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fire sprinklers


John Dirks Jr
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Originally posted by AHI

In high end properties we may find fire sprinklers. Isn't there a particular type of sprinkler head that is defective and is a recall?

You're probably thinking of the Central Sprinkler Omega head recall. It ends August 31.

http://www.cpsc.gov/CPSCPUB/PREREL/PRHTML01/01201.html

Are we supposed to catch this in an inspection? How do you all handle sprinkler systems when you come across them?

I don't know of any SoP that includes identifying recalled items. I specifically disclaim sprinkler systems in my contract. I include them in the report, but only to state that the system wasn't inspected and to make a recommendation that it be inspected by a qualified technician.

As far as other recalls, with a few exceptions, I don't comment on them. There's no way I'm going to spend time matching up models and serial numbers to recall lists. There are a couple that are so widely known, such as Plexvent and Ultravent that I'd better know and include.

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The reason I brought it up is a student in my class who is already doing home inspections stated he had to pay for the replacement of sprinkler heads. It was the Omega ones I believe. Maybe it was because he failed to mention the sprinkler system all together, rather than calling for a qualified sprinkler tech he just omitted entirely.

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Most residential sprinkler heads I see, except in common areas of multi-family buildings, are concealed. You do not want to routinely pull those covers just to try to discover a manufacturer. Sooner or later(probably sooner), you'll pop a head. The water damage from one head will probably exceed the cost of replacing every head in an average house. Remember, the water in the pipe behind that sprinkler head has been sitting there since the pipe was first installed. Really nasty stuff.

I'll report that there is a fire sprinkler system in place, and the extent of it's distribution - total coverage, halls and stairs only, common areas only, etc. That's it.

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I know that in commercial sprinkler systems, there are certain "rules" that have to be followed. Such as, extra heads & wrench on site, osy valve locked in open position, yearly inspectionsetc. Are there such regs for residential? I guess that is a local question.

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No, I do not usually recommend an expert for a sprinkler system. I'll try to find the shutoffs, and make sure the water is on to the system. I'll check to see if there are heads on a wet system in an area that might freeze(that's bad).

In commercial, industrial, and large multi-family buildings, they'll be required to actively test the system regularly. That assumes, of course, that the AHJ is paying attention. Single family, and small multi-family, systems that run on basic residential water service, are generally not policed. That's the stuff you see tapped off the regular water service entrance.

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Originally posted by Jesse

No, I do not usually recommend an expert for a sprinkler system. I'll try to find the shutoffs, and make sure the water is on to the system. I'll check to see if there are heads on a wet system in an area that might freeze(that's bad).

There are a multitude of things to look for and do when inspecting a fire sprinkler system. They range from checking design aspects such as piping size and the number and location of sprinkler heads to inspection and/or operation of of the water flow switch, flow alarm, check valve, pressure gauge, test/drain assembly, etc. This is covered in NFPA 25: Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems. Section 4.1.2.3 states that "These tasks shall be performed by personnel who have developed competence through training and experience".

Unless you have that training and experience (which you may have, I don't know), I think you're doing the buyer a disservice, and taking on unnecessary liability by doing a partial inspection.

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Originally posted by homnspector

Not to disregard the lives saved, but it would be interesting to know the amount of property damage caused vs. saved by sprinkler systems. . . quote]

The insurance industry has applied great scrutiny to that very question. Every study I've heard about concluded that the water damage caused by fire-suppression sprinklers is minute (a drop in the bucket, one might say) compared to the damage caused by a fire. Think about the amount of water that firefighters pour into a burning house.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Originally posted by Inspectorjoe

Originally posted by Jesse

No, I do not usually recommend an expert for a sprinkler system. I'll try to find the shutoffs, and make sure the water is on to the system. I'll check to see if there are heads on a wet system in an area that might freeze(that's bad).

There are a multitude of things to look for and do when inspecting a fire sprinkler system. They range from checking design aspects such as piping size and the number and location of sprinkler heads to inspection and/or operation of of the water flow switch, flow alarm, check valve, pressure gauge, test/drain assembly, etc. This is covered in NFPA 25: Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems. Section 4.1.2.3 states that "These tasks shall be performed by personnel who have developed competence through training and experience".

Unless you have that training and experience (which you may have, I don't know), I think you're doing the buyer a disservice, and taking on unnecessary liability by doing a partial inspection.

It seems to be the same as a commercial system, but in NY you have to be a licensed plumber with sprinkler system certification (NYC at least)to perform the REQUIRED inspection.

This brings a whole new set of questions to mind... number of heads:size of main.

I can't see how an average main can supply adequate water necessary.

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"The insurance industry has applied great scrutiny to that very question. Every study I've heard about concluded that the water damage caused by fire-suppression sprinklers is minute (a drop in the bucket, one might say) compared to the damage caused by a fire. Think about the amount of water that firefighters pour into a burning house."

