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A. Woolf

What are Yours Thoughts and Experience on Sprinkler Systems in Shop or Garage

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I am considering adding fire protection sprinklers in my basement garage.  I would like to hear anyone's thoughts or experience with home sprinkler systems.  Does the addition of a sprinkler system lower insurance rates?

 

What I need to cover is an 1800 sq ft. basement that has shop equipment and car storage. 

 

Alan

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As a retired firefighter I can attest that sprinklers do save lives. Yes, you will probably get a reduction of your insurance, but if it's only the garage, it might not be as great as if the entire house is protected. Is the garage heated? You might need a dry system if it gets too cold. You also can get recessed heads if the ceiling is finished to minimize the chance of an accidental discharge by hitting it with a ladder or something else in the shop. Well worth it. Most high end homes now have sprinkler systems.

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56 minutes ago, 46 woodie said:

As a retired firefighter I can attest that sprinklers do save lives. Yes, you will probably get a reduction of your insurance, but if it's only the garage, it might not be as great as if the entire house is protected. Is the garage heated? You might need a dry system if it gets too cold. You also can get recessed heads if the ceiling is finished to minimize the chance of an accidental discharge by hitting it with a ladder or something else in the shop. Well worth it. Most high end homes now have sprinkler systems.

 

Also as a retired firefighter,  I agree with the above statements.

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Check with your insurance agent, we once had a house that had a fire sprinkler system and I recall we got a discount on the insurance because of that.

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3 hours ago, 46 woodie said:

As a retired firefighter I can attest that sprinklers do save lives. Yes, you will probably get a reduction of your insurance, but if it's only the garage, it might not be as great as if the entire house is protected. Is the garage heated? You might need a dry system if it gets too cold. You also can get recessed heads if the ceiling is finished to minimize the chance of an accidental discharge by hitting it with a ladder or something else in the shop. Well worth it. Most high end homes now have sprinkler systems.

 

As a son of a Career Firefighter, I agree with the above statement.

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From being in the building industry, but not involved much with fire sprinklers,

I have a few observations.  A mechanical engineer specifically involved with

sprinklers, or a good commercial fire-sprinkler contractor, can tell much more.

 

---"Home" sprinklers are not as effective as commercial-grade sprinklers.

     "Home" sprinklers are made to give the OCCUPANTS more time to get out,

     but they aren't intended to save the BUILDING from burning or the CONTENTS from being damaged.

 

---Not all sprinkler systems use water, though those with water are the most common.

     Water itself can cause a lot of damage, and render structural items such as newer

     floor joists made with oriented-strand board (OSB) weakened to the point that they must

     be demolished.

     (The AACA Library has a system, for example, that I believe removes oxygen instead.

     However, non-water systems can be considerably more expensive.)

 

I hope this gives some information for further investigation.

     

   

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Alan, here's another way to give you some fire protection, without sprinklers:

Fire-rated separations between your garage and other parts of the house.

 

For example, a fire-rated floor-ceiling assembly above your garage

can be made in many ways.  (It depends on the kind of floor joists you have.)

A specific configuration of furring and fire-rated gypsum board can probably be attached

to the bottoms of your floor joists;  or a fire-rated suspended ceiling could be installed;

or a fireproofing material could probably be sprayed onto your joists and the underside

of the plywood flooring of your first floor.

 

If you have walls that need fire rating, they can be modified too, such as by

installing extra layer(s) of gypsum board.

The intent is to completely separate the garage from any other part of the house.

 

An engineer or architect could give you further details.  "Fire-rated assemblies"

of materials are tested and documented by Underwriters' Laboratories and are

available in a book that is very precise as to how the configurations need to be

constructed to be effective.  Alternatively, contact the United States Gypsum Association.

Edited by John_S_in_Penna (see edit history)

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Not being an expert, but with some fire fighting training, a water system could spread gas on the floor and intensify the fire.

 

 A halon system would put out the fire in seconds but I'm not sure it would be legal for a house. An alt. to halon is Novec 1230

 

 

 It  may be cheaper to build an unconnected garage instead.

Edited by Roger Walling (see edit history)

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Water would spread the fire and make it more intense if it was a magnesium fire.  Maybe a grease/oil fire.  Other than that water cools the temp of the fire and puts it out.

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 Water on a small fire is good. Thats why I always have two 5Gal buckets of water at all times.

                                 BUT,

 

 If you pour it on burning gas on the floor, goodby garage!

 

I also have three dry chem. and one large co2.

 

 My number one fire putter out is... A spray can of glass cleaner! for smoldering welding and small carb. fires . Quick, handy and cheap.

Edited by Roger Walling (see edit history)

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It would be nice if people who ask advice on our forum

would come back to participate in the conversation.

I hope Alan acknowledges what we've shared.

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John brings up a good point. In my city, all garages must use a minimum of 5/8" Fire Rated drywall on the walls and ceiling. Check with your local building codes as to what you require.

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In my area, a fire-rated wall and similarly fire-rated door are required between an attached garage and a house.  We don't have many basements in Florida (although I have one), but I believe that a fire-rated ceiling and fire-rated doors in all openings leading up to the living spaces of the house from a basement garage, would be required.  Adding an automatic sprinkler system to the basement garage would be of great value.  I'm not sure that an automatic sprinkler system in the garage only would reduce your overall home insurance rates, but your insurance agent should be able to answer that question.  According to the U.S. Fire Administration, most garage fires are caused by electrical problems such as shorts, damaged wiring, overloaded circuits etc.  Gas-fired appliances, such as water heaters, should not be located in garage areas where flammable fumes may accumulate.  As far as I'm concerned, the biggest bang for the buck when it comes to fire prevention in a garage or workshop is good housekeeping.

 

Cheers,

Grog

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Guys,

Thanks for all of the information.  It will help me make a decision pro or con but I do need to do some more homework and talk to an installer.  

 

Alan

 

 

 

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Alan, thanks for coming back!  

We're interested in how you progress, so as you

decide what your approach will be, please let us know.

 

Also, feel free to ask some more questions if you want to.

 

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Unfortunately, cost is almost always a consideration and as one approaches total protection (if there is such a thing when dealing with fire) the costs become astronomical, hence the need for risk assessment to determine an acceptable level of automated fire suppression.  What's the most likely thing to happen?  Probably a trash fire or one caused by an electrical malfunction while the shop is unattended.  A basic sprinkler system would be good in these cases to stop the fire quickly except if an electrical malfunction occurs inside a closed car where the water spray could not reach.  This is a good argument for a battery disconnect switch on all cars while not in use.  If any fire were to begin while the garage is occupied, most likely it would be quickly noticed and put out with a fire extinguisher before the sprinkler system could activate.  Only with a very rapidly spreading fire (think gasoline or other flammable liquid explosion) beyond the capacity of fire extinguishers would the sprinklers become operational and then their task then would be to offer the occupants an opportunity for egress and to save the remaining structure if possible depending upon the quantity of fuel feeding the fire.

 

An 1800 square foot shop would be relatively easy and inexpensive to protect with a basic sprinkler system, particularly because as an underground area it probably would not be exposed to freezing temperatures.  I would be surprised if any insurance company would knowingly allow automobile storage below a live occupancy without considerable fire rated sheathing for the walls and ceiling so that upgrade should be included in your cost analysis.  Concerns about water spreading a gasoline fire or increasing the intensity of an exotic metal fire are theoretically possible, but they must be relegated to those 1% or 2% of rare occurrences that are not feasible to economically protect against.

 

The job of a sprinkler system is to quickly put out a fire while it is small and particularly in those cases where its start might not be noticed due to the absence of observers. Once activated,  sprinkler head(s) will continue to spray until turned off, but water damage is usually  easier to correct that items lost to fire.  

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There was a fire near me earlier this week. A substantial {30 +} collection of restored muscle cars and other collectable post war cars. The loss is said to exceed 2 million for the cars and the very nice garage building.  The owner has stated he is reasonably well insured but at least 2 of the cars are 1 of 1 cars and therefore essentially irreplaceable.  A few of the cars might be repairable but the news coverage showed that most of them were burned to a crisp.  The owner was out of town at the time of the fire, and we live in a semi rural area so things probably were well involved by the time the Fire Department arrived.

  If a person has this sort of investment in cars and garage then some sort of fire protection is going to be a relatively small extra cost. The anguish of loosing a lifetime collection is beyond any additional cost. 

 

Greg in Canada

 

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Edited by 1912Staver (see edit history)

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Looking back on this thread, I don't think burglar alarm systems were mentioned.

 

The house we once owned with a fire sprinkler system also had a monitored burglar alarm system. When we bought the house there was a flow switch on the sprinkler system that triggered a bell on the side of the house. Period. If you weren't home you were relying on neighbors to become annoyed at the bell and call 911. In a rural area there might not be neighbors close enough to notice.

 

I enquired, and it turned out it was pretty easy to use a second set of contacts on the flow switch and a unused zone on the burglar alarm to allow remote reporting of the sprinkler system being activated. If I recall correctly, we put the sprinkler flow switch on a "always on" monitor so the general burglar alarm did not have to be armed for it to trigger the system in case of fire.

 

Anyway, if you have or are installing a general alarm system in that garage, you might want to check out integrating the sprinkler flow switch/alarm with your monitored alarm system.

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My Neighbor used to do auto repairs for customers in his garage behind his house. One day while lowering a gas tank to fix a fuel pump a drop fell onto a trouble light.  Even with two small fire extinguishers he had to flee. The garage was a total loss and also the two customers cars he was working on.  Of course being a non licensed home business he did not have commercial insurance. He had to pay both of the of the customers for their lost cars.  His home policy did cover the garage but he lost several thousand dollars for items depreciated or not covered.

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12 hours ago, plymouthcranbrook said:

My Neighbor used to do auto repairs for customers in his garage behind his house. One day while lowering a gas tank to fix a fuel pump a drop fell onto a trouble light.  Even with two small fire extinguishers he had to flee. The garage was a total loss and also the two customers cars he was working on. 

 

Same thing happened to a car dealership in Xenia, Ohio in the 80's when we were living in Dayton.  A technician was removing a gas tank and dropped it on the old style drop lights with a light bulb and it went into flames and burned the dealership down. I think one person died in the fire also, but not sure.  After that I got rid of all of the old style trouble lights I had and got a protected low voltage florescent drop light.  No more exposed light bulbs. 

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The new LED drop lights are safe and much brighter too... 

 

I bought a cordless one with a hook and magnet that worked nicely until I left it attached to the car during a test drive.  

Now I only have the charger...

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1 hour ago, Mark Shaw said:

The new LED drop lights are safe and much brighter too... 

 

I bought a cordless one with a hook and magnet that worked nicely until I left it attached to the car during a test drive.  

Now I only have the charger...

 

Similar story, I suspect the light is still under someone's hood or in some bilge somewhere.

One might think with these thousand hour lights it would have been noticed by now.

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