Should I have a Fire Sprinkler Inspection in my Carlsbad House?
For many years fire sprinklers were only required in office builders. Recent legislation here in California means that automatic residential fire sprinklers are now required in all new town homes and one and two-family houses, effective on January 1, 2011. You can read more about this legislation on fire sprinklers here.
An important question, then, is, should I have a fire sprinkler inspection when purchasing a resale home that has a automatic fire sprinkler system?
I recently sold a home in a nearby community that was less than 2 years old. Along with the home inspection I recommended, and the buyer strongly agreed, that there should be a fire sprinkler system inspection.
We contacted a number of companies who install residential fire sprinklers but they did not inspect them. I finally got a contact from the North County Fire Protection District in Fallbrook who provide a list of vendors that conducted residential fire sprinkler inspections.
The inspection was completed by 24 Hour Fire Protection, Inc. at a cost of $195. Per their website this company services all of California.
This was a first and a terrific learning experience. I was really curious to see how this would be done - after all you can't light a match and hold it under a sprinkler head in the ceiling to see if they go off, can you?!
Here's what I learned (keep in mind this may be specific to the jurisdiction we were in and might be different in other parts of California and no doubt other states):
There are required areas for sprinkler heads and different types depending on temperature sensitivity (e.g., kitchens vs. closets vs. laundry rooms)
There is required signage to indicate the fire sprinkler system panel (normally in the garage - see top right photo) so nothing gets put in front of it that prohibits access - this contains the pressure gauge, controls, etc.
There should be a 911 Fire Alarm sign on the exterior alarm bell (See photo above right) located on the wall of the home to distinguish it from a security alarm. Thus if the alarm goes off people will know to call the fire department rather than the police
There is an external water spigot that is part of the system on the side of the house that is also supposed to be labeled (inspector's test sign) and is used for testing purposes. The inspector can check the flow of water as well as the time once water commences flowing before the alarm system goes off. Seems to me the required time is supposed to be 30 seconds or less and this can be adjusted on the system. You certainly wouldn't want it to be a minute would you?!
You are supposed to have a small box in the garage containing extra sprinkler heads and a wrench, and this is to be labeled as well.
No doubt with more and more newer homes an automated residential fire sprinkler system inspection will become a reguar part of a buyer's due diligence in newer homes.