Sprinkler Mandate Debated.. What do you think should be done?

Sprinkler Mandate Debated An article in the San Francisco Chronicle ("Sprinkler mandate debated," by Matthew Hamilton, 8/4/14) outlines a code debate in New York state that could set a precedent for other states: On one side are firefighters advocating for sprinkler systems for today's homes that use lighter-weight construction materials and are typically stocked with items that burn quickly. "In three to four minutes, houses are flashing over because of the heavy fuel load," said James Burns, president of the Firemen's Association of the State of New York. "They are collapsing on the ground before the fire service arrives." On the other side are contractors, who while advocating for safety say the cost of installing sprinkler systems would drive up the cost of homes and wreak havoc on the housing market. "People buy what they can afford," said State Builders Association Executive Vice President Lewis Dubuque. "People that can't afford to buy homes with sprinklers, they're going to be moving into homes that (sprinkler advocates) admit are unsafe." Homebuyers will pay at least a few thousand extra dollars extra to pay for sprinkler systems if the state accepts the new code. Meanwhile, the APA-The Engineered Wood Association is urging other alternatives for fire-safe homes. No doubt feeling the pressure from firefighters fingering "light-weight building materials," it recently published a report that provides several practical methods for the design and construction of fire-resistant floor assemblies built with wood I-joists: APA System Report SR-405: Fire Protection of Floors Constructed with Prefabricated Wood I-Joists for Compliance with the 2012 International Residential Code.


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Last week I went to burn job 2 yr old home, they shot bottle rockets at each other,  Just how quickly it burned with most of wood is pre composted.  The only thing that stopped the fire was 16" of fiber in attic and they sealed the "lid" very well - and fire department was there in 5 min.  Every thing in the building was wet and smoked.   The chip board roof just was gone in just 5 min.  Ply wood does not burn that fast.  

Eric, were they wood shingle roofs?  They go up like bombs!

The flame spread rating of woopd shingles is GOD awful.

one bottle rocket got stuck on the top ridge vent.  The 3 tap with 3/8" chip board just took off in fire with maybe more than one hit. He was shooting 10 at a time,  I do not see a sprinkler in the building would have helped this roof.

I have see a lot of water line freeze in attic with lack of  seal and putting pipes in very dumb places.   After 3-4 yr most sprinkler have busted pipe.  Must be tested each yr.    

Some Radiant Control Coatings are fire rated and look just like paint.  They can be used on interior walls and ceilings, exterior walls and some can be used as roof coating..


If you can increase the fire safety level AND increase the buildings energy efficiency at the same time, why doesnt government require them? 


Probably because it makes too much sense.  BEEN THERE, DONE THAT with fire officials.


 The painting, roofing and insulation industries would fight it to the last penny.

ZERO surface flame spread means flames are not permitted to spread across a materials surface.

PLEASE NOTE; the n arrator says they poured gasoline on the test patches. It was actually a mixture of 1/2 gasoline and 1/2 diesel fuel. The oil in the diesel fuel prevented fumes from the gasoline. Just as flammable but not explosively flammable.


Class A Type 1 fire protection AND increased energy efficiency of the building.  Sort of a 2 for 1 sale going on therfe.

I think one of the most important factor to recall (especially when talking about single residence homes) is fire sprinklers don't save lives, though they may save the house. What saves lives is working smoke/fire detectors. If there is a legitimate concern about I-joists burning then follow what is required for foam when there might be a possibility of a fire. For example an unfinished basement with combustion appliances might require either a fire treated product or to be covered.

As part of the codes in certain areas around here, fire sprinklers are not required unless the house has 3 stories or more. Of course this normally leads to issues with frozen pipes or energy penalties due to how they keep them in conditioned space. With that a least some builders know how to deal with it properly as I showed http://blog.sls-construction.com/2013/bs4d-the-fire-sprinklers-air-...

Before I was certified as a HERS Rater, I spent 25 years as a licensed nursing home administrator.  I dealt regularly with my sprinkler systems. Testing, inspecting, hiring quarterly and annual maintenance and lastly dealing with the State Fire Marshall on upgrades as the appropriate NFPA changed or mandates came down to enforce more strictly. 

In 2006, we were required to add sprinkler heads outside.  Anywhere the eve was more than 5 feet outside the exterior wall. So my facility and others spent quite a bit of money to add sprinkler heads to the exterior and cover these extended eves. A covered patio, a covered walk way between buildings, a covered loading and unloading area.  Some added to their 'dry system'. Some added a dry system.  Many of us, with wet systems, added heads with a long stop.  The same concept as a freeze safe hose bib.

The builder could choose to encapsulate the attic, or to use something like these with a wet sprinkler system. They could choose a dry system.  Personally, I would choose a wet system for my home.

Yes,  Sean is right also.  Sprinklers keep fire damage down and thus lower repair costs. The forensic studies and films of nursing home fires I have seen, show items like a functioning fire alarm system, effective smoke barriers, fire walls, and fire doors keep people alive.

