PEX for home fire sprinklers?

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by ballvalve, Jun 9, 2010.

  1. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    Building a small house, 800 square feet. I would like to put in fire sprinklers, and since there are only a few rooms, seems like a small investment with a big payback. How do you choose a temp. rating for each head? 155, 200, etc,. degrees?

    I was thinking 1/2" pex and all home runs to a manifold from a booster pump. Anyone out there done this or have any tips?

    the previous house burned from the inside out in a wildfire, via embers into the attic, so this system would also have sprinklers in the attic. The new code requires vents that close above 135' temperature, fireproof siding, and tempered glass in all windows.

    Thanks
  2. shacko

    shacko Master Plumber-Gas Fitter

    Messages:
    561
    Location:
    Rosedale, Md
    I don't think you can use pex for fire systems, you need to check with your local jurisdiction to see what the rules are, a lot of areas require a license to install them.
  3. nhmaster3015

    nhmaster3015 Master Plumber

    Messages:
    836
    Location:
    The granite state
    Uponor (Wirsbo) has two sprinkler systems. One uses multiple feeds off the sprinkler heads and the other is pretty much a straight up system like Blazemaster is. You should not attempt to do any sprinkler system without having it engineered. Uponor will do the design for you from a blueprint.
  4. MACPLUMB 777

    MACPLUMB 777 TROJAN WORLDWIDE SALES RP

    Messages:
    679
    Location:
    Houston, Texas, United States
    Yes you can use pex for fire sprinkler

    " but " you cannot do this in ca. You must be a licensed c-16 fire sprinkler contractor,

    to even buy the materials, pull permit, etc. Then they will know how to size and what

    head ratings you need !

    Ca. Licensed plumbing & fire sprinkler contractor since jan 1989
  5. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    In our rural county you can do anything as an owner builder except perform major surgery without a license. The only subs for me are stucco and framing.

    I see the Wirsbo system specs online, but I fail to see the need for their cobweb of pipe. I do not require much engineering to sprinkle 5 small rooms and an attic. has anyone seen a homerun system, each head run to a manifold, with backflow prevention?

    This is not for a hospital, just an upgrade from the building dept. requirement which is NOTHING.
  6. nhmaster3015

    nhmaster3015 Master Plumber

    Messages:
    836
    Location:
    The granite state
    Wirsbo also makes a straigh run system. Even if it's one room, you still need to have the system engineered if you care about flow rates and passing codes. As soon as you do it, the fire department or firemarshall will be involved and insist on a properly engineered design. Without the design you run into liability issues and have nothing to fall back on if the system fails. sprinklers are designed to run or a certain pressure and volume along with spacing and such. Like most things, it ain't rocket science but all the paperwork needs to be in place. Yes, you can run a manifolded one run system also, but again, it needs to be designed and signed off.
  7. MACPLUMB 777

    MACPLUMB 777 TROJAN WORLDWIDE SALES RP

    Messages:
    679
    Location:
    Houston, Texas, United States
    that is why you are required to be a state licensed contractor to design and install the

    system, the cobweb as you describe it is a combo system !

    My oldest brother has worked more years in construction then you and me together

    he can out wire you and he can out-plumb me but when he wanted to add sprinklers to

    his house he had to have me design, spec, and pull the permits ! !

    I am not trying to start a argument but in the " state" of ca. You need a c-16 license

    owner builder gen. Contractor whatever that is " state" law ! !
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2010
  8. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,303
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    1/2" is NOT going to put out a fire, even if you somehow get the heads positioned properly. Fire systems are like plumbing. You cannot just install a piece of pipe and call it a proper system.
  9. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    We dont have a fire marshall, and not even a fire department, so I dont think those guys will much mind. The bldg. dept would be thrilled to see any attempt to save a life.

    The heads I see flow 6 to 8 gpm and thats easy on 1/2 " home run with booster pump. Frankly, 1 GPM on a mister head would likely do as well.

    Again, in this part of Ca. owner builders dont need a license to do anything as long as they get it right by inspection. Built many a house from slab to roof and septic and pump in the hole without any issues or questions from the powers that be.
  10. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,303
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    Maybe that's one reason the state is bankrupt.
  11. plumbernj

    plumbernj In the Trades

    Messages:
    27
    Location:
    New Jersey
    What makes you think the booster pump will run if there is a fire? Alway figure the worst. Electricity is off or shorted out.
  12. nhmaster3015

    nhmaster3015 Master Plumber

    Messages:
    836
    Location:
    The granite state
    I understand and agree with you 100% We can not just slap something together here either. It all has to be stamped and approved.
  13. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    Hj , I think your state is bankrupt too. And what a lot of dead lawns you will have when the mexicans all get kicked out! Anyway, thats quite a leap thinking that allowing owner builders to build has some monetary effect on a state system. California has so many fees and taxes to build that no one can afford to do it much anymore - thats where the problems come in. This county did not even have a building department until about 1980! You filed a paper and then you built what you wanted- imagine! I admit some real bombs got built in those days. But when it comes to personal shelter on private property in the country, I would say our constitution and founding fathers would stand right beside me and fight for my right to nail my logs together. We do not have owner builders building rest homes or hotels.

    Wally, if something gets slapped together it gets red-tagged and then the guy gets to hire the pro to save him. But he has the chance to fail or pass at least. Thats why all those new englanders followed the cry of "go west young man"

    As to power off and pump problems, those "usually" come as a result of the fire, but indeed thats the chance you take. A back up generator could help up the odds.

    Lets just use the example of a towel falling on a crappy space heater in the bathroom at midnight. One head would be triggered pretty quick if the door is closed [and you aint got smoke detectors in the toilet] that fire would be out in a flash with normal line pressure. That even without some braindead engineer telling me where to put the head in a toilet he will never see.

    I never built a house without a sprinkler head or two in the utility room [if there was a central one] and the inspector simply said "great idea" - no stamps needed. If I can install a hose bib in a furnace room, why could I not hang a sprinkler head up at the ceiling? Some voodoo magic about a sprinkler head being a sacred object?

    I say its cheaper and far more effective to run a sprinkler head to each bedroom than to use those stupid arc-fault outlets.
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2010
  14. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    And by the way, a local reputable builder is giving turn-key houses stick built, 1400 square feet for $46 per foot. No joke. Slab incuded but not permits. Can you guys out east do that? Looks like America is getting a reality check on those old prices.
  15. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

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    7,401
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    Mr. Ball Valve, your mind is already made up and all of the professional advice hasn't changed it one bit. So, go ahead and use Pex for you sprinklers and don't bother with codes and inspections, they just don't apply to you. I hope your sprinkler system is never put to the test.
  16. nhmaster3015

    nhmaster3015 Master Plumber

    Messages:
    836
    Location:
    The granite state
    Sprinkling is a good idea, but most insurance companies will not give a homeowner discount if they have one ( go figure) The notion that some is better than none is probably valid. Even if the system does not perform as well as an engineered system would, it should at least give some degree of fire protection. Remember that sprinkler systems are not designed to save property. They are designed to give the occupants time to get out before the fire reaches the "flash over" point. The problem with winging it is that as soon as you start installing the system you are now under the state fire marshals jurisdiction and the system must meet their requirements which usually require a licensed engineer to design it. I suppose you can go ahead and put it in without inspection or certification, but even if it's your own home, when you sell that home you assume liability for the installation. These days no good deed goes unpunished.
  17. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    Good points Wally, especially on good deeds in this screwed up world.

    Looks like a 15% discount on fire insurance, but the latest quote was only for 405$ per year, so ANOTHER screwed up part of our system: might as well forget the sprinklers and let the place burn for that low rate. Then we all get to pay.

    Just to setle up all the debate I'll talk to our building dept this week and gt back to you on their policies for home sprinklers. Although pretty much around here if you ASK you get the hard line. If you just DO IT, you get a pass.

    Possibly the biggest downside is all the additional joints in pipe throughout the house for potential leaks and freezes.

    And Gary, we do have codes and inspections, this is not Afghanistan.
  18. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    Ok guys, our building czar says: Get a copy of NFPA part 13D, residential fire sprinkler codes or "criteria" . He does not require a stamped plan, and the OWNER-builder is allowed to design and
    install the system as long as upon review it meets requirements or "reccomendations" of the NFPA.

    This is only for single family one and 2 story or MFG homes. He would be happy to accept a free sketch from Uphonor or whoever, as long as it follows their guidlines which are pretty simple.

    On a personal note, he would also accept partial systems, as NFPA seems to do. But in 2011, all of CA. will be required to sprinkle new homes. Costs by contract seem to run from 30 cents per square foot up to $3 or more.

    I'll just bet you union contractors could get your undies in a wad over that bit of FREEDOM!

    The fire marshall has no connection or bearing on SFR's in this jurisdiction..... yet.
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2010
  19. nhmaster3015

    nhmaster3015 Master Plumber

    Messages:
    836
    Location:
    The granite state
    We have a mandate to sprinkle all homes by 2012. The contractors associations are in an uproar over it. It will probably add 20 to 30% to the plumbing cost. Because we have a lot of residential systems that are not on city water they will all require boost pumps and storage tanks. big bucks.
  20. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    Some of that is addressed in my reading of NFPA, that off city systems may have lower first 5 minute water requirements that could be served by a few pressure tanks. Seems to pretty rare to trigger more than one sprinkler head at a time. Hopefully the big powers will cut us some slack in the final write up.

    The key is to require the insurers to reduce rates to make it all make some sense. Also, we could lay off a few fireman and get a tax rebate after everyones got sprinklers.

    I always try and pump into a 3000 g tank and then feed a house by booster anyway, so that clause doesnt hurt in many cases around these parts.

    One place a sprinkler should be mandated in fire areas is on the ROOF. Saved my house as 30+ burned all around. An ounce of prevention....
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