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Taking Issue

Taking Issue

Getting on board with fire sprinklers

comments (57) April 28th, 2011 in Blogs

by Lynn Underwood
from Fine Homebuilding #219, p. 14-16

Section R313.2: One- and two-family dwellings automatic fire systems.
Effective Jan. 1, 2011, an automatic residential fire sprinkler system shall be installed in one-and two-family dwellings.

This section in the 2009 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC) has caused a lot of controversy. The IRC is a model-code book, so it does not become law unless adopted by a local jurisdiction. Because of that, many states, cities, and counties are editing out this section of the code and choosing not to make sprinklers mandatory in homes.

As a building official, I am in favor of residential fire sprinklers because they save lives and property. However, I am not in favor of a mandate for sprinklers in every home at this time. Public interest must drive the demand for residential fire sprinklers, and it is the duty of building officials and builders to educate homeowners on the value of sprinkler systems.

To become more acceptable, the installation of sprinklers should be accompanied by safety trade-offs that offset costs and incentivize their use. Trade-offs may include a lowered fire rating of the wall assemblies between units of a multifamily home or a lesser requirement for fire-access roads in a subdivision. Acceptance may take a few years, but I am confident that with adequate information about how sprinklers work and a few sprinkler success stories, homeowners will begin requesting sprinklers in their new homes.

Builder buy-in lacking
In a code-development committee meeting last year, I suggested several ways builders, building officials, and fire officials could strengthen their partnership. I recommended joint training on building codes, uniform regional policies on troublesome code requirements, and joint publicity campaigns enriching the public perception of our professions. Finally, I suggested that we join together in sponsoring voluntary fire-sprinkler installation in a couple of homes each year.

The Virginia Building and Code Officials Association (VBCOA) had recently sponsored sprinkler installations in two homes, an action that received a lot of publicity. It seemed to me that it was time to get others involved. A few builders applauded my speech, but one builder came to me and confided that he would work with us on many things, but on fire sprinklers, only over his dead body. I’m not sure if it is the lack of information about performance or the misinformation about cost that has so many rejecting the use of sprinklers, but I’m confident that there is good reason to protect homes with sprinklers and that costs are insignificant.

Costs: not a deal breaker
VBCOA funded the installation of sprinkler systems in two homes to demonstrate our support of building safety and to determine exactly what they would cost. We had heard wild claims of $20 per sq. ft., which would translate to $40,000 for a 2000-sq.-ft. house. That certainly seems like a deal breaker for a prospective buyer, but the cost was nowhere near that much.

The 2009 IRC (Section P2904) allows a residential sprinkler system to be installed in a prescriptive manner—think nailing patterns for stud-frame walls. This allows a builder to use tables and formulas to determine pipe size, materials, and installation method instead of having it designed by an engineer. That saves a lot of money. Our systems cost a little less than $1.50 per sq. ft. We spent $1500 for each sprinkler system. Proponents of this type of system have told me that it could be as low as 50¢ per sq. ft.

As with any new technology, it takes time to smooth out the wrinkles. Building and fire officials can help by providing low- or no-cost training in the new residential firesprinkler standard for the plumbers who will likely install these systems.

Insurance and public safety
The Insurance Service Office (ISO) performs a building-code effectiveness grading schedule for jurisdictions throughout the United States. In this rating, points are granted to jurisdictions that adopt and enforce mandatory fire sprinklers. This means that the insurance industry accepts the value of residential fire sprinklers, and owners of homes protected by sprinklers will save on insurance premiums. Current homeowners’ insurance discounts range from 5% to 15%.

There is also a public benefit. Municipalities pay the salaries of firefighters and other fixed costs associated with 24-hour-a-day fire-protection services. As more and more buildings of all types are protected with sprinklers, these costs will be safer. More important, the lives of our public servants will be safer.

The information paradox
The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), part of the Department of Homeland Security, provides national leadership for fire and emergency services stakeholders in prevention, preparedness, and response. According to USFA, in 2009 there were 356,200 house fires, 2480 deaths, 12,600 injuries, and more than $7 billion in resulting damage. Unfortunately, the facts about fire-sprinkler safety in residential homes are limited by the lack of installations across the country. However, in Scottsdale, Ariz., home fire sprinklers have been mandatory since 1986, and a 20-year study formally known as theScottsdale Report (read it at shows a significant savings in lives and property in homes that are equipped with sprinklers.

According to the report, there were 598 house fires over a 20-year period. Forty-nine of the homes that caught fire were protected by sprinklers, and the fires resulted in no fatalities. Thirteen people died in the homes that were not protected by sprinklers. Sprinklerprotected homes had $2166 in property damage compared with $45,019 worth of damage in unprotected homes.

So now what?
We know residential fire sprinklers are a safety feature that works. I believe that they are cost-effective, even without the use of incentives or trade-offs. If they are implemented as a requirement, however, sprinklers could damage the construction industry by scaring potential homeowners away from building a new house.

So how do we sell sprinklers to the public? We must show them why they should add this lifesaving feature to their homes on a voluntary basis. If building officials join together with their local builders’ associations and simply pay for the cost of just one sprinkler system a year, the public will soon see that sprinklers save lives and property, and that builders and buildingsafety professionals all agree on their value.

posted in: Blogs, safety, plumbing

Comments (57)

BobValla BobValla writes: $7000 to connect some pex tubing to $7 sprinkler heads? I can install a typical system in 3 hours. A viega propress make secure connections in less than seven seconds...
Posted: 1:20 am on October 16th

dshaker dshaker writes:
Posted: 5:51 pm on June 29th

CHUCKYD CHUCKYD writes: When speaking of non-combustible construction, I am referring to the definition given in the building code. The code allows for combustible materials, but such materials must comply with flame spread and smoke development standards. A typical, non-compliant sofa can burst into flames and reach temperatures close to 1,900 degrees F in under 30 seconds, according to tests performed by the insurance underwriters industry.
Posted: 7:47 pm on May 16th

blackynme blackynme writes: Forget the sprinkler issue, try the plastic bottle trick anyhow next time your out camping. Its kinda cool and might even win you some money.
Posted: 11:32 pm on May 8th

blackynme blackynme writes: Its completely relevant. Unless your the best plumber out there and can sweat a wet copper pipe, you can't escape the physics. Unless your going to wear concrete pants, there will always be something that will burn in your house, so that is unrealistic (I looked into ICF's but again couldnt find a good sub to do the work. Shudda done that myself, but it wouldn't have alleviated the wood roof trusses) even concrete will burn given enough heat, well actually it explodes when the mosture turns to steam and theres always enough mosture in concrete even in AZ. The only plastic that has a thermal expansion enough to do damage is UHMW. CPVC doesn't have the thermal expansion properties great enough to deform to the point of failure even when secured every 6".

Am I the only one that verifies anything before they post simply what they heard or believe?

Sprinlkers are a good thing but they don't and shouldn't be shoved down peoples throats. The nay-sayers had the same arguments for gfci's and saftey glass next to doors and handrails.

Most of you are complaining about residential sprinklers like they are a bad/defective product (as a whole Im sure there are systems that failed because of improper installation, just like any other system in your house will fail)

The complaints I'm reading are REGULATIONS and COSTS for your paticular area.

The questions still remains, how do those get fixed?
If regulations in your area were as easy as it was for me and as cheap as it was for me , LESS than 1% of the total construction costs from an installer (including EVERYTHING, engineered plans, approval, EVERYTHING) Would everyone still say they are bad?

If there is anyone from the Phoenix area reading this that is gathering information about residentail sprinklers or contracting your own house, I would be happy to meet and show you what I have done and give you all the information I learned before I built and what I could have done better after having went through the process. I would do it again in a hearbeat except I already have the house I dreamed of for my family and myself. I'm just trying to help the people that arent so jadded and willing to explore other avenues.
Posted: 11:26 pm on May 8th

CHUCKYD CHUCKYD writes: The comment about boiling water in a plastic bottle is irrelevant for a couple of reasons. Plastic does not need to melt in order to fail. It, like steel, merely needs to deform. Also, the free-swinging bottle was not constrained in any way. Pipes passing through joists and studs must have somewhere to expand. Expanding into a nail or screw will definitely cause failure.

