DIY: Fire Sprinklers

Written by jennifer alyson
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DIY: Fire Sprinklers
Protective cages save low-ceiling sprinklers from bumps and damage. (Hemera Technologies/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Smoke detectors may be the first line of defence in the fight against house fires, but experts increasingly call for added ammunition against home blazes. Smoke detectors aren't operational in 20 per cent of all homes with smoke detectors, and many other homes simply have too few of the detectors to alert homeowners quickly. That's where fire sprinklers pick up the slack: Such systems typically cut average property losses and the odds of dying in a fire by 50 to 65 per cent.

Skill level:
Challenging

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Things you need

  • Water pressure gauge
  • Tape measure
  • Saw
  • Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) pipe, ¾-inch diameter
  • Rotary cutter
  • Pipe connectors
  • Elbow pipe joints
  • Pipe fasteners
  • Metal pipe
  • Power crimping tool
  • Boring tool
  • Pipe cement
  • Steel sprinkler-head nipples
  • Soldering gun
  • Solder
  • Thread sealant
  • Sprinkler heads
  • Sprinkler-head adaptors
  • Water sealant

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Instructions

    Preparation

  1. 1

    Check your area's building and fire codes. Some communities ban non-certified homeowners from installing fire sprinkler systems and require that a professional contractor handle the job.

  2. 2

    Test your home's water pressure by attaching a water pressure gauge to an outside faucet. The pressure should measure at least 45.4kg. per square inch. You may need to install an additional water tank and pump if your home's water pressure is too weak for a sprinkler system.

  3. 3

    Walk through your home to determine key areas for sprinkler-head placement. Concentrate on fire-prone areas, such as the kitchen, as well as bedrooms and enclosed spaces that allow smoke to build, including stairways and closets.

  4. 4

    Pinpoint where the sprinkler system's water pipes will run, noting the location of electrical gear, including switch boxes and circuit panels. Look for closets or other hidden interior areas to house pipe and limit cutting into walls.

  5. 5

    Measure the distances between your chosen sprinkler-head sites to determine pipe lengths.

  6. 6

    Sketch your measurements and designs on paper.

  7. 7

    Cut ¾-inch diameter chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) pipe into sections that match your plan's specified lengths.

    Installation

  1. 1

    Shut off your home's main water valve.

  2. 2

    Install CPVC pipe on the bottom floor, where your home links to the municipal water supply or to water supplied from your well, pond or other on-property water source. Place piping and connectors through the home according to your blueprint, cutting walls with a rotary cutter.

  3. 3

    Install metal pipe in exposed areas such as closets. Seal joints with a power crimping tool.

  4. 4

    Bore a ¾-inch hole in ceilings and floors with a boring tool to move the sprinkler system from floor to floor. Link pipes with pipe cement. Place a steel sprinkler-head nipple at the end of each section or where you plan to put sprinkler heads.

  5. 5

    Bore holes in ceilings under sprinkler-head nipples. Solder a sprinkler-head adaptor to the nipple. Dress the head with thread sealant, and screw the sprinkler head onto the adaptor.

  6. 6

    Turn on the main water supply to test the sprinkler system. Apply water sealant where you see droplets along the pipes.

Tips and warnings

  • Mount sprinkler heads on side walls if you don't want to cut open a ceiling.
  • Run pipes through closets or other relatively hidden interior rooms for easier installation and to cut down on damage to walls and ceilings.
  • Conceal pipes installed outside of walls with crown moulding.
  • Screw protective cages over sprinkler heads on side walls and low ceilings to protect the sprinkler heads from bumps.

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