Fire Sprinkler system

How would you handle this?

I’m inspecting a home tomorrow with a built in fire sprinkler system. Is that something that can be inspected, and if so, what would you look for/at?

If it’s not something an HI would handle, who would?

Thanks in advance!

In many cases a fire sprinkler system can only be inspected or serviced by a licensed contractor. I would contact Western States Fire Protection or, in St. Louis, I’d subcontract with:

National Fire Protection
54 Worthington Drive
Maryland Heights, MO 63043
Tel: (314) 542-4084


Maintenance is a Snap

Sprinklers require very little maintenance.

It’s essential to keep the water valve turned
on, so a simple visual inspection should be
done routinely to ensure the valve is open.

inspect the pipes and sprinklers occasionally to
make sure nothing is obstructing them.

Every home sprinkler system should have a
water flow test on a regular basis. It’s a simple
test that can be done by the homeowner or a
fire sprinkler contractor.

I am in the middle of the building permit status on the new home. Due to a limited EVA, we are required to put a sprinkler system in. The requirements might be the same since they were taken from the Uniform Fire Code. Those were 38 gallons per minute at 50 psi for 10 minutes. Being on a private well, it made it even more difficult due to lack of flow volume. Instead we are going with a stand alone system. It is self contained including large tank, pump and appropriate fixtures.

One item to check for is the reason for the system. If it was a requirement for the building permit like in ours due to lack of an appropriate EVA, it is required to be tested yearly and the results are sent to the AHJ. If it was just an upgrade system, it may not have that requirement. Check for the inspection log.

Good luck. Take lots of pics and post some for us.

I’m not sure exactly of the details… It’s my understanding the the current home owners had a business in the lower level and therefore it was required for the re-zoning of the house. That business is no longer there, but the sprinkler system still is.

Just out of curiosity - it is a wet system and it is water?

There are a number of residential systems, and a larger number of small commercial.

I’ll have to plead ignorance in that I don’t know what a “wet system” is. It was water though.

Not really much to look at. There were a bunch of plate covered head, throughout the basement (office) area. And a few exposed heads on the walls. There really weren’t any heads in the main living area.

I didn’t inspect it, and didn’t take any specific pictures of it. I might have a few that got caught when I was taking pics of other things, but like I said, there wasn’t much to look at.

Wet system is where there is water in the lines all the time and only the heads hold back water. Dry system is when there is air pressure in the lines instead of water. Upon a head opening the air is released and water comes through.
As far as I know, you have to be state licensed in all 50 to inspect fire suppression systems. Maintenance is for the pump (if there is one) and the backwater regulator (keeps system water from backing up into supply line). Michael gave you the name of the one I used to use here (National Fire Protection Franchise). Any other questions let me know. I designed a few in my past life.

Thanks Jack,

I just spoke to a fella at NFP, and he was awesome. A super source of information. He said that it was required to have these inspected every year (or more), but in the case of residential they don’t always get that, especially if they were installed by a homeowner, or plumber or someone else.

Something that caught me off guard a little is that he said that if he showed me it once it wouldn’t be any big deal for me to do. He said there is a lot of paperwork though.

Oh… I think it was a wet system, but I’d need some more experience with them to tell for sure.

Hi. Mark;

Read this link, and I think it will help you understand what sprinklers is all about and enhance what Jack is saying.

In reading this post, it sounds like the sprinkler system was installed under 13R because it was a bussiness. If that is the case, chances are it was connected to a central fire alarm panel also and a dialer to call out a general alarm to a security monitoting company.

Now that it is a one unit residential, it would only need to meet the NFPA 13D requirements. A lot mor lenient on coverage, (200 sq. ft. per head at 15 gals. per minute.)

Depending on your local, it does need to be inspected by a licensed Sprinkler System Contractor at least ounce a year.

On a wet system, with water coming from the City ex. , it would be a separte water line in most cases and have a shut off on the exterior, and one on the inside. Then it would be an RPZ valve or backflow preventer, another valve and then up to the main sprinkler valve equiped with a tamper alarm switch.
Then it would be the alarm valve which sets off the fire alarm upon flow, indicating a fire or broken head.

