Sprinkler System (Fire)

I just inspected a 3 family house that has a fire sprinkler system in it. The only thing is that there is one head at the top of the steps to the top apartment. Is that okay? What 's the point if thy are not all over the house?

This is my understanding from some education, sprinklers are used to contain, suppress, and/or extinguish fires. So one along a likely path for a ‘chimney effect’ sounds like a containment type. Often I see installers put on tiny head(looks like a bottle cap on the ceiling) for a large room, in the training films they would show how a tiny head would limit the growth and suppress a fire’s growth till the fire fighters got there. Then of course, for the ‘extinguishing’ types, got to a lumber yard, they have massive heads.

This is purely IMHO, since I was not there, nor a sprinkler expert.


I would disclaim all fire sytems - list them as beyond the scope of this inspection and have alicensed fire sprinkler compapny instpect and test them. Saying anything more could get you into trouble.


Thanks guys. I never came across a sprinkler system before. I didn’t include it in the inspection, I just wanted to know for myself.

Thanks for the info Tom.

Steven, there is nothing wrong with requesting and finding out more facts on the wave of the future. Very soon Legislation will either approve Home Fire Sprinkler System one way or the other.
We might as well start learning now.
In the mean time, you need to defer this system to Sprinkler Systems Specialists.

I thought I would give you a little information to maybe spark your interest.

The national installation standard for home fire sprinkler systems is NFPA 13D, Standard for Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes.

Compliance with NFPA 13D is intended to prevent injury, life loss and property damage. The standard requires at least 10 minutes of sprinkler water on the fire in its initial stage of development. That controls the fire early, giving residents the time to safely escape and the fire department time to respond. A typical home fire will be controlled and may even be extinguished by the time the fire department arrives.

Fire Sprinklers Reduce Water Damage
Fire hoses, on average, use more than 8 1/2 times the water that sprinklers do to contain a fire.

According to the Scottsdale Report, a 15-year study of fire sprinkler effectiveness, a fire sprinkler uses, on average, 341 gallons of water to control a fire. Firefighters, on average, use 2,935. Reduced water damage is a major source of savings for homeowners.

NFPA 13D only requires sprinklers to be installed in living areas. The standard does not require sprinklers in smaller bathrooms or closets, pantries, garages or carports, attached open structures, attics, and other concealed non-living spaces.
The local building authority where you build may have requirements that exceed NFPA 13D, so you’ll want to determine local requirements ahead
of time.
Two common types of fire sprinkler systems are acceptable under NFPA 13D – stand-alone (or independent) systems, and multi-purpose combined (or network) systems.

Hope this helps a little.

Marcel :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

Marcel, good post. One city near me tried unsuccessfully to pass this as a city ordinance.

The town that I had the egrees problem with, according to the fire chief, says this will be adopted in the life safety code by 2009, which most towns will recognise.

Here’s one

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Thanks Peter, and I hope it help at least one out of 10,000 if you know what I mean.
It is a pleasure to share information.

Marcel :slight_smile: :smiley:

Great Info Marcel .
I approached my insurance company on the idea of putting Sprinklers in my home .
I was told that the insurance company would not cover me for water damage even if it had put out the fire .
I said there has never been one recorded death in a home in Canada that has sprinklers in it .
I then approached another Home Insurance company and they too will not cover Sprinklers in a home .
About a month ago I did a home Inspection for a fire chief and mentioned the way the insurance companies treat home owners .
He already knew what I was going to say and he agreed.
We lost two fire men in a Flash over fire ( that is when a smoke Filled home suddenly ignites the smoke ) and the complete home becomes an inferno instantly.
He said there is new legislation being presented by the Fire Chiefs in Ontario to make Sprinklers mandatory in the near future in all homes .
This is a good subject that S Taylor started and it might be a good idea if we as home Inspectors can learn as much as possible on this subject.

You do need to know what your looking at with these… Some are dry systems (no water in the pipes until pressure is lost in the pipes or an alarm or something activates the system). If on a well they may even have water holding tanks with additional pumps to increase water flow rate, etc.

Defer it!

I have been involved with many different systems .
The usuall place for a dry system is in Cold areas as water would freeze. They have a check valve and air pressure higher then the water pressure to keep the valve closed .
As some air can be lost and this could cause a serious flood they have a very small high pressure air pump maintaining pressure about 250 Lbs .
If a sprinkler goes of the small air pump could not supply enough air to keep the Check valve closed and in would come the water .
This type of system is used in meat plants and places like that .
They also use a similar system in air port hangers except they use a deluge system where one head goes of all heads go off.
Things could be changed some now as it was over thirty years ago when I worked on these systems.

The local ordinance in my area requires fire suppression/sprinkler in every home before receiving a building permit. We had to submit, with the construction plans, engineered plans/report descibing the system and all the technical data on the system (that was up to the fire sprinkler company). They also had to pull their permit/get approval from the local fire dept. We were fortunate to have city water on site. All we had to do for the company was have our plumber leave a “tee” off the main water line with a back-flow preventer for them to connect to.
I agree with everyone else. I would defer it to the professionals however I would check the main to verify the existance of a back-flow preventer.

