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Why You Must Upgrade Smoke Detectors When You Remodel

Why should you update your smoke detectors? In short, it’s the law! But understanding what laws apply to your home can help you avoid unexpected costs during your next remodel.

Updating smoke alarms to comply with the most recent law saves lives. Nearly two-thirds of fire deaths occur in homes without working smoke alarms. And that’s mainly due to missing or dead batteries.

Like most things in the home, smoke alarm technology has advanced over the years. The updates to Maryland’s Smoke Alarm Law are part of a nationwide trend to ensure new and replacement smoke alarms have the most effective technology available to safeguard your home and loved ones.  Smoke alarm requirements vary in Maryland based on the year the home was built. Find out the smoke alarm requirements* for when your home was built and the updates that you need to make to follow the current law:

  • Homes built before July 1, 1975
    Under the old law, homes constructed prior to July 1, 1975, required a smoke alarm outside each sleeping area. The smoke alarm could be battery operated or hardwired.
  • Homes built between July 1, 1975 and January 1, 1989
    For homes constructed between July 1, 1975 and June 30, 1990, an AC-powered smoke alarm was required in each sleeping area.
  • Homes built after January 1, 1989
    For homes constructed after January 1, 1989 at least one hard-wired, AC-powered smoke alarm was required on every level of the home, including the basement. The units were required to be interconnected so that activation of any one alarm resulted in the sounding of all of the smoke alarms. Effective July 1, 1990, all AC powered smoke alarms are required to have a battery back-up.

Planning to Remodel


Smoke alarms shall be installed in the following locations:

  • In each sleeping room.
  • Outside each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms.
  • On each additional story of the dwelling, including basements and habitable attics and not including crawlspaces and uninhabitable attics. In dwellings or dwelling units with split levels and without an intervening door between the adjacent levels, a smoke alarm installed on the upper level shall suffice for the adjacent lower level provided that the lower level is less than one full story below the upper level.

According to Maryland’s Smoke Alarm Law, smoke alarms shall be upgraded when one of the following occur:

  • The existing alarm is more than 10 years old
  • The existing alarm malfunctions
  • There is a change of tenant
  • A building permit is issued for an addition, renovation, repair, or alteration
  • The addition or creation of one or more sleeping rooms 

Smoke alarms shall be hard wired interconnected units except sealed battery-operated smoke alarms with long-life batters and silent/hush features may be installed in locations of the home where hard-wired smoke alarms did not previously exist.

Current tamper-resistant fire alarms have a 10-year battery that homeowners or renters cannot remove and a “hush” button that can temporarily stop the alarm during non-emergency situations. Tamper-resistant alarms lower the chance of “borrowing” the batteries for a remote control or taking them out while cooking and forgetting to replace them. But remember, sealed battery-operated smoke alarms are appropriate only where battery-operated smoke alarms presently exist as permitted by code, or in locations where a smoke alarm is not already present. It is never alright to remove a hardwired smoke detector and replace it with a battery-operated one.

At Brothers, we treat all customers like family, and each home as if it were our own. That’s why we are committed to keeping your home safe by following all laws and building codes in effect at the time of your remodel. If you’re planning a project in your home, schedule a consultation today! Our experienced consultants and licensed electricians will guide you through the safest and most effective way to complete your home renovation.

*Note: Smoke alarm requirements can vary by local jurisdictions or counties with additional amendments.