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  1. #1
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    Default exclude fire suppression systems?

    How many of you/us inspect residential sprinkler systems as part of the regular home inspection, i.e., without benefit of special certification or training?

    I know it's excluded in my contract, which is a common contract in PA. Not sure if it's excluded by my insurance (FREA).

    Inquiring minds want to know.

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    "There is no exception to the rule that every rule has an exception." -James Thurber, writer and cartoonist (1894-1961)
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: exclude fire suppression systems?

    How would you test it?
    I make a note that the system is pressurized (or not) and that they should find out where the main valve is if I can't find it (shutting the water off at the meter usually doesn't do it) in case of accidental activation. I also note if there are uninsulated pipes in the attic.


  3. #3
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    Default Re: exclude fire suppression systems?

    Yes, you should exclude them. You can not properly test a residental fire sprinkler system during a home inspection. All of the ones I see and I see a good number of them are tied into a toilet in the home. Usually it will be an upstairs toilet. If the toilet flushes then the sprinkler system has water in it.

    The trick is finding the toilet that is connected to the sprinkler system. Some are marked and many are not!

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  4. #4
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    Default Re: exclude fire suppression systems?

    I just got verification from FREA that fire suppression systems are not covered, not surprisingly.
    Thanks for the responses!

    "There is no exception to the rule that every rule has an exception." -James Thurber, writer and cartoonist (1894-1961)
    www.ArnoldHomeInspections.com

  5. #5
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    Default Re: exclude fire suppression systems?

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Patterson View Post
    Yes, you should exclude them. You can not properly test a residental fire sprinkler system during a home inspection. All of the ones I see and I see a good number of them are tied into a toilet in the home. Usually it will be an upstairs toilet. If the toilet flushes then the sprinkler system has water in it.

    The trick is finding the toilet that is connected to the sprinkler system. Some are marked and many are not!
    That's bizarre! Here there is always a metal panel with the pressure gauge, pressure switch for the alarm and drain down valve. A quick look at the gauge tells you the system is pressurized. The only other thing you could potentially check is the alarm switch but you would probably end up with the fire dept. there soon after.

    There is not much to go wrong, the sprinkler heads are self contained valves connected to a pressurized pipe. If a valve activates, it has to be replaced. I suppose potentially part of the system could never have been connected.

    I do advise mentioning any uninsulated piping. We have had a few disasters around here this year. Also, warn the client not to step on the orange pipes in the attic.

    I get the occasional client who wants to know if I will test the system. I tell them to get written permission from the seller to activate the sprinkler heads as the only way I know is to hold an open flame to the valve. At this point they (usually) laugh and understand.


  6. #6
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    Charlotte NC
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    Default Re: exclude fire suppression systems?

    It should be noted that not all sprinkler systems have water in the pipes. Some of the systems installed are pressurized with nitrogen and do not fill with water until they are activated. Dry systems were installed in many of the older metal pipe systems to prevent corrosion and freezing. I think dry systems are still being installed.

    The beatings will continue until morale has improved. mgt.

  7. #7
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    Dec 2010
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    Huntington Beach
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    Default Re: exclude fire suppression systems?

    You should also check out the sprinkler heads in the home. If they're painted, make a note in your report, as it can affect their operation. The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition is a great resource for people with residential fire sprinklers. They explain the different types of systems and how to inspect and test them. They will even send you a free video and kit. Residential sprinkler systems are (intentionally) not that complicated. Go to Residential Fire Sprinkler Protection Systems by Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition.


  8. #8
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    Anacortes, Washington
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    Default Re: exclude fire suppression systems?

    I agree with Scott you should exclude them. However if you do see uninsulated pipes or painted heads I would refer them for further evaluation.

    BTW - You do not want to be in the proximity of one of these going off as all the water that was standing in the sprinkler system lines is really foul. Think sewer water. I was called (I am a firefighter) to a warehouse when a forklift broke a head off and everything smelled really really bad. So bad we were sorry we got there so quick to shut the system down.


    //Rick

    Rick Bunzel
    WWW.PacCrestInspections.com
    360-588-6956

  9. #9
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    Jun 2010
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    Vancouver
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    Default Re: exclude fire suppression systems?