I found a lot of information on one and two family dwellings. Do you think that this one sprinkler head at the entrance to the third floor apt. is required by law and is the minimum standard?

Good article on the subject to offer.

**Residential sprinkler system: A wise investment
**Over the next several years you will be hearing much more about residential fire sprinkler systems nationwide.
This is because of recent changes in the National Fire Protection Association codes. I thought this would be a good
time to explain sprinkler systems in general and residential systems in particular.
Automatic fire sprinkler systems have been used by business, industry, health-care facilities and schools for more
than 100 years to provide 24-hour-per-day fire protection at a nominal cost.
They were developed at the turn of the 20th century to prevent investments in buildings and machinery from
literally going up in smoke.
**Sprinklers in homes
**But what about our homes? Although we protect our businesses from fire, what actions do we take to protect our
families, our homes and our possessions from fire? Millions of Americans have installed smoke alarms in their
homes in the past few years, but a smoke alarm can only alert the occupants to a fire in the house. It cannot contain
or extinguish a fire. Residential sprinkler systems can.
Fires in residences have taken a high toll of life and property. Data from the NFPA shows that in 2002 there were:
401,000 residential fires, 2,695 civilian fire deaths, 14,050 civilian fire injuries and more than $6 billion in
property damage.
The United States Fire Administration research tells us that the installation of residential fire sprinkler systems
could have saved thousands of those lives, prevented a large portion of those injuries, and eliminated hundreds of
millions of dollars in property losses.
Using approved quick response sprinklers and piping, homes can be built or even retrofitted to include low-cost
automatic sprinkler systems connected to the domestic water supply.
Sprinkler systems offer several advantages to the home builder:

  • A low-cost reliable safety option that would attract many buyers.
  • Tradeoffs between sprinklers and code requirements that can result in lower construction costs, more units per
    area of land, etc.
    For homeowners, the advantages include assurance of a safer environment for their families, protection of their
    investment and irreplaceable family possessions and from 5 to 15 percent lower insurance premiums.
    At the present time, the cost of a home sprinkler system is estimated at roughly $1 to $1.50 per square foot in new
    construction and only slightly higher in retrofits. It is hoped that the cost will decrease as the use of home fire
    protection grows.
    For residential systems, the sprinklers will be smaller than traditional, commercial and industrial sprinklers and
    can be aesthetically coordinated with any room decor.
    When homes are under construction or being remodeled, a home sprinkler system will require minimal extra
    piping and labor.
    These systems will require less water than the systems installed in industrial or commercial establishments and can
    be connected to the domestic water supply.
    In addition to metallic pipe, the use of approved plastic pipe has brought down the cost of installation in new
    construction and the retrofit of existing structures.
    Here’s a test of your residential sprinkler system I.Q.
    Following are seven statements about residential sprinkler systems. Are they true or false?
  • When one sprinkler goes off, all the sprinklers activate.
    False! Unlike the movies, only the sprinkler over the fire will activate. The sprinkler heads react to temperatures in
    each room individually. Thus, fire in a bedroom will activate only the sprinkler in that room.
  • A sprinkler could accidentally go off, causing severe water damage to a home.
    False! Detailed records, which have been compiled for well over 50 years, prove the chance of this happening is
    very remote.
  • Water damage from a sprinkler system will be more extensive than fire damage.
    False! The sprinkler system will severely limit a fire’s growth. Therefore, damage from a home sprinkler system
    will be much less severe than the smoke and fire damage if the fire had gone on unabated. The 8 to 10 gallons per
    minute from a sprinkler head is significantly less than the 100 to 250 GPM from a fire hose.
  • Home sprinkler systems are expensive.
    False! Current estimates suggest that when a home is under construction, a home sprinkler system could cost less
    than 1 percent of the total building price.
  • Residential sprinklers are ugly.
    False! The traditional, commercial-type sprinklers as well as sprinklers for home use are now being designed to fit
    in with most any decor.
  • Sprinklers can be a good investment for home builders.
    True! Through the use of construction tradeoffs, home builders and developers can achieve reduced construction
    costs if residential sprinkler systems are installed.
  • Sprinklers are a good investment for the home buyer.

Marcel :slight_smile:

When I see a house with a built in fire sprinkler system, I defer it in the report and recommend that a qualified residential fire sprinkler company do a inspection of the system.

What I do do is to note that the house has a fire sprinkler system in the report under “Plumbing” and note the location of the test valve and gauge. If possible, I include a picture of the setup in the report and highly recommend that the homeowner not test the system themselves. Possible consequences include flooding of the interior of the house if the system is improperly operated. That usually discourages anybody who can read English.

I do a lot of sprinkler inspections. Every home owner should be given a copy of NFPA 25 when the system is installed. It is easy to obtain and I recommend you read it and NFPA 13D, if you decide to add these inspections to your resume.