I was thinking of the accidental activations. I read about one in a condo near here that went off, nobody knew where the valve was. By the time they got it shut off it had done $20000 worth of damage.

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Originally posted by AHI

Maybe it was because he failed to mention the sprinkler system all together, rather than calling for a qualified sprinkler tech he just omitted entirely.

If he was liable at all, that's why; failure to disclaim something that was there, but wasn't inspected. I haven't run into any sprinkler systems yet, but if I did I would add it to the one-line blanket disclaimer at the end of the report. I try to always remember to disclaim stuff like TV cable, phone systems, burglar & fire alarms, septic systems, etc., if they're present. It's all covered in my contract, but people don't remember that. I remind them.

Brian G.

It's Not Just Disclaiming, It's Also Disclosing [:-bulb]

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This brings a whole new set of questions to mind... number of heads:size of main.

I can't see how an average main can supply adequate water necessary.

No residential sprinkler system is designed to have all heads activated. The idea of a sprinkler system is that it puts out a small fire, or keeps it small until the fire department can arrive and finish the job. 90% of fires in fully-sprinklered buildings are contained or extinguished with one head.

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Unless you have that training and experience (which you may have, I don't know), I think you're doing the buyer a disservice, and taking on unnecessary liability by doing a partial inspection.

Joe

I don't why my actions are detrimental. I can't see all of the heat exchanger in a furnace. Does that mean I shouldn't look at the furnace at all? No. I should inspect as much as I can.

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Originally posted by Jesse

Unless you have that training and experience (which you may have, I don't know), I think you're doing the buyer a disservice, and taking on unnecessary liability by doing a partial inspection.

Joe

I don't why my actions are detrimental. I can't see all of the heat exchanger in a furnace. Does that mean I shouldn't look at the furnace at all? No. I should inspect as much as I can.

Jesse:

You do tell the buyer that you didn't see, and therefore didn't inspect all of the heat exchanger, don't you? I hope you do. Then why not do the same for the sprinkler system?

You wrote:

No, I do not usually recommend an expert for a sprinkler system. I'll try to find the shutoffs, and make sure the water is on to the system. I'll check to see if there are heads on a wet system in an area that might freeze(that's bad).

There's more to inspecting a residential system than you mentioned. Unless you left some of your routine out, you're only doing a partial inspection. While I wouldn't do that, it's OK as long as the buyer is fully informed (and it's in the report) that the system wasn't fully inspected. Not doing that can give the buyer a false sense of security and leave you on the hook.

You also wrote:

In commercial, industrial, and large multi-family buildings, they'll be required to actively test the system regularly. That assumes, of course, that the AHJ is paying attention. Single family, and small multi-family, systems that run on basic residential water service, are generally not policed. That's the stuff you see tapped off the regular water service entrance.

I think that's exactly why the buyer should be advised to have a pro do a full inspection on the system. Odds are, it hasn't been inspected in quite a while (if ever) and it won't be done regularly in the future.

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Originally posted by StevenT

It seems to be the same as a commercial system, but in NY you have to be a licensed plumber with sprinkler system certification (NYC at least)to perform the REQUIRED inspection.

This brings a whole new set of questions to mind... number of heads:size of main.

I can't see how an average main can supply adequate water necessary.

Like Jesse said, odds are only one head will be going off.

There can be a problem with supply adequacy when a system is supplied by a well. I've seen a few sprinklered rural houses that had a 500-1,000 gallon storage tanks along with booster pumps in the basement.

Years ago I worked in a fully sprinklered downtown department store. The roughly 50,000 sf building was a hodgepodge of different buildings and additions cobbled together. Throw in lots of false ceilings and you have a place that you don't ever want to have a fire really get going.

There were hundreds of sprinkler heads throughout the building. The main coming in from the street was 8" and the pressure was around 140 PSI. There were a few fire hoses as part of the system.

The store went out of business, leaving me unemployed. I jumped at the chance when the bank that took the building over asked if I was interested in being a caretaker, making sure the heat was on, the snow shoveled etc. I invoiced the bank monthly for my hours.

One frigid winter night I got a call from the alarm monitoring company telling me that the water flow alarm was activated. I hustled over to find water flowing out the back door like a stream was running though the building. I thought to myself, 'I'm about to find out just how good my liability insurance is'.

I found the boiler was out (I never got a call that the cold alarm had activated), and a 1" sprinkler pipe above the rear vestibule had frozen and broken. What a friggin' mess.

Shortly after I got the water turned off a few strangers arrived. One was a bank executive. I didn't know him and he had no idea who I was. It turned out that the guy at the bank that contracted me had been let go, and his boss didn't know of our arrangement. The other guys turned out be with the company that the new bank exec had contracted to oversee the building several weeks before.

You can't imagine the feeling of relief I felt as I handed my keys over and walked out the door, leaving any liability behind. I ate my final invoice.

I sure dodged a bullet that night.

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