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RE: What's the difference between a fire wall and a party wall

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The more I read the building code (with regards to
party walls and fire walls), the more confused I get.

When you have townhomes (we call them rowhouses in
Philadelphia) there is typically a bearing wall (a
party wall) between adjacent houses. Do current codes
permit a single party wall straddle a lot line and
support load from two adjacent townhouses, or does
each townhouse need its own structurally independent
load bearing party wall from foundation to roof? Is
there a different answer depending on whether the
units are townhouses where the owner owns the land and
structure versus whether the units where the homeowner
owns only the structure versus whether they are
condominium units?  (The proposed shared wall that I
am referring to would be a masonry wall capable of
remaining intact and structurally sound if the
structure on one side of the wall burns down.)

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