My argument is still the same: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Eliminate the combustion supporting materials in a home, or cover it with fireproofing, then no need for sprinklers.
Posted: 8:24 pm on May 8th

blackynme blackynme writes: I agree with you (surprisingly if youve read the previous post). The question remains: How do you and the rest of the builders in your area get the regs changed to use more common sense? Since I know how local government works ( at least in my area) start calling the knuckehead from your district and complaining to him. Call him EVERYDAY. He cant keep ignoring you, but they try.Call the papers. Its the loudest voice that gets the results. Just make sure the facts are verifyable.

I also agree, Dont pass regulations "for my own good." I also would not have installed them if they would have cost me that much. I dont necessarily like the government, in fact I cant stand the PD I worked for and am glad Im not there anymore.

It might seem like a daunting task, but the laws and regulations can be changed. Maybe not soon enough to help you but maybe enough to help the next guy.

I fought tooth and nail about starting a stupid HOA in our neighborhood, even though my my wifes mother was the one spearheading it. I hate others telling me I can or cant do something.

But it can be changed. I have personally been involved in getting a couple state criminal laws changed and also certifying requirements for cops. It took time and was a ridiculious pain in the ass for something the seemed like common sense.
Posted: 7:49 pm on May 8th

stormando stormando writes: Black - My take on the article is that it is just another Pro-Sprinkler article cut & pasted from Biased info on NFPA,, sprinkler initiative web sites.

Like you I demoed 3/4 of my house submitted my own plans and built it into a new 2 story SFD. Did plumbing, electrical myself and alot of the rest. (It was a total nightmare dealing with the city bldg dept.)

I would never be able to afford to NOT do it myself. Adding another $15K hurdle to the process doesn't help.

I have 13 smoke alarms & 2 CO alarms all hardwire/interconnected & battery baked up. Sprinklers would increase my safety by another 1=2% so total waste of money.

I have (2) 480 Sq Ft rental shacks that I'd like to improve but can't due to onerous regulations such as hitting 50% renovation clauses etc that trigger "sidewalks to nowhere, fire sprinklers, forced tree planting even if I have NO trees now, insane drainage plan fees even if not any sort of wetland issues.

You get to choose sprinklers which is fine FOR YOU. I disagree that they are any good so I don't like being forced to waste my $16,700 on them!
Posted: 8:59 am on May 8th

blackynme blackynme writes: You just dont get it do you...Your reading comprehension sucks. I told you I paid to have that particular thing done. It would have been cheaper than that if I had done it myself.
The point of the article was how do we fix the recognized problem, I dont think it said anywhere "please list your bitches in the comment section so that we dont accomplish anything"

Ive read your posts on other topics, from those Ive surmised that you are also doing things yourself. Call me whatever, but I designed, went through plan approval, coordinated all subs and built my own house. Some of the subcontractors looked at me like some DIYer until they got canned for not building accordingly.Common in the 1800's not so much now.

I also got the impression you have some multiple unit dwellings. Well I'm not an inspector, but using COMMON SENSE ( in police work thats called a clue) your not going to be under the same regulations as a single family owner occupied house. So its time for someone to start some full disclosure and get out the tissues and wipe the whiney nose.
Posted: 7:04 pm on May 6th

PaddyC PaddyC writes: Regarding the building inspectors anti-sprinkler arguments that STORMANDO mentioned, keep in mind that nearly all of them are former builders, and they simply repeat what they hear from the homebuilders.
Posted: 3:21 pm on May 6th

PaddyC PaddyC writes: STORMANDO claims that a sprinkler system would cost him $16,700.00. So how is it that plumbers in the Philadelphia area are installing them for $1.50 a square foot?
Posted: 3:17 pm on May 6th

stormando stormando writes: Anyone intrested in some far better ANTI arguements than I could ever make should check this "Building Code Forum".

These guys are Professional Inspectors and many agree that Sprinkler Percentages are a joke.

Posted: 12:06 pm on May 6th

stormando stormando writes: Condescending attitude of NFPA.

I hadn't seen this arguement B4 today. Strait from NFPA sprinkler innitiative web site:
"The opposition's argument: New homes are safer.

THE FACTS: Opponents of residential fire sprinkler systems like to boast that newer homes are safer homes and that our nation's fire and death problem is limited to older homes. This claim evaporates if you adjust for the higher risk characteristics (e.g., lower income, less education) found on average in the occupants of older homes."

How much older homes? Yeah... they really care about everyone. Nice.
Posted: 11:37 am on May 6th

stormando stormando writes: So do you not drive a car anymore? You must have seen many wrecks. No one hesitates to go out and drive although most of us have been touched by horrible car accidents.

There will still be the majority of unsprinklered bldgs. out there.

Its personal to me when someone tries to grab $16,700 from my back pocket.

Everythings cheaper if you have the time and capability to DIY.

Other code requirements probably cost about the same nationwide. AFCI breakers for instance are $30 here and you will need 4-8 or so per house. Maybe H Depot sells them for $25 in Alabama.

Huge differences in Sprinkler Costs nationwide. May be $1.50 /Sq Ft in Alabama? Here its closer to $6 Sq Ft.

IF these guys really cared about me they would have taken steps to coordinate water supply issues in advance. Instead it was just screw you damn the $5,000 meter cost.

Posted: 11:13 am on May 6th

blackynme blackynme writes: Correction..I meant to say they are intended to save people not property. sorry
Posted: 11:36 pm on May 5th

blackynme blackynme writes: On a personal note. My wife just yelled at me and said I was otta control. But my response to her was this.

I have such a strong opinion on this because it was so cheap and simple, if I can change 1 persons mind and they install a sprinkler system then it might save a cops life or at least a life of agony and regret. Who knows how I would have felt if after pulling out 6 kids from the house fire and the 1 left would have died, how would I have felt? It sucked inside the house, SUCKED BADLY!! I found all the kids hiding, luckily. I wouldnt want to do it again.

Its always the "squeaky wheel that gets the grease". Just look at the code name "geronimo" for the SEALs with all the backlash. Gimme a break!

How do we get ALL jurisdictions and communities to get the problems and misconceptions quashed so that future houses and generations dont have to worry about it?

Sprinklers work. I hope I never have to come back on here and tell everyone how well.
Posted: 6:08 pm on May 5th

blackynme blackynme writes: As far a cpvc being absurd. Obviosly that is strictly based off assumptions that seem reasonable but the mintue you take a scientific look at it,theres a reason. Has anyone seen the surrviorman episode where he BOILS water in a plastic drinking water bottle suspended from a 3 ft string? Take off cap, fill within an inch of top and hang over your campfire. It works, I did it. I'm sure there will be people yelling BS. I saw it on tv, yelled BS, then went out and did it the next camping trip. Im gonna win some money next time I take my drunk buddies camping.
All the water would have to boil out of the pipe in order for the pipe to melt. No different than sweating together copper that has any amount of water in it, it just plain wont work. EVEN if it did melt,that would mean the fire is in the attic where there isnt smoke detectors anyhow and so what if the fire melts the pipe. You now would have water pouring on your fire! and you would know theres a problem in your attic. Perfect!
Besides being way cheaper than metal, theres no need for specialized pipefitting tools to assemble.
Posted: 5:49 pm on May 5th

stormando stormando writes: Note the ADD Banner on FHB website as we speak. 2 adds for 13D fire stuff. Why is there 10-20 Pro Sprinkler web sites? NFPA etc etc etc. Maybe its even worse than I think and these are paid with public money thru Fire Officials rather than the Mfgrs.

I guess 2 wrongs make a rite on the ICC vote then?

I USE my TJI floor joists every single day and although more expensive than lumber they also span further. Also they presumebly save a few trees.

Like someone else said. odds of being killed by a criminal in your house higher than fire happening.

Obviously horrible deaths happen. I believe 4 kids were killed in Sea this year in an OLD appt. bldg. w/o sprinklers.

Sprinklers make sense for multi family projects where you have no control what the people on the other side of the wall are doing with candles and BBQ's.

I can take many steps to significantly reduce odds of fire even less than average.