    In regards to sprinkler systems, the last one I saw in a house had spare heads on a board beside the pressure gauge. the actual pipes were covered up inside the ceiling. so there was very little to comment on. I personally would not make any comments as to if it was in working condition or not. I would always refer to a specialist or someone who is prepared to handle the responiblity properly. I would also advise proper maintaince on said system to advoid stagnet water. they are a good thing to have but just not to test during a home inspection. imo


  10. #10
    Arthur Gould's Avatar
    Arthur Gould Guest

    Default Re: exclude fire suppression systems?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Hetner View Post
    In regards to sprinkler systems, the last one I saw in a house had spare heads on a board beside the pressure gauge. the actual pipes were covered up inside the ceiling. so there was very little to comment on. I personally would not make any comments as to if it was in working condition or not. I would always refer to a specialist or someone who is prepared to handle the responsibility properly. I would also advise proper maintenance on said system to avoid stagnate water. they are a good thing to have but just not to test during a home inspection. imo
    For those that come later this is the correct answer.

    Most states, along with many local jurisdiction, require inspections of automatic sprinkler systems be done only by licensed people.

    Georgia for example http://www.gainsurance.org/ExternalR...1620019121.pdf

    Page 3

    (15) "Fire protection system inspector" means an individual who performs inspections only on water-based fire protection systems in accordance with applicable codes and standards as adopted by the Commissioner. Such term does not apply to state, local, and insurance inspectors while acting in their official capacities.

    (16) "Fire protection system inspector's license" means a document issued by the Commissioner, which authorizes the fire protection system inspector to engage in the business of inspecting water-based fire protection systems.
    Page 4

    (20) "Inspection" means a visual examination of a water-based fire protection system or portion thereof to verify that it appears to be in operating condition and is free of physical damage.
    Then on Page 7

    120-3-19-.07 Inspector's license.

    (1) Any individual desiring to become a fire protection sprinkler system inspector shall submit to the Commissioner a completed application on the prescribed forms. Such individual shall remit with his or her application a nonrefundable license fee of $50.00 plus a fee of $50.00. Such fees shall not be prorated for portions of a year.

    (2) Prior to obtaining a license, the applicant shall demonstrate evidence of his or her competence and employment by a sprinkler contractor by successfully completing a competency test. Newly hired applicants, not currently licensed, shall have twenty-four months from the date they are hired to pass all work elements for NICET Level III Certification in Inspection and Testing of Water-Based Systems. No first time applicant shall change their place of employment and be considered as "new applicant". Current license holders shall have twenty-four months from the effective date of these regulations, to pass all work elements for NICET Level III Certification in Inspection and Testing of Water-Based Systems. If these requirements are not met, within the time allotted, the license shall be returned to this office within ten working days after the twenty-four months have lapsed, and shall become null and void. The license shall not be re-issued until these requirements are met.
    For what it is worth National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies: Home Page

    Note 2. NICET certification is awarded at four levels in the two types of technician certification programs presently offered.
    For work elements programs, the following amount of work experience is required for the award of certification:
    Level I: Limited relevant work experience
    Level II: 2 years of experience relevant to the field/subfield of certification
    Level III: 5 years of experience relevant to the field/subfield of certification.
    Level IV: 10 years of experience relevant to the field/subfield plus demonstration of senior level responsibility on significant activities related to the area of certification.
    I think you will find 90% of states have very similar laws. The states around Georgia where I hold license having similar laws are Florida, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas.

    My advice would be to stay as far away as possible by including a statement your inspection excludes fire sprinkler.

    But some knowledge never hurt.

    Ten years ago combined plumbing and sprinkler systems weren't allowed by standard. We had separate risers, a water gauge, a drain, test connection and our own pipe. In fact it wasn't uncommon to see jurisdictions that would require a separate waterline feed just for sprinkler.

    In 2002 this all changed, in my opinion, for the better. "Integrated" systems where plumbing and sprinklers shared the same pipes is encouraged. There can not be any dead end lines and everything must circulate to a common discharge fixture which is most often a toilet. You flush the toilet and water runs through all the sprinkler pipe keeping it from becoming stagnant.

    The "riser" is no longer there... nothing to look at. With the pipe concealed above ceilings or in walls there's nothing to see there... about the only thing you can see is the sprinkler heads. There aren't any alarms (wouldn't be good to have a flow switch where the bells would go off and fire department called every time a toilet was flushed) so there is absolutely nothing to test.

    If you called me in to do a sprinkler inspection (we are only talking one and two family dwellings here) about the only thing I would check for is to see if the sprinkler heads were damaged or painted. That's it, it would take me all of 5 minutes.

    If the plumbing fixtures have water you know it is in operation.

    The reason I believe this is a superior way to do it is these are peoples homes. In commercial property the fire marshal can order annual inspections but he is going to run into a buzz saw if he fireman Bob out to walk through everyone's home once a year. How else to insure a system stays in operation but to use it to feed a toilet. A homeowner might turn a sprinkler system off and live with it but he isn't going to go without water in the home for very long.


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