5 Stories & Big Bedrooms = More Expensive Sprinklers

There’s been a lot of uncertainty for us when it came to sprinklers…

  • At first we were hoping we didn’t need them (’cause we were trying to stay on budget). But we were told we do need them.
  • Then we were hoping that we only needed to sprinkler egress areas. But we were told we had to sprinkler the entire building (minus closets and bathrooms). But that’s probably a good thing – I’ll sleep better knowing it will be easier to get out in a fire.
  • Then we were hoping we could save some money by using CPVC (it’s legal for townhouses), but the plumber isn’t comfortable with CPVC – so he’s going to use black pipe.
  • Then we were hoping we could get by with 30 or fewer sprinkler heads since 30 and under can run off the domestic water supply. The architect was pretty confident we could do everything in 29 heads, but he cautioned he wasn’t an sprinkler guy and so he couldn’t guarantee it. But when a mechanical engineer went over the plans he decided we needed 37 heads.

So how did we get to 37 heads?

First, 5 stories = more space and more rooms to sprinkler. The top floor alone has 6 heads on it.

Second, we opted for having big bedrooms and smaller bathrooms (all of our bedrooms are over 200 sq. ft.) Turns out they’re bigger than can be covered with a single sprinkler head. If we were an office building it wouldn’t be a problem. The issue is that residential buildings tend to have a lot more flammable items along the walls – art, wall coverings, furniture, etc. That means residential sprinkler systems are required to soak the walls, not just the floors (as is typical in office buildings).  The architect suggested extended coverage heads that throw water over a bigger area, but the mechanical engineer determined that we didn’t have enough water pressure for those types of heads.

Cost-wise it turns out that our water connection was no good, so we have to do a new connection to the water main anyway. So going over 30 heads won’t be that much more expensive than what we would have had to do anyway. But I’m sure we’ll be seeing a change order for the extra heads…

concealed sprinkler head

BTW, I realized talking to some people a while back that some people don’t realize that sprinklers don’t have to be ugly any more. New sprinklers are usually just little discs on the ceiling like in the picture to the right.

Next the plumber has to figure out how he’s running the sprinkler pipes. We’re supposed to have recessed/concealed heads, but I’m not sure where the sprinkler pipe is going to go – there are drain pipes in the way in some places and dropping the ceiling isn’t an option in some places where we’re already at 8′ ceiling height. So the sprinkler drama isn’t quite over yet…

2 thoughts on “5 Stories & Big Bedrooms = More Expensive Sprinklers

  1. hi Jay,

    it’s becoming more and more expensive to rehab houses due to sprinkler requirements. knowing what you now know, I’m curious what you think is a reasonable PFS for the sprinkler line item in the budget.


  2. @Jacquie – Our sprinklers are included in the overall plumbing budget so I don’t know the cost specifically of sprinklers. Good question though.

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