Massive cost vs slight odds benefit makes no sense for me.

Posted: 5:47 pm on May 5th

PaddyC PaddyC writes: Homeowners in PA can do their own work without a license. See PA Statute 517.1. I'll research the alleged need for an engineer's wet stamp on residential sprinkler plans.
Posted: 2:29 pm on May 5th

PaddyC PaddyC writes: The fire service organized to win the IRC sprinkler requirements in the 2009 IRC mainly because the IRC committee repeatedly rejected proposals to protect the undersides of lightweight floor joists with 1-hour protection. The stuff about the proposal being a conspiracy by the sprinkler industry to sell sprinklers is hogwash.
Posted: 2:27 pm on May 5th

blackynme blackynme writes: Storm I lied. I have to keep writing to argue the falsehoods that everyone is spewing. In my area, I could have put in my own sprinklers and I would have, had I realized its as easy as putting in a sprinkler sytstem for your yard (In AZ you either have to have lawn sprinklers or irrigation or a dirt yard) The calculations are the same if you do it right. Next time I will.

I realize I'm just a retired tinkerer that Bredian notes. The construction industry is not that technical overall. It takes alot of common sense. We (the housing industry) have been building houses for 50-100ys and most things are standard/ best pratice and have been figured out a long time ago. In the case of ALL of the subcontractors I delt with, the owners were the ones (assuming) that had the knowledge. The laborers did not for the most part. ALL the crews had one guy that spoke english and told everyone else what to do. I'm sure its the same way in everyones area.

As far as the tinkerer. I personally poured my 120yds of concrete for my patios/driveway, installed my 400amp electrical service/all wiring , installed all the finish carpentry, all the bath tiling and all the low voltage including sat,surveillence,phone,cat5. It took me 11 months from ground breaking to move in. I spent $400,000 for an apprasied $650,000 house thats 3600sqft with a basement and a 2000sqft shop. All this was done BEFORE I retired. I wanted to do more by time constraints for my construction loan wouldnt allow and some jobs are too big to do by yourself. Friends at work spent 18-24 months waiting for their "professional" builders to finish the houses. WOW!!!

Im not trying to insult anyone but maybe instead of making claims of liar maybe someone should ask "This guy is not in the business and therefore no preconceived ideas about how we always have done it. Maybe I should ask him some questions and learn something." I ended up with $250,000 equity for 11 months worth of work. Would have taken 4yrs of wages to make that.

The whole point of the article was to ask how to get all parties involved to produce a better product and make more money. Its true some jurisdictions suck. How do you fix it? Its true the cost is stupid in some areas. How do you get around that? I HATE government as much as anyone but there are ways to use the regulations to your own advantage.

Residential sprinklers will give a better chance of saving a life. So far Ive been the only one commenting that can say they had to pull people out of fires multiple times and sprinklers would have helped. Havent heard anyone claiming to be a hosedragger and saying they are bad.

Last time I checked my insurence company HATES my sprinkler system so much, they take 20% off my bill. The ONLY maintenance for RESIDENTIAL SPRINKLERS is to open the drain and make sure the water flows and sets off the alarm. I have no idea about commercial sprinklers.

Everyone should be asking "how do we fix this industries and public's misconceptions and problems, so that a better safer house is made" Not complaining they dont work. That was the question posed in the article and the whole point.
Posted: 12:10 pm on May 5th

stormando stormando writes: Paddy C. I'd love to know your opinion of the 2009 ICC conference that passed the sprinkler mandate.

ALSO - Coincidentally the ICC shut down the previously open to the public "Chat Room" containing a "Fire Storm" of opinions on this subject right around the same time! Coincidence? I guess maybe only Adolph Zubia knows for sure!

Posted: 10:51 am on May 5th

stormando stormando writes: Be sure to Google "Tyco recalls millions of sprinkler heads" B4 you choose some.

Sorry - I have a hard time beleiving that its just MY jurisdiction that make even the smallest permitted project a total Cluster Ph. PIA ss...........

Install your own sprinkler system? What Fire Marshall would allow a homeowner to install their own system? You would be required to have your hard copy plans wet stamped by "whom" and who is going to do that for a homeowner?

Hard enough to get an Engineer to stamp your plans for "proving" to the AHJ that you will pound an 8D nail every 2" to satisfy the BO.

DIY Sprinklers - Laughable!&*%#?
Posted: 10:45 am on May 5th

PaddyC PaddyC writes: renosteinke asks two questions, and I'll answer the second one first.

Are residential sprinklers the same as commercial sprinklers? No. Residential sprinklers respond much faster, usually under one minute instead 3-4 minutes for commercial ones. Because they respond much faster, they need less water to control a fire - 8-26 GPM versus a minimum 150 GPM for commercial sprinklers. Residential sprinklers also spray most of the water high on the walls of a room instead of the umbrella pattern of commercial sprinklers.

Residential sprinklers respond quickly enough to attack house fires before the fires are halfway to flashover - the point when anyone in the room of origin will die.

Where do I go to get a dozen heads? You can buy sprinklers on EBAY, but do not do so before learning more about residential sprinklers and the minimum water supply needed to make them operate properly. Sprinklers vary by the area they are designed to cover, and by the pressure needed to flow the required GPM. For example, I have pendent sprinklers in my family room that cover 10 X 12 feet each, and I calculated that I have enough water pressure for them to cover tha area with the required density (0.5 GPM per sq. ft.). Our living room has sidewall sprinklers that must throw water 14 feet, and I calculated that my water supply is adequate to cover that area with 0.5 GPM per sq. ft.

Designing your own sprinkler system might sound daunting, but it is not. The International Code Council (ICC) has a book that shows homeowners how to select the right sprinklers and make sure that there is sufficient pressure to supply the needed volume. The book is titled "Residential Fire Sprinkler Systems: Design, Installation and Code Administration." It costs less than 50 bucks and is a good investment for anyone wanting to install their own system. Their website is Click on the bookstore and look for Item No. 7405S.

In the interest of full disclosure, I wrote the book when I was an employee of the ICC. I don't make one red cent on it.
Posted: 11:55 pm on May 4th

PaddyC PaddyC writes: In response to engrx2, where is the date supporting your assertion that most insurance companies hate residential sprinklers? There is none, of course. The facts are:

1. Major property insurors support residential sprinklers. Check the State Farm website if you don't believe me.

2. Maintenance is not required because there are no moving parts.

3. I have a statement from the home insurors stating that broken washing machine hoses are the biggest source of water leaks in homes. Fire sprinklers are designed to much higher standards, and data shows that the chances of a sprinkler leak are 16 million:1.

4. Data from the U. S. Fire Administration show that smoke alarms operate (they only operate in 50 percent of fires) about the same time as residential sprinklers. The difference is that the sprinkler prevents the fire from going to the flashover stage. Smoke alarms, when they work, do not stop a fire from growing.

Posted: 11:17 pm on May 4th

renosteinke renosteinke writes: OK .. for the sake of argument, you sold me. Now, where do I go to get a dozen heads? Are they the same heads used in commercial applications?

Posted: 8:38 pm on May 4th

engrx2 engrx2 writes: Most insurance companies hate these things. In residential applications where maintenance simply does not happen, they are more likely to break and leak, flooding the house. Ever have to repair a house with a broken pipe overhead? Costs a fortune.

Also, the time from smoke detector triggering to a fully engulfing flame (in the figure above) is a little misleading in my opinion. It is probably an "average" based on the most frequent house fires ---kitchens and garages. --It really depends on lots of factors.

It probably is true for the kitchen grease fire/garage when you don't have an extinguisher handy. But I doubt if it is true for a smoldering cigarette that was accidentally dropped on the carpet.
Posted: 7:18 pm on May 4th

PaddyC PaddyC writes: BREDIAN makes a good point. Residential sprinkler requirements should not be based upon "because I say so." They should be based on facts, and the costs weighed against the benefits. As BREDIAN and others have noted, the code officials in some jurisdictions are ignorant or misinformed about how make residential sprinklers cost-effective. The data are there for anyone with an open mind to consider.
Posted: 12:39 pm on May 4th

stormando stormando writes: infomet said it best - "The truth is that in my jurisdiction there is NO ONE, architect, contractor, or elected official who will challenge the fire marshall. He can prance onto any site and demand changes or additions to equipment, even though his office has signed the plans for the building! I have seen it happen.