A dry system is just air and used mostly for sprinkler pipes in a remote region of the dwelling or establishment that are prone to freezing.
A small air compressor would be the indicator of this type of system.

You can also have a wet system with a glycol loop.

This is where no air is required, the system is wet, and a portion of the system, lets say in the attic area, needs to be protected from freezing, so glycol is added to that portion of the rest of the system with a loop and backcheck valve to hold the glycol contained.

Either system would have a drain valve on what I call the Main tree to empty the system to the outside.

Hope this helps a little.

Marcel :slight_smile: :smiley:

I haven’t seen but 2 glycol systems Marcel. They are difficult to recharge and very damaging to the contents. I forgot about them completly. Thanks for the reminder.:slight_smile:

I tagged along on a commercial sprinkler inspection today. I was shown the whole flow test inspection process. Had a ton of questions answered and gained a contact if I ever need to bring someone in to help out with an inspection. Was definately a wothwhile learning experience. The whole process is actually very simple, it just establishing a pattern like anything else.

Easy to do and doesn’t require any special training to inspect them for your client. The maintenance requirements for a residential sprinkler system is the same as for a commercial or Industrial. Pre-action systems are only slightly more complicated than wet.

Anyone that needs a list of things to check, e-mail me direct and I will send them to you.

This is the way it is up here.

Inspections of Residential Fire Sprinkler Systems

Fire sprinkler systems are to be inspected, tested and maintained according to National Fire Protection Association’s Standard # 25, but NFPA 25 specifically states in section 1.1.1., (2002 edition), that the scope of NFPA 25 does not apply to NFPA 13D systems, which is the standard for one & two family dwellings.

There are however inspection requirements in NFPA 13D, Chapter 4, Section 2, under “Maintenance”. It starts off saying that it is the installers responsibility to provide the owner/occupant with the instructions for the inspection, testing and maintenance of the system, and then it is the owners responsibility to see that it gets done.

The list of things to do is also not listed as mandatory, but as a monthly list of things that should be done. This list includes:

  • Visual check for obstructions.
  • Ensure that all valves are open.
  • Testing of all waterflow devices. (There might be a bypass pressure-regulated valve where a water meter or water softener restricts water flow.)
  • Testing of alarm system where there is one. (Alarms are not required for NFPA 13D systems where smoke detectors are installed, and smoke detectors are required to be installed according to NFPA 101.)
  • Operation of pumps, where there are pumps. (Not necessary for Uponor/Wirsbo, Kwench & Rehau systems, which are tied into the domestic pump which operates daily.)
  • Checking air pressure with dry systems. (Dry systems are rare in NFPA 13D systems, because there are no residential heads that are listed for dry systems. Sometimes there is a dry system for an attic or garage, which would then have standard quick response heads, although these areas are not typically required to have coverage under the NFPA 13D standard.
  • Checking the water level in tanks when they are present. (Low water alarms and /or automatic fills are not required in NFPA 13D systems.)
  • Checking for fire sprinkler heads that got painted.
    In addition, if there is antifreeze in any part or all of the system, it is required to be tested each year before freezing weather. Section 4.2.4 explains how this should be done.

Fire department connections are not required by NFPA 13D, but if they are installed, then the system must have a hydrostatic test. Otherwise only a water leakage test is required for a wet system and an air leakage test for dry systems. Section 4.3 gives more detail for the testing criteria.

Hydrostatic tests, air leakage tests and/or water leakage tests are done at the completion of installation, but are not typically done after that. The reason is given in the hardcover edition of NFPA 13D where it makes the statement in blue explanatory text, “Plumbing systems have been successfully installed in homes without special hydrostatic testing for years. Because the residential sprinkler system is intended to be similar to, or integrated with, the plumbing system, the technical ocmmittee concluded that a special hydrostatic test was not generally required.”
The state does not require anything in addition to NFPA 13D for home fire sprinkler systems, except for those homes within retirement living communities licensed by the Dept of Health & Human Services.
In those we require a thorough annual inspection by a licensed fire sprinkler inspector. Always check with the local authorities to see if they require anything beyond what the state requires.

Hope this helps.

Marcel :slight_smile: :smiley: