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Sprinkler System Installation and Repair – What Restaurant Owners Need to Know

Restaurants produce all the ingredients necessary for dangerous fire, which can cause damage to the business and put staff and customers at risk. Restaurant owners intent on protecting their investment should ensure they have the most advanced fire sprinkler systems installed and ready to act at all times.

A fire sprinkler system uses water or a wet-chemical solution to extinguish fire the moment flames or smoke become apparent. To ensure the sprinkler system activates whenever it’s required, restaurant owners need to make sure the systems are always installed with careful attention-to-detail.   

Yet, even with a state-of-the-art fire sprinkler system installed, things may go awry at a moment’s notice. That’s why it pays to invest in fire sprinkler repair, as well.

Here is all you need to know about restaurant fire sprinkler installation and repair to keep your business, staff, and customers safe at all times.

Types of Fire Sprinklers

So that you can employ the necessary fire protection, you should be aware of the different types of fire sprinklers you have to select from.

Deluge Sprinkler Systems

These fire sprinkler systems are activated by specialized fire alarms. Once smoke or fire is detected and the alarm sounds, the valves on the sprinkler system will open automatically, releasing water to extinguish the fire. Once the water flows, the system must be turned off manually, as it will not shut off on its own.

Deluge sprinklers are commonly used in areas where fires could easily escape and grow out of control, such as high-rise windows and warehouse bay entries.

Dry Pipe Fire Sprinklers

These sprinkler systems don’t use water to put out fires. Instead, dry pipe implies that the system uses nitrogen gas or pressurized air. The system first seeks to detect fire, whereby the heads will open, releasing the gas.

Once the gas is expelled, a valve will open to allow water to flow out of the sprinkler heads. While it is true that there is a slight delay in the discharge of water, these systems can be useful in areas where water is susceptible to freezing if kept inside the pipes.

Pre-Action Fire Sprinkler Systems

These fire sprinkler models use a combination of dry pipe and wet pipe systems. Water isn’t stored in the pipes until the heat of the fire is detected. Once activated, the device will open a valve that allows water to flow into the system before the heads actually open.

Once the heads open, the sprinkler system will spray quickly to extinguish any fire in its path.

Pre-action sprinklers are ideal for areas that are at high-risk for serious water damage in the off-chance that the sprinklers are activated accidentally, such as if someone smokes cigarettes near the system.

Wet Pipe Fire Sprinklers

These are among the most common types of fire sprinklers on the market. With this type of unit, water is stored in the pipe, whereby the liquid is released once the heads detect fire or heat.

Wet pipe sprinklers are preferred by many restaurant owners because they activate instantly, which means there is little to no lag time between the moment the heads open and the time water is pushed out.

Which Sprinkler Systems Work Best for Restaurants?

In a commercial kitchen atmosphere, where high heat and open flames often mix with grease and oil, fire can quickly grow out of control. For this reason, it’s recommended that you employ a mixture of both water and wet-chemical fire sprinkler systems for best results.

While automatic water sprinklers can act quickly to put out fires, these basic systems can’t do enough to address the fire protection needs of restaurant cooking appliances, hoods, and ducts.

Wet-chemical systems, on the other hand, are tested for performance, which means that they can quickly extinguish fires caused by grease, oils, and fats without splashing or re-igniting cooking grease.

By using both water and wet-chemical fire extinguishers, your restaurant will be considered code-compliant as far as the NFPA is concerned.

Common Sprinkler Installation Mistakes

You should never attempt a do-it-yourself sprinkler system. Likewise, you should never hire a general contractor to install your fire protection systems. Here are some common mistakes committed by restaurant owners who try the DIY or otherwise money-saving approach to fire sprinkler installation.

  • Wrong Pipe Diameter

A sprinkler system must be installed with the proper piping so as to allow adequate water flow. It’s a common error to install the sprinklers with pipes that are too small, which can lead to system dysfunction when it matters most. If the sprinkler is unable to push out the correct amount of water, any fires that result may linger, leading to unpreventable damage and potential loss of life.

Instead, ensure that all restaurant water sprinklers are installed with the proper equipment to allow the proper pressure and flow rate. Following the manufacturer’s suggestions, which are based on applicable fire codes, is key so that the system can provide the pressure and flow rate required to extinguish the fire properly.

  • Selecting the Wrong Location

Sprinkler systems are designed to extinguish fire from a certain height. While it does make sense to want to position your sprinklers as high as possible, it’s a common mistake to install the system too close to the ceiling. However, mounting a sprinkler too high might mean that the pressure isn’t enough to extinguish the fire properly, leading to major problems if a fire ever does break out.

Instead, ensure the sprinklers are installed at the height specified by the manufacturer for optimum performance.