PEX still isn't allowed in some jurisdictions again due to metal pipe supply lobbyests. Fire Guy told me he wouldn't allow Poly Tank & Pump system instead of more expensive W. Meter even though it was one of the 4 prescribed 13D methods of water supply. 9 blocks west in a different Muni. the Fire guy said he allows tank systems all the time. Even for a conversion of a house to an adult family care home (Oxygen Tanks Etc.) He also said you litterally couldn't park enough fire trucks on a residential street to use up 1,500 GPM of "Fire Flow" that the other guy had simply made up. (All surrounding cities were requiring 1,000 GPM)

The BO said forget about using Wirsbo combined system probably just because he didn't know anything about it.

Its the attitude of the Fire Folks that have pissed everyone off. They can and do whatever they want and no one will stand up to them. "Its for the children".

Why doesn't every house within 500 miles of "Tornado Alley" have a $15,000 concrete tornado bunker? Because it costs 15 Grand! Thats probably as much as the yearly gross income of some of the folks in a few of those areas.
Posted: 9:49 am on May 4th

CHUCKYD CHUCKYD writes: Using plastic to carry fire water is the most absurd thing I can think of for a fire protection system.
Posted: 7:58 pm on May 3rd

Bredian Bredian writes: Folks, we’re not talking about a few valves and pipes here, we’re talking about adding a complete stand alone system. I appreciate that a retired tinkerer has scoped out parts on Ebay, but it takes manpower, time, and added capital to put this in a new home. The costs I have experienced hover around $2 per foot PLUS processing time through plan check, several inspections, time on the project – all of which has to be capitalized, insured and probably taxed. Ultimately, my profit won’t be impacted as I can charge for it, as fewer homes will be completed given the same amount of capital. So this is really an affordability tradeoff issue.

Lets say the costs are halved to $1 per foot, its still about 2% of the hard construction costs of a production home in our area – and that’s just one more issue for new home buyers.
The new systems proposed (pex style plumbing and prescriptive requirements) would help to simplify processing time, taking it further, keep it within the building department for plan check as well as inspections and the argument gets more credible, after all, building officials already inspect plumbing, electrical, foundation and framing systems, all of which are more complex and also contain fire code elements.

As far as cost benefit, its high time we have statistics available for lives saved in SFR with sprinklers vs SFR w/o. There’s enough data out there excluding multifamily. Using “because I say so” is no longer an acceptable answer.

Posted: 6:12 pm on May 3rd

PaddyC PaddyC writes: JAGQueen, the information that you received was wrong. Being a "code guy" or fire officer does not make one knowledgeable about residential sprinklers. Instead of CPVC pipe, which is rigid and laborious to install, you could have used PEX. Because it is flexible, you don't need fittings every time you change direction. It takes far less labor and material.

Some of the prices you quote are ludicrous. $400.00 for a quarter turn shutoff valve? That is over ten times the actual price. Residential sprinkler systems don't require special valves. They use the same ones as the plumbing system. As for the flow alarm, you can get one for a lot less than the $500.00 you quoted. For example, I bought my brand new outside strobe and horn on EBAY for $10.00.

The one area where you may have received accurate information is on the water supply and meter. Some water purveyors don't know much more about residential sprinklers than uninformed code guys and fire officers. Most water purveyors have dropped the separate line requirement, and I spoke about how they handle the liability issue in an earlier post. It is regretful that you live in one of those areas where the water purveyors are behind the curve. We all agree that more education is needed.
Posted: 11:12 am on May 3rd

blackynme blackynme writes: Storm, I accept your "apology". Just so its completely clear, all I was doing was posting my personal experience in reference to house fires and residential sprinklers.

1. I have been at the scene of multiple house fires with needless deaths (dont know about working smoke detectors)

2. I have been inside several burning houses and its not good at all. They dont give cops SCBA's, thats for the hose-draggers. ANY amount of additional time is needed. Everything goes up once the crtical temperature is reached.

3. The cost in my area is less 1% of total house cost. I was mistaken when I stated earlier about $1.50sqft, the wife said it was more like $1.10. I dont know why its cheaper here. Scottsdale is the only city around here that mandates them for new builds. Maybe it is because the local city governments see a benefit. But I live in a small outlying town probaly about 50 miles from downtown Phx. We finally have about 5 stoplights. I doubt the cowboys on the city council take much direction from PHX.

4. I know for a fact, the parts for my "wet system" can be bought on the internet for cheaper. I saved all the boxes at the time of the build and researched it. I have nice recessed heads that are not noticable unless your specifically looking for them. I could acutally buy the cpvc pipe (orange hi-temp) at a local building supplier. I think if I had done it myself it would have been closer to .60sqft.

5. I dont worry about leaks any more than I do with the plumbing or roof. At least I would know if my sprinklers are leaking not so with anything else until major damage is seen. If the system were to leak, theres a loud siren that goes off everytime the water runs through system. I just checked it last month. We have heads in every room, theres 4 in the living room alone I'm looking at right now. Every closet, pantry and hallway even in the garage (those are not recessed.)

6. If I built another house, I would do it myself. Just takes some common sense and ability to read the requirements. Its not technical. My system didnt require holding tanks or extra pumps, no extra meter. Simply runs off city water supply.

7. Sounds like some areas the idiots in the government want to get their hands into it and turn it into a cluster. I didnt have that problem. Residential fire sprinklers dont need to be that complicated. I dont want the government telling me what to do anymore than the next guy. They said I would have to have a permit when I finish out my basement. I nodded and smiled and that'll be that last time I was in the permit office.

6. I used other fireproofing during my build. Like sprayed in foam insulation and 5/8" drywall throughout. If I remember right that had a fire rating more than double 1/2". I made sure all fireblocking was installed correctly. There were times I would shake my head at the "professional framing contractor" because I knew the codes better than him. Like the time he wanted to remove one of the top plates on my load bearing basement wall because his crew made my wall 1 1/2 to tall. I viewed the building inspector as someone who was there to help me. I tried to get an extra framing inspection in my basement before concrete was poured over the top because it would have been to late after concrete. I did my research on everything and applied common sense so that I knew what I was talking about when I would make the subs come back 2 or 3 times to fix the mistakes.

7. I have smoke/CO2 detectors throught the house, just tested them before Christmas. RESIDENTIAL FIRE SPRINKLERS ARE NOT REPLACEMENT FOR SMOKE DETECTORS!!! No one has said or implied they are. No matter what the fire dept says it will take them 2 or 3 times longer than they claim to get to your house and start spraying water. If you want to talk about inflated figures check those. Estimate a time you think itll take you to do something, then set your alarm for 2am and push a stop watch. I guarantee you will be way off. What do you think the hosedraggers are doing at 2am when your house catches fire. Even if they are 1/2 mile away, all the while the fire is burning, it takes you 2 mins to wake up and call, it takes them 1 min to answer the phone, probably 2-3 mins to get in their truck and 2 mins to drive over, another 2 to start spraying water where they need it. I have seen it with my own eyes while I waited for 20 mintues from the time I arrived till fire is spraying water from a station less than 1/2 mile. I just gave a very low estimate and its 10mis, how long does a fire take to spread? Thats all assuming that the station is not out attending to some drunk that wrapped his car around a pole and a stioned farther away is sent.

Bottom line is I'm lucky (I guess) that I live where I do assuming the cities are pro sprinkers (like some of you have claimed)but there is no doubt that they will save lives. I have seen it with my own eyes. I wasnt willing to risk my families life on it. Im sorry that some people live where the cities have made it difficult or expensive but that can be changed, just get rid of the bastards and buy off the internet.

Residential sprinklers are not intended to save property and they dont need to run on systems separate from from normal plumbing. The local codes need to be changed to reflect that.

