25", with the handle centered on the cabinet at 12.5" so the handle is centered at 48" and there is 35.5" from the floor to the bottom of the cabinet. 

Showing Cabinet with a wall opening of 25", with the latch centered on the cabinet at 12.5" so the handle is place 4" higher at 48" and there is 31.5" from the floor to the bottom of the cabinet.

If pull is centered on door: 

48” AFF minus (wall opening height divided by 2)
Example for 25” high wall opening: 48” - (25” ÷ 2) = 35.5” AFF

 If pull is 4” higher than the door center:

48” minus 4” minus (wall opening height divided by 2). 
Example for 25” high wall opening: 44” - (25” ÷ 2) = 31.5” AFF



For more information about our Fire Protection Products: JL Fire Protection


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