Building codes requiring sealed combustion equipment, 5/8 dry wall;  Solid interior doors on bedrooms with smoke seals; a sealed and tested ceiling plane would all be better investments then a residential sprinkler system.

If we really want to save lives, require functioning smoke detectors and regular outside testing of their proper operation. 


You may consider reading this link.


In my opinion, codes are failing us and need to be revised immediately. Codes are written to benefit the manufacturer(s) who market very flammable building materials. These same manufacturers continue to manipulate very dangerous situations for their financial benefit. They always refer to stake and share holders when questioned. $$$$

You as a builder can install everything in accordance with the IRC book and it will still fail under fire conditions as illustrated in the above linked home fire and the several others I posted below. It's not the fire that kills. It's the thick black smoke and it kills you in seconds, not minutes! Most of the home fires listed below can only be assumed cost was not a deterrent for building a safe home. These are multi-million dollar mansions.

It seems there's not enough water in the ocean to extinguish many modern constructed homes when materials used to build them are derived from petro-chemicals. All to often manufacturer's point at the cause of the fire to avert attention away from what fueled the fire! 

Builders are allowing this to happen because they seem to have forgotten about quality craftsmanship which lasted over 100 years. Homes built today are simply disposable construction techniques no matter how nice the finished products appear on face value. 


July 03,2014 (Possible cause exothermic reaction during spfi installation) @ 10,000+ sq ft mansion/ Connecticut


July 08,2014 (Possible cause lightening strike) 40,000 sw ft home / mega mansion/ Kentucky







Sorry Richard but you can't construct a home like you did a 100 years ago as the old growth timber is gone & todays 2x will not last as long as an older one. Shoot if one were to "build" like they did with their balloon framing, etc... we would be having more & bigger fires than this. The catch isn't to whine, wring our hands, or even crusade against a certain material but to figure out what works best for each case.

In this case we are talking about sprinkler systems being installed & I stand by my comments above for normal single family residences. As for you can build everything to code & not... yeah no kidding but the codes are not meant to be the end all, be all just what must be the minimum done. Ahh but sprinklers are part of the codes... well not only did it take them 30 years to get them in, in many cases the localities & states don't believe they are needed so thus not code.    

Along those lines we can pick & choose what few articles are out there for when issues happen but lets get serious - if an F3+ tornado comes barreling down straight at you or a direct strike  from lightening hits, bad stuff is going to happen. If the installer doesn't follow the "codes" for an install (which states follow manufacturers directions) & they burn down a house - was it the products fault, the installers, or the code?  


What are the specific items, or types of items, that are required by code to be installed that cause you concern?

I was responsible for training sales people on our RCC and all it's abilities and benefits.  One of thos was that it added a higher level of fire safdety to the home.  I would get feedback from the sales people.  I would ask if increasing fire safety was a concern to the homeowners.  What they said was on the lines of "Fire retardant huh?  Cool.  Now tell me more about how it will save me enrgy money". 

The homeowners didnt seem to care less about fire safety.  That is, until a fire happened in THEIR home or someone they know.  Then, it was a top priority and an item of major concern.  'It will never happen to me' type of thinking.

I asked a fdriend who owns a fire sprinkler company what the cost was for a sprinkler system to be installed in a new home and an older home.  He said it could go as much as $20,000.00 and even more depending on the house.;  That additional cost to the price of a new house can make it unmarketable and undesirable to someone shopping a new home.  For 20K less, they will pick a home without sprinklers.  That is an unfortunate fact.  That old "It'll never happen to me'  Thinking back in play again.

Telling the homeowners they would be getting a good level of fire safety that would pay for ittself with energy savings, that would go in one ear and out the other.  They perked up when you said energy savings and money.  Fire safety alone, hardly worth paying anything more.

Contractors that put in the smallest bids, they get the job of building the new houses.  Add sprinklers to the price, more expensive to build, more expensive a price tag.  More difficult to sell and buy.

Sad facts for sure.

The 'Wont happen to me' attitude  always seems to prevail. 


Fire sprinklers operate when the fires are small. Typically it only takes approx 20 gallons per minute to control the fire until the fire department arrives. These systems for single family homes are not designed to save property (but they do) only lives. Residential sprinklers are operating at about 1 minute after the fire starts (and gets hot enough to open the sprinkler 135-155 degrees). This is saving lots of water and lives. 

Does is cost $20k to sprinkler a home? No. Maybe for a McMansion, but a typical cost is $1.30 - $2.00 sq/ft depending on where you live for typical 2,500 sq. ft homes. 

Sprinklers dont save lives? Really? Put yourself in a room a sprinkler and a smoke alarm. Add a fire. The smoke alarm is going to tell you there is smoke present. The fire sprinkler is going to operate and use water to knock down the fire, cooling the room and wetting the contents. Without sprinklers, the smoke alarm is still going while the fire is increasing. 

Sprinklers save a lot of water and other natural resources, plus they cut down on the carbon usage. They should be #1 on this site.


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