I dont own a smart car and am not a tree hugger. It was a CHEAP life saving insurance policy that has since paid for itself and now has been putting money in the form of insurance savings back in my pocket. EVEN if it wasnt paying me back right now, I probably would have still done it. My wife and kids are worth it. Theres alot of things we passed over like the 19 seer ac unit at twice the cost and the 5x the cost pella windows because they would never have paid for themselves before breaking or us dying.

The costs can be minimized and the bureaucracy can be fixed in areas that need it if people decide they want residential sprinklers in their communities. Bad regulations dont mean the product is bad.

storm this is the last time I'm posting. If you havent digested what I'm saying yet then I dont think you will ever understand. Hope is always a good thing to have.
Posted: 1:39 am on May 3rd

CHUCKYD CHUCKYD writes: Since all the quotes I have seen for sprinkler installations come from staunch proponents of sprinklers, such one-sided information is suspect, at best.

Water supply is a definite issue, in spite of anecdotes to the contrary. I recently worked on renovation of some living centers inhabited by people of varying degrees of mental disabilities. These residences are controlled by the state, and, as such required sprinklers. We attempted to pursuade the state officials that the water supply did not comply with any of the NFPA sprinkler regulations, but we were forced to install sprinklers onto a water system that could not support them.

The cheap spinklers that proponents use in their rediculously low estimates are not only unsightly, but they are fully exposed in the room. Apparently, the proponents do not have children and know nothing about them. Even with the strictest of warnings, children will throw things in the house, things which could cause a head to fail and issue forth water, if enough is available. How much of the house would be damaged before the water to the entire house would be shut off. Then, since such incidences only happen after all the businesses are closed, how long will it be before the house is fully "protected" again? My hunch is that the pipe will be plugged and the head will never be replaced.

To make matters even worse, the lowest cost systems use the fewest heads. As such, the heads will likely be unbalanced in a space. Unless one is prepared to shell out the extra bucks for recessed heads, these are quite ugly, and tend to make a house appear as a cheap hotel.

Have you seen the red signs beside all sprinklers in a hotel, warning guests that sprinklers are not coat hangers? If people use sprinkler heads for coat hangers in a hotel, doesn't it follow that they will do the same at home?

One must face the fact that sprinklers have nothing to do with fire prevention. Sprinklers, if working properly, will not discharge until a fire has already started, and then only after a certain temperature is reached at the location of the sprinkler. A fire could smolder for hours in a house before reaching critical temperature, and all inside would expire from smoke inhalation.

Rather than react to a fire, my preferred position is to reduce the liklihood of a fire igniting, and once ignited, that it has little chance of lasting or spreading. The building codes call this Type II construction, or non-combustible. In such structures all the structural components are non-combustible. Concealed spaces are fire-blocked. Furnishes and finishes must have a flame spread rating of less than 25 and smoke development of less than 450. I consider wood-framed buildings to be constructed of kindling, and filled with loosely packed newspaper, a fire waiting for a spark. I belive that any structure erected in compliance with IBC Type IIB construction will go much farther toward fire prevention than any 50 cent sprinkler.
Posted: 9:36 pm on May 2nd

stormando stormando writes: Not a builder and who would marry an AH like me anyway.

Sorry for the "Dude" reff - didn't mean personal disrespect. Hope your not really serious about the "Skull Crushing" thing.

I don't know why AZ & NM are as pro-sprinkler as they are.

Here's an article from AZ Republic News dated Sept, 2, 2010

"Fire Sprinklers are focus of homecoming in Mesa"

Article quotes $1.95 Per Sq Ft by a Phoenix Firefighter.

Even w/o water meter or poly tank system figure is higher than

$1.50 or $0.50 per Sq Ft reffed in the FHB articles.

Adolph Zubia was Both a Las Cruses NM fire official as well as head of ICC when the sprinkler mandate was passed by paying fire officials to stack the vote at the ICC conference in 2009.(this isn't disputed by anyone)

This mandate took away my choice in the matter.

I don't think anyone disputes that Scottsdale AZ has been the city most often cited since 1986 when argueing for sprinklers.

Sorry for making incorrect assumptions based on where you happen to live.

Posted: 5:34 pm on May 2nd

JAGQueen JAGQueen writes: I agree. Article for and by the sprinkler lobby. Here is my experience:

I have a 1900s row house in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, 10 miles outside of DC. I bought the house trashed with the expectation of a full remodel.

Since I would be replacing ceilings, water pipes, etc, I wanted to put in sprinklers. It made sense because my house shares a wall with an ederly lady who has her three adult sons over regularly (They have thier own public housing units, but that is another story). I was worried because there is no fire wall between the (ballon-framed) houses, so if her house went up, mine did also.

The preliminary costing was mixed. I am three blocks from the fire station so my insurance company would not give me any breaks. I get 80+ lbs of water pressure so I would not need a booster pump. Alexandria does require a separate meter because they are worried about what happens if I don't pay my water bill. The new meter would cost $3,000 and has to be installed by the water company that will also add $20 a quarter to my bill for general overhead. The code guys all recommended a wet system because that would save $5,000 or so over the dry system, even though I would have to flush the system every couple of years.

So I went and did the detailed cost estimate. It turned out that most design parameters called for 20 heads for my 1860 foot house. That is typical (slightly under 100 square feet coverage per head, reduced by walls and such). The cost for the heads plus the mountings came in around $60 per head. The piping (that special orange, fire resistant and such piping that you have to use) came in at about $2,000. Plus you need the interior shut off valve for after a fire or accidental discharge, $400. Since it was a wet system, the city requires backflow preventers and taps for flushing, $300. I would not install any alarming system associated with the system, figuring the water flowing everywhere would serve, saving $500 between flow switches, battery backups, bells and such. So I ended up with $4,100 (with glue and all the other misc) for just materials.

Then I talked with the local fire chief. He said it was a nice system, but that $7,000 before code compliance and without labor would be better spent putting fireproofing insulation between the houses. He said that sprinklers are really for suburbs or country houses where the fire department would take 15-25 minutes to drive there, not 1 minute to drive the three blocks.

So, even though a fire chief has a conflict of interest in keeping station houses open, I decided to scrap the sprinklers and put in Roxul (mineral fiber) insulation in the joining wall. No code problems, no maintenance, Cost $1,000 and solved the problem. Especially with the new (to code) wiring going in the house, better solution.

So. I want to know how in the world they are thinking to get the cost down to $0.50 a foot. For my 1860 foot home that is less than $1,000. That is just silliness. Even discounting my labor, I was looking at a minimum of $3.00 a foot. Imagine if I was going to pay a master plumber for more than main connections and QA.

So, the article ignores the distance to the fire station, a significant factor. It ignores fireproofing insulation that could have similar effects. It ignores that, maybe, a partial sprinkler system would be better, since most fires are in the kitchen. It ignores water pressure issues, booster pumps are not cheap. It ignores structural issues (the code guys were not happy about more holes in my historic beams that were already swiss cheese like for electric holes, plumbing holes, drainage lines, security and speaker wires holes, etc.)

I think the editor that let this through needs his finances checked. He should have sent the author back to do some real research and to look at providing the practical, cost based articles that I read FHB for. Actually, I think I just wrote a better article in the last 15 minutes...

Posted: 4:06 pm on May 2nd

PaddyC PaddyC writes: In reply to STORMANDO, yes, I have protected my home with sprinklers. Regarding your remark about water purveyors, there are holdouts among them who continue to be part of the problem instead of the solution. The few that persist in pushing the liability issue do so out of ignorance or loyalty to the homebuilders. Progressive water purveyors see the water conservation advantages of residential sprinklers, and they add a sprinkler system disclaimer to their tarriff forms along with their many other disclaimers.

My citations of infrastructure incentives referred to new subdivisions. If you want to rely upon your fire department and nearby fire hydrant to keep you safe, good luck with that.

If you want documentation of subdivisions where fire sprinklers reduced the cost of the homes, I know of two in the Farmington, NM area. In the first one, the infrastructure incentives lowered the per home cost by $2,000.00. The sprinklers, which were part of the plumbing, cost him $1,200.00 per home. The other subdivision is under construction and will have around 300 homes at buildout.

As for eating copies of FHB, do want fries with that?
Posted: 3:38 pm on May 2nd

Jigs-n-fixtures Jigs-n-fixtures writes: I read this and see that there is a lot of confusion on the issue.

