How to Install a Fire Sprinkler System

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Fire sprinkler systems can save your life.
Fire sprinkler systems can save your life. (Image: Stock.xchng: shar, lusi, kkiser, vierdrie, nkzs, tyco-rapidresponse.com)

If you have an older home that doesn't have a fire sprinkler system, you may want to consider installing a fire sprinkler system for the safety of you and your family. Many people die and become disabled each year in house fires simply because their home didn't have a fire sprinkler system installed. Having smoke alarms and fire extinguishers in the home are great, but when there is a fire, it's important to have fire system sprinklers to help put out the fire. Installing a fire sprinkler system can be a huge, complex project because it involves wall demolition, pipe fitting, and drilling several holes through walls, ceilings and floors, so doing it yourself is not the best option unless you are a certified fire sprinkler system contractor. If you want to protect your family with the best fire protection you can have in your home, install a fire alarm system with sprinklers in each room. Here's how to install a fire sprinkler system in your home:

Things You'll Need

  • internet connection and computer
  • phonebook
  • CPVC piping and fittings
  • pipe cement
  • drill for large holes
  • fire sprinkler heads and fittings
  • vacuum
  • water pressure gauge
  • electric saw to cut wall board
  • power crimping tool
  • tape measure
  • pencil

Hire a professional contractor to install a fire sprinkler system for you. It's important you have a licensed contractor do this retrofitting project instead of doing it on your own - you don't want to be in the position where you go through your house and demolish walls, ceilings and floors only to find out you should have installed the sprinkler system pipe somewhere else! You can find a fire sprinkler system contractor by searching online or looking in your local phonebook.

Find a professional contractor.
Find a professional contractor.

Make sure the licensed contractor specializes in residential fire sprinkler systems before you hire them. Once you hire the contractor, he/she will visit your home, take measurements, figure out where the sprinkler heads will go in each room, check the water pressure and come up with a comprehensive plan to install a home sprinkler system for you. If the water pressure in your home is not high enough for the fire sprinkler system, he/she may install a water storage tank and pump to remedy the situation.

Hire a contractor who specializes in residential sprinkler systems.
Hire a contractor who specializes in residential sprinkler systems.

Remove wall board and drill holes through floors, ceilings and wall studs to run the fire sprinkler system pipes to each room from the water supply. The pipes are made of heat resistant CPVC (chlorinated polyvinylchloride) and need to be cut, cemented together and attached behind walls (between studs) or in crawl spaces throughout the home.

Remove wall board between studs.
Remove wall board between studs.

Create watertight seals around all pipe joints with pipe cement for CPVC or a power crimping tool for metal. Metal pipes are required if the pipes will be exposed in a living space like a closet. Installing sprinkler system pipes in a closet reduces the amount of demolition to your home.

Create watertight seals between pipes.
Create watertight seals between pipes.

Screw in the sprinkler heads to the corresponding holes in the walls or ceilings. The fire sprinkler heads will extend out only a few inches from the wall or ceiling. You can also use sprinkler heads that lay flush with the ceiling - when a fire reaches 150 degrees, the sprinkler head will drop down automatically and spray the room. Be sure to put wire cages around fire sprinkler heads if they are located in an area where they can be bumped.

Screw in the fire system sprinkler heads.
Screw in the fire system sprinkler heads.

Have the contractor test the home sprinkler system for leaks and the correct water pressure.

Test the fire sprinkler system.
Test the fire sprinkler system.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use a vacuum nozzle to suck up excess debris when cutting through wall board, ceilings and floors.
  • Use sidewall sprinklers if you want to avoid fitting pipes and drilling holes through the ceiling or floor.
  • Fire sprinkler system pipes can be hidden behind crown molding.
  • If you install fire system sprinkler pipes in an area that is unheated (like your attic), be sure to insulate the pipes with fiberglass batts or loose insulation. If the pipes protrude above the floor joists, be sure to cover them with insulation and staple a wire mesh over it to keep it in place.

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