“Do Fire Sprinklers Really Save Lives and Property?” An Educational Program to Increase Your Safety- Part 2

This month we have received a question from one of our readers that highlights one of my favorite topics, D0-it-Yourself Projects

Hi (Firepro)

We need your help!  We have submitted a permit for building a storage in our land (an open like a barn) but there is a requirement that we must have a fire sprinkler for it.  We draw the design of the fire sprinkler for the storage that was OK for the Fire Department as a reference but they still need to have a licensed C-16 constructor verify for it or at least a design by a  licensed C-16 constructor.

Please help us and let us know how much does it cost.

Thanks,   Vu


Well Mr. VU, Thank you for this interesting question.  

He wants to know if a C16 contractor(fire sprinkler) can stamp the plans he drew for a fire sprinkler system in a barn he is building on his property.

In California a homeowner can install their own system.  A C16 contractor can design and submit shop drawings for a system the contractor will install, but cannot design and stamp plans for a system to be installed by others.  Only a PE-Fire Protection, (a professional engineer with a license for fire protection registered in California)  can design a system and stamp the  plans for  installation by others.  Some C16 companies have a PE on staff in which case they could review and certify your plans.  Also Professional Engineers can be found in independent practice.   This is probably not a good Idea though.

Unless you are very experienced, your project will certainly benefit from a professional design.  There are a lot of tricks to the trade for saving money and increasing efficiency.   The actual layout of the water lines is not the expensive part.  Hydraulic calculations to demonstrate that the system is capable of delivering  the correct amount of water to all areas of the building are essential to getting you plans approved.  This is called the design density and is expressed in gallons per minute per square foot over a prescribed area.  Obviously, the required design density for any given building depends on the planed use of the space, the type and amount of combustible materials that will be present, and in some cases, the configuration of the storage area.  By the time a contractor or an engineer loads your design into the computer to do the calculations, they could automatically generate several optional piping configurations for you to pick from.  Another consideration is that engineering calculations are also needed for the support of the system by the roof structure.  When you submit your sprinkler drawings for review, you will need to include drawings of the roof structure including the trusses or other structural members that will support the system.  You will include calculations that show the type of hangers and demonstrate that the structure can support the weight of the water filled pipe plus a 250LB live load at the point of connection.

But you are planning to use plastic pipe, you say, because it is a residential system.  Not if it is an open structure like a barn.  Plastic pipe or CPVC as it is called in the trade, must be installed in a non-combustible area where it is protected from the heat of a fire.  In a barn you will be using steel pipe and you will be calculating for commercial type heads rather that the extended coverage residential heads used in a the small rooms of a house.  Just because your barn is located at a residential address, do not assume that a barn falls under the same rules as a residential housing unit.

There are some aspects of building or remodeling your own home that you can treat as do it yourself projects.  Unless you have a lot of specialized experience or have worked in the trade at the journeyman level, you will probably end up agreeing that the fire sprinkler system,although it may look simple, is not one of these.

That is our installment for this month,  We welcome your question s and comments at Firepro.com.

Remember our motto:  “Preventing A Fire Cost A Lot Less Than Fighting One.”

Neville Throckmorton, President

Firecode Safety Equipment. Inc.


One Response to “Do Fire Sprinklers Really Save Lives and Property?” An Educational Program to Increase Your Safety- Part 2
  1. Hillary Raskin
    January 20, 2014 | 3:39 pm

    I am a photo editor with the Long Island, NY newspaper NEWSDAY.
    We are doing a story on fire sprinklers and would like to find out who owns the copyright on the photo of the sprinkler shooting out water on a blue background, the one that is on the firecode blog?
    I would appreciate your help with tracking this information down. I have a deadline of Wednesday and hope you can help me. You can do so via email, or call me at 631-843-2391. I am writing to you on Jan 20, 2014. Thanks very much for your help. Sincerely, Hillary Raskin/ Newsday

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