Both on the part of builders, but also on the part of the officials at other entities such as the water purveyor, and fire marshals, etc. who have to be involved.

As the author said in the article there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in educating everyone to the "what’s and how’s" of the residential systems.

If the fire departments, or fire marshal, are making the installation problematic, it is because they are ignorant of the differences in the residential and commercial systems. They need more training.

The water utilities are concerned because of the potential to get stagnant water into the household system, and possibly back into the main. Again it is because the American Water Works Standards and EPA direction aren't clear on how to handle the new residential systems.

I tend to believe a cost figure of around $1.50 per square foot is a reasonable estimate. I just did the initial design to relocate and rehabilitate several modular housing units, and included an estimated cost to include sprinkler systems. I'm a facilities engineer for the Forest Service, so I am the one who gets to make the decisions regarding the water system connection. I'm just looping the cold water in feed line for the water the length of the building, to keep it active. The materials were about $0.75 per foot.

In our situation a sprinkler system makes sense: The nearest volunteer structural fire department is going to be at least ten minutes away, and at several sites will be an hour or more away. I have people living in these, and help is going to be a long time coming.

I look at it as being akin to the confusion and high costs associated with working with SIPS for those who haven't used them. Once people do one job with them, or actually research how to work with them, the quoted costs go down.

Perhaps Taunton should start a series of articles on how they work, and how to install them correctly to help educate people on the real requirements of designing, building and maintaining the residential sprinkler systems.

Posted: 2:37 pm on May 2nd

blackynme blackynme writes: Storm. Well if your a professional builder your the reason I contracted myself. You are a real AH. What the fuck difference doesnt it make where I live. I dont live in Phoenix or Scottsdale, I said i live in the s/e of metro Phoenix. Which part are you calling me a liar about, asshole. or are you just mad about government telling you what to do. Im not sure what your complaining about.I wasnt required to get sprinklers I chose to do it myself, in fact I dont know anyone else that has them in my neighborhood. I stated all the reasons why I have them and why I considered them. Read my post. And last I checked I dont think Phoenix and Scottsdale are required to repsond to you. Are you kidding. I want to see exactly what your bitching about and Il refuet all your bitches. You obviously dont have them so you dont like em. I told you that you can get the parts off the internet, so that negates the prices differences.
list your bitches and Ill negate them from my own experince in the process. You dont own them so your basing your opinion on what? Ive read all your posts and your just whining. come down to Phoenix, Il pick you up show you the house and receipts then crush your skull for being so disrespectful...DUDE!
I dont need your acknowledgement but you can eat all your copies of FHB...dont choke. I just posted my experience. Sprinklers are good, they save lives, maybe some property, save money on insurance and dont have any more maintenance than normal homeownership. I never said government should mandate anything. Your reading comprehension leaves something to be desired. Hopefully your wife reads the building regs to you.
Going to do some responsibilities now. Ill get back to you later tonight
Posted: 2:31 pm on May 2nd

stormando stormando writes: blackynme - Dude - you live in Phoenix ARIZONA! I don't know all the reasons why but Scottsdale/Phoenix has been the Poster Child city for more than 20 years pushing sprinklers. OF coarse your costs are WAY lower than average.

I have challenged AZ fire officials in the past to PROVE IT. (never got anything from them BTW)
IF you want to call BS on ME here is my address so you can mail me copies of all your receipts OR organize a hate mail campaign against me. Your choice! 15816 - 34th AV NE Lk F Park WA 98155. IF your info is credible and complete I will acknowledge it here and video tape myself eating both issues of FHB! Not too worried about it.
Posted: 1:56 pm on May 2nd

blackynme blackynme writes: I joined FHB about 7 yrs ago when my wife and I decided to contract our own house when we couldnt find a decent contractor in our area. I am not a professional builder, I am a retired cop but I have common sense.
We live in the s/e of the metro Phoenix area. I have seen many house fires and a few deaths. In fact I was awarded a medal from work for pulling 7 small kids from a fire as the parents stood outside. So when we were designing our house (3600sqft, 2500 and 1100 basement) we looked into residential fire sprinklers. I did research for about 6 months. After reading alot of everyones comments its plain to see that most people havent looked into it, they are just talking with previous bias's. I havent read 1 comment that lead me to believe they even have them in their house.
With a little research these FACTS can be verified ( at least in the Phoenix area).
I paid less than $1.50sq ft. from a fire sprinkler company. It would have been cheaper if I would have done it myself. Its not that technical, follow the code requirements and buy readily avaiable parts off the internet. I plan on finishing my 2000 sqft shop myself. It lowered my homeowners insurance by 20% (USAA, they didnt raise it for maybe possible future water leak) and has paid for itself in the last 7yrs we have owned our house. There is no more risk to leaking than any copper pipe buried under the slab or PVC pipe buried in your yard for sprinklers. There were no special permits or water mains required in my area. The only additional step was an inspection by the fire inspector (from the very fire dept that I didnt trust to get there before my house was a slab.) We also had to have a readily accessible shutoff valve for the fire dept and I ran an 1 1/2" main to my shop.
It is a fact that residential fire sprinklers are designed to add a few mintues to escape a fire, they are not meant to protect property. That might be a result but not the intent. Most of the comments about leaking, costing too much, too much permitting or getting sued upon failure are pretty much myths. Im sure there are cases but not the norm. If a company is charging $20sqft then they are ripping off their customers. If the municipalities are making it difficult then they really dont want their communities to have these systems. The leaking and legal complaints are just goofy. If one person eats a peanut and dies of a rare disease then it doesnt mean peanuts are bad for everyone.
I for one sleep better at night knowing the sprinkler system is installed as my 2 young kids sleep on the opposite end of the house. If youve never been in a fire you have no idea. Everyone that comes over and notices them comments they wish they had them. MOST people dont even know unless we show them and if they do get noticed we are asked what they are. The heads are unobtrusive.
I am not a lobbyist or anything to do with the fire sprinkler industry like some of you think about everyone that posts postives about fire sprinklers. Im a retired stay at home dad with a wife and 5 and 7 yr olds, that have a very nice house ($650,000)and shop because we researched and made the best decisions while we built for 11 months. I agree dont regurgitate hearsay, do your own research and that doensnt mean "my buddy told me" thats not verifying anything except your own ignorance.
Posted: 1:41 pm on May 2nd

stormando stormando writes: Paddy C - please answer question# A A. Do you have them in your own home? Well do you?

Just short rebut to 2 of your miss-informs.

#2 - Depends entirely on how your INDEPENDANT water purveyor sees the issue. Mine chooses the "shouldn't be everyones problem only one persons problem approach" IE - highest possible charge for SEPERATE water meter so that rest of people don't have to pay costs associated with ludicrous sprinkler requirement and possible lawsuits.

#5 - Infrastructure what? Are you on crack? I have a bright yellow hydrant within 100' of my house on a 6" Main. NO fire official is going to allow smaller pipes or LESS fire hydrants. If you can prove that has happened anywhere I will eat BOTH issues of FHB that had articles about fire sprinklers. (Which reminds me - Fire Flow Test Said Hydrant $350 in 2006 money- ADD to your calcs everyone!)

I-m waiting.......................
Posted: 1:38 pm on May 2nd

RW_Hi RW_Hi writes: The real problem here is not cost, effectiveness or any other incidental issue. The problem is the government mandate. Mandates are tyrannical and do nothing except further reduce the sphere of our freedom of CHOICE.

Just because some do-gooder, bureaucrat or over zealous politician thinks something is a good idea does not lend legitimacy to FORCING people to conform.

Americans have become dependent, non thinking sheep all to willing to follow the herdsman.

Enough with the mandates already.
Posted: 1:13 pm on May 2nd

PaddyC PaddyC writes: The anti-sprinkler comments reflect the general state of knowledge about residential sprinklers, their effectiveness and cost. All of the misinformation contained in the comments has been effectively rebutted, and I recommend that those commentors look at the facts instead of the hype.

To rebut just a few of the misstatements:

1. Residential sprinkelr save lives. The facts show that protecting a home with smoke alarms improves the probability of survival by 50 percent. Adding sprinklers increases the probatility of survival to around 98 percent.

2. The sprinklers are served by the same water supply as the plumbing, so there is no separate water supply that you see for commercial sprinkler systems.

3. The sprinklers can be fully integrated into the plumbing, in what I call a plumbing-based fire protection system. These systems are much more affordable than running separate pipe for the sprinklers and plumbing. That is why the cost can be a little as 50 cents per square foot or less.

4. Plumbing-based sprinklers use potable water so there is no need for check valves that add to the cost of separate sprinkler systems.

5. Infrastructure incentives like smaller water mains, fewer hydrants, narrrower streets and setbacks, longer cul-de-sacs, etc., can save homebuilders a ton of money - soemtimes enough to make sprinklered homes less expensive than those built in un-sprinklered subdivisions.

6. Protecting homes in new subdivisions with sprinklers can lower the cost of public fire protection because fires in sprinklered homes reduce the demand on fire departments by over 50 percent.

7. Our furniture cushions, carpeting, mattresses, etc., used to be all cotton and wool. Now they are all synthetic. Consequently, house fires today grow twice as fast, burn twice as hot, and create magnitudes more smoke than they did 20-30 years ago. In the 1970's, residents had an average of 17 minutes to escape a fire before it bacame deadly. The average today is three minutes. Fire departments cannot respond fast enough and with enough firefighters to save lives like they could in the past. That is why sprinklers have become so important to life safety in homes.
Posted: 12:59 pm on May 2nd

infomet infomet writes: SHAME ON YOU FHB, for publishing this BS! There are hundreds of people making up codes and regulations and foisting them off on US! Basic codes are fine, but I really do not need help to decide where, or how many, my electrical outlets will be, to cite a recent example of mindless meddling! This mess is driven by manufacturers, who want to make money and Inspectors, who want to be paid. It is WAY out of hand and we need to rise up with a united voice to stop it.

I have seen two nice projects KILLED by BS sprinkler "requirements" and inflated bids for installation.
The truth is that in my jurisdiction there is NO ONE, architect, contractor, or elected official who will challenge the fire marshall. He can prance onto any site and demand changes or additions to equipment, even though his office has signed the plans for the building! I have seen it happen.

I play with guns, tractors, chainsaws and high voltage electricity. Do you think sprinklers are likely to make me safer? HOHOHO. If we all drove 10 MPH more slowly, we would save many times the number of lives hoped to be saved by sprinklers!

The costs stated are absurd, as testified by most of the posters. Imagine what nice alarm systems could be installed for a fraction of the real cost of a sprinkler system.

And what about houses where the supply is 3GPM from a well?
Storage tanks, booster pumps? There is no limit.

And by the way, please try explaining what water damage anyone can repair for $2000. How far would that go for a new hardwood floor, carpeting, sheetrock, insulation, flooded computers and TV systems? Ridiculous!

PLEASE use some judgement when posting this sort of drivel (the article, not my drivel) and get some sensible opposing opinions into your articles, if they must appear.
Posted: 12:46 pm on May 2nd

DoRight DoRight writes: There is a value to a human life. Like it or not it is not an infinite worth. If it were infinite we would all spend every penny we have to build nuclear bomb proof homes, because even if there is only a one in a hundred billion chance of our homes being bombed we would LOGICALLY have to insure against the risk becuase teh potential loss is infinite. This is a formof handicapping, as in race betting.

Now in the case of house fire, the odds of being killed in a house fire WITH smoke detectores is probably well over a million to one. Therefore if you built one million homes with sprinkler systems at a cost of $2000 per home that would imply the value of that human life would be $2,000,000,000, yes with a B.. This assumes the sprikler system saved the life. And yes sprinklers would also save property. Then again the water damage would probably be as bad as the fire. And as someone else mentioned, accidential discharge would be a disaster in and of itself. The likelihood of such an accident would clearly be greater than the risk of fire.

The idea of residential sprinkler systems is just plain stupid. Not saying you can't put one in your home, knock yourself out, and while you are at it build it bomb proof.

The rest of us can be smart and put $50 into smoke detectors, a proven means to save lives.
Posted: 11:35 am on May 2nd

FriarChuck FriarChuck writes: It's a shame that the argument always goes to cost and the bottom line of profit for a builder. Life safety always gets slighted.
The cost for sprinklers installed in commercial buildings is comparable to carpeting but there is no complaints about that, and it being cheaper than air conditioning seems forgotten. What is the cost of a life compared to an extra few percentage points in up front building costs? Most insurance companies will lower overall prices after sprinkler installation because not only is water damage less expensive to fix than fire damage but the liability goes down when nobody dies in a fire, and serious injuries are less likely. Only the sprinkler heated by an active fire sends out water, soaking an already fire damaged room and stopping the spread of fire to other areas.
Sprinklers can extinguish a fire in the room it starts in, or at least slow its spread to give plenty of time for a family to evacuate a building and the fire department to show up. This is especially important when disabled or elderly or small children are in the home.
It is very important in multiple family dwellings to provide this extra safety. Lowering safety standards on burn time for barriers between these buildings is nonsense, keep them as safe as possible.
To think that an extra 5% cost in construction will stop someone from buying a house is ridiculous. Wait a few months in a busy market and the price will change on its own by even more. Or look at the cost of upgrades to kitchens and baths that homeowners are willing to pay and compare that to the cost of saving their families lives in the event of a fire.
Too many contractors are willing to see their customers die before they are willing to risk losing a few bucks in profit. It's a sad morality that they practice.
Posted: 11:16 am on May 2nd

Bartonr Bartonr writes: As my dad used to say, "when you hears someone try to justify a regulation, law, or killing with the words ' if it saves ONE LIFE, it's worth the cost'", you know you're dealing with an illogical mind and no amount of applied logic will change it.

The overwhelming majority of buildings, including residences, don't burn down. Their life expectancy is determined by location, use, economics and quality of construction. Sure some lives would be saved with sprinkler systems in every building, but more buildings will be damaged and more insurance claims filed due to damage by sprinkler system malfuntions and deterioration than will be saved by them. This is only logical. In addition trial lawyers will have a field day blaming the designers and installers of sprinkler systems when someone dies or is injured in an equipped structure.

There is a value to a life to be considered and the market will determine what that value is. This is another in a long line of mandated requirements in the intrest of "safety" which do little more than increase the cost of the built environment with no real cost/safety benefits.
Posted: 11:04 am on May 2nd

VaderEngArchDraftBld VaderEngArchDraftBld writes: Reagan once said something akin to "the closest thing to living forever on earth, is another government bureaucracy" I love how many naive people always fall for this idea that well intentioned rules will end up just great, once a new big government department is created. If you think this will end up with just a simple rule and using percriptive you need to mature a bit. I hate to say it but agree with "tuftamer", This will end up with a new sprinkler department, a new fee, dozen of new regulations, new permit processing, and a big bloated goverment agency. Face it, there is no home that is 100 percent safe. At some point society needs to take care of itself and persoanl responsilbilty needs to return to America. Government gcannot nor should not monitor everything citizens do. If I may paraphrase Ben Franklin, Those who give up liberty for more safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Posted: 10:56 am on May 2nd

Bredian Bredian writes: Working in multiple municipalities, we see different approaches. One county is 100% on all residential outside city limits. The county has thin resources, is semi rural and the requirement is somewhat reasonable. The largest county, up through recent times, only required it from larger structures, depending on water flow from the nearest hydrant - but its their logic and sincerity I question.

This often requires a builder or owner to fund a "fire flow" measurement and with the results, determine whether sprinklers are required. In the last 2 I built, one large home in an established area, was required to upgrade the hydrant or install sprinklers, each about 8-10K PLUS delay. The client chose to install sprinklers. The strange thing is this project was within eyesight of 5 hydrants, including 2 on a school site next door that flowed properly. The 2nd project, the department required us to upgrade a hydrant beyond the closest, approximatively 500-800 feet down the road because the closest was already upgraded. A 3rd story deserves mention as it was the same department - required them to upgrade the hydrant (or install sprinklers), the home was being built directly next door to the fire station and the hydrant was on the station property - easily the fire department's responsibility - but there was someone else's budget that could be tapped, and since they needed further cooperation from the department on other projects, they could be extorted.

If these departments were sincere, they would make it a 100% requirement, not just for the large homes (rich). They would require the water districts to maintain and upgrade hydrants on their own dime. In the case of the last 3 examples, the requirement merely funds a fire department profit center with fees. The rest of you homeowners, you know the ones in the 50-100 year old dry timber structures with the rat eaten romex or wire on tube - you're on your own.

I do like the prescriptive notes, which could easily remove about $1K in plan preparation and review and the 45 days of running it back and forth, as it is that simple. Also like the potential for narrower streets. The wide expanses of asphalt has really taken the charm from neighborhoods - but show me an example where this has taken place.
Posted: 10:45 am on May 2nd

turftamer turftamer writes: I agree, just another mandate rammed down our throats buy government bureaucrats. All the facts are never revealed just those that support their side. Environmentalist's and big government are killing this country. Let's find some common sense people.

Recently in our area a contractor was denied passage for one backhoe (by the BLM) on a road because a red tail hawk had a nest 50 feet off the road. A week later an off road race passed the same area with over a hundred gas guzzling, dust making, ear deafening 4 wheel desert racers.

Who's pockets were they in?
Posted: 10:21 am on May 2nd

keithredbeard keithredbeard writes: this is an issue i have been following closely to the point that i have attended county councel meetings. just so we are all on the same page...
smoke detectors save lives. sprinkler systems save structures. yes, sometimes a sprinkler system can save lives too but not on the same scale as the smoke detectors do. the number of fire deaths reported by fire fighting agencies have yet to break down how many of those deaths in residential buildings occured where there were working smoke detctors in place. the reason the irc addopted this code in 2009 is because there is a direct correlation between when "light weight building materials" became the norm in developement building and the steep rise of fire fighter deaths. independent studies have shown that wooden i-joists burn 3x faster and achieve flash point heat faster than standard dimentional lumber. the i-joists became structurally unsound at 6 min. where the 2x12 held for 18min. the failure rate of roof trusses is simular when again compared to dimentional lumber. so, that being said, the insurance companies want sprinkler systems to save structures and the fire fighters want to save fire fighter lives. in delaware, pennsylvania and maryland, the insurance companies do offer discounts ranging from 7-12% off home insurance if the home is protected by sprinkler systems. the type of sprinker systems that are to be used in residential building does not require a separate water line or meter and can be opperated through a 3/4" - 1" water line to the home. there has been much speculation here locally whether the water companies will charge fees for sprinkler systems though they should not becuase the only time water is used with any sprikler system is when it is actuated. the statistics regarding sprinkler system malfunctions shows the likelyhood of a sprinkler going off accidently is highly unlikely. i have heard representatives from the sprinkler system manufactures that they should never leak and compared them to a faucet in the home that never gets used unless there is a fire, personally i don't buy into that as we have all seen old plumbing start to leak for a number of reasons and especially because the sprinklers are under constant pressure. a realistic price for a 2,400 sq ft new construction home is anywhere from $8,000 -$10,000. my biggest beef with all of this is if this code change goes through as is, then when someone wants me to build them a large addition like an in-law suit, they will have to retrofit the existing home with a sprinkler system. a realistc price for a 2,400 sq ft existing home be retrofit with a sprinkler system is easily double the new construction price. like smoke detectors, which are viewed as a safty item, i wonder where the line will be drawn with the mandated sprinkler systems. if i finish my basement will i have to pay $5,000.00 for an egress and $20,000.00 for a sprinkler system before i have even thought about buying my first 2x4? to make this code work for all parties involved i think all the realistic numbers have to be nailed down including from the water untility companies and make sprinkler systems only a requirement in homes that are constructed using the "light weight construction" materials. personally i stay away from those materials already because i can stick build a home or addition and give the homeowner more usable space in the same square footage than if i used trusses. there are many other details i would like to discuss but i fear that many of you who started reading this have already grown tired and will not get as far as this sentence.
Posted: 9:39 am on May 2nd

firewoodworker firewoodworker writes: I'm in Australia so I don't understand what I am sure are these good arguments against the theme of the article.
I was in the MGM Grand Casino fire in 1980 and saw the disadvantage of penny-pinching by not having a sprinkler system (IIRC the cash area was protected but my room wasn't). It was the helicopters that woke me!
I am in favour of smoke alarms in homes and I think any sprinkler system would be good for my home. I am on rainwater but on the power grid.
I'm less concerned about insurance credits than saving my life and those of my family. I cannot see any atgument against a builder offering it as an option.

I would like FHB to do an article on the how to DYI retrofit a system to some areas in a home. While you're at it, add a section on an external sprinkler system on the rooftop for forest fires,
Good luck getting the article past your lawyers.
Bob Guthrie

Posted: 9:09 am on May 2nd

fdhicks_69 fdhicks_69 writes: "Proponents of this type of system have told me that it could be as low as 50¢ per sq. ft."

Just how do you do that when the cost of a separate service will exceed $0.50/sq ft? Why not verify before publishing hearsay that supports your beliefs?

What about the improved smoke/CO detectors? After all, is this about protection of life or some protection of some other interests? (Insurance companies, sprinkler contractors, municipalities, etc.) You will only save on one part of an insurance premium only to see another portion increased for risk of water damage.

"Thirteen people died in the homes that were not protected by sprinklers." Were these equipped with smoke/CO detectors as well or no? Let's have full disclosure rather than coming to possible false conclusions on the efficacy of sprinklers.
Posted: 8:52 am on May 2nd

FrankJones1 FrankJones1 writes: They always lowball the installation costs. There is no insurance discount because the lower risk of fire damage is offset by the higher risk of water damage. In Phiadelphia, you need a separate meter and you get charged $18/month just to have the sprinkler meter (many reasons why this does not make sense).

I also wonder how many new homes burn down. With better electrical codes, egress and smoke detector specifications are sprinklers that necessary? Are these codes in response to 80 year old houses and electrical systems? Is new construction going to become so expensive that only the rich can afford it?

Make sprinklers more affordable.
Posted: 5:02 am on May 2nd

kraftymac kraftymac writes: Golly darn, I'm not quite as virulent as stormando, but it is true that the "residential sprinkler work group" never seems to include water officials. Water main and house service line sizes, neighborhood water pressure, water supply restrictions, new vs. retrofit construction, internal plumbing configurations involving water meters and cross-connection prevention devices, methods for water systems to recoup the costs additional connections place on their systems, and many other items related to the water department/utility/provider ought to be considered. There will be no "buy-in" unless all parties can agree on common ground.
Posted: 7:12 pm on April 30th

stormando stormando writes: Who paid Lynn U to write this article and how much lobby dollars went strait to FHB? At least the diatribe promoting sprinklers last time made some mention of "water supply".

Anyone who has the slightest doubts about which side of the gravy train they are on please read and re-read ten times: ""Proponents of this type of sytem have told me that it could be as low as $0.50 per sq ft" DO YOU BELEIVE THAT?

Want water with that sir? My local water supply doesn't just hand out water for free and I doubt many across th US do.

FH - Your free to promote fire sprinklers all you want just please be honest about the true costs and how the requirement came into existance. Illegal voting by fire officials and massive lobbying by the industry.

Yes - I am just jealous that I ended up on the loosing taxpayer side of the gravy train. "$1,500 for each sprinkler system" PU-Leaze. For what? A DOG House?

A water meter installation here is 5 to 7 GRAND! Fire officials (Or any Gvnmnt Officials) lowering their salary!? Yeah that's happening.

If you beleive the "these costs will decrease" mantra you must be smoking OSB chips!

Plenty of other ludicrous IRC mandates but NONE that add $10,000.00 to $15,000.00 per house!

Lynn - Got 'em in your own house? If Not Why Not?

Put some lobby money where mouth is and get "the industry boys and public officials" to go in on just ONE house in W. WA state. IF you can actually do it I will literally eat my issue 219 of FHB!

The industry lies repeated here are as tiresome as the "birther issue".
Posted: 4:56 pm on April 28th

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