  • Altering the Sprinkler Model in the Design Documents

A contractor may be tempted to switch out the model number of the sprinkler system to save costs. However, sprinkler models are specific and cannot be changed out easily like light bulbs. Each model of sprinkler has a unique piping requirement, pressure and flow rate. For the sprinklers to act when needed, the model listed in the design documents should be used with no exceptions.

  • Not Thinking About Sprinkler Obstructions

When installing your sprinkler system, be aware of any obstacles that can disrupt the flow of water. While it is true that most sprinklers are designed using empty floor plan layouts, eventually the rooms will be filled with furniture and decorations. Be cognizant of any items that may be placed in front of the sprinkler heads at any time, which can disrupt the system’s normal water flow.

  • Including Components That Aren’t Code-Compliant

It’s an unfortunate but common occurrence that contractors like to add valves to sprinklers, which seem like harmless pieces of equipment. However, if the valves are ever closed accidentally, they may block the flow of water, which means that fire can be allowed to ravage out of control.

Proper Maintenance Can Prevent Repairs Before they Happen

Ideally, you will have your fire sprinkler system maintained on a regular basis. This helps to keep your system charged and ready to act when needed. Proper maintenance can also prevent many common repair issues that can put you in a pickle if flames ever do rear their ugly head. If your sprinklers don’t act when necessary, a blaze could quickly get out of hand, shutting your business down and putting others at risk.

Instead, have a maintenance team check for issues before your system malfunctions or breaks down completely. These maintenance and service checks will usually begin with testing. By putting your sprinkler heads and all associated components through a series of compliance checks, you can ensure that your system will always be ready to act fast.

How Sprinkler Systems are Tested

You should always have your sprinkler system inspected by professionals to ensure NFPA compliance. When you call a crew to your location, those individuals will begin by inspecting and testing your sprinkler heads, paying special attention to each head’s position, condition, and legible signage.

Next, the crew will conduct flow tests to ensure water is easily accessible from nearby fire pumps, standpipes, and fire hydrants.

If your restaurant fire protection system is connected to an alarm, each component of your alarm system will be tested, including the speakers to ensure you’re always notified at the slightest hint of fire.

Every aspect of your sprinkler system will be tested thoroughly, including all accompanying valves, deluge valves, solenoids, pilot lines, and strainers.

If your sprinkler system does malfunction, here is how to troubleshoot and perform the necessary repairs.

Common Sprinkler System Repairs

Broken Sprinkler Heads:

Water or wet-chemicals may flow to the sprinkler heads, but nothing will be expelled to extinguish the fire if those components are faulty. Ideally, a restaurant fire suppression test will reveal the problem of faulty heads before a breakout of fire occurs. However, in the case of broken or malfunctioning heads, these can simply be replaced by a professional sprinkler repair service.

It is not recommended that you install your sprinkler heads all on your own, which is tempting for many business owners trying to save money. A professional repair service will have the exact model parts you need for the type of restaurant sprinkler system your business employs.

Leaky Pipes:

Proper testing of your sprinkler system should also help to identify leaks in your piping, no matter how small. When your sprinkler system was installed, the manufacturer recommended a certain pressure of water or wet-chemical flow. Even the tiniest of cracks can depressurize your sprinkler system, resulting in a unit that will likely malfunction when called upon to act.

Leaky pipes can be repaired or entire pipes replaced by professional repair services. This ensures your sprinklers are always pressurized and that the exact amount of water or chemical can be used to extinguish the fire before it spreads.

Faulty Hangers:

Sprinkler systems are installed so that they are easily accessible and perfectly positioned to extinguish a fire where it’s likely to start, such as on a stovetop surface. Faulty hangers can kick the system out of position, resulting in water or wet-chemicals that don’t hit where they should, once again allowing a fire to spread.

Assembly Issues:

If heads aren’t attached correctly, piping isn’t threaded as it should be, or your alarm system has frayed wires that cause it to be disconnected from your fire sprinkler system, your restaurant could be in trouble. A professional restaurant fire protection service crew can fix, replace, and tighten all components so that your system always performs as expected.

Sprinkler System Replacement:

In some cases, your entire restaurant fire suppression system will need to be replaced, particularly if it’s older. If you do have an outdated system, your local fire inspector will probably recommend that you upgrade at some point. The fire inspector may even have specific models you need to select, including both water and wet-chemical systems.

A professional repair service will be able to replace your entire system, putting your restaurant into full fire protection mode.

Get a Restaurant Fire Suppression System You Can Count On

To keep your restaurant protected from dangerous and deadly fire, ensure that your sprinkler system is always installed by trained and experienced professionals. You’ll want to make sure you avoid the most common installation mistakes, which include attempting to install the system yourself. Even if you try to save money by hiring a general contractor, there’s no guarantee that the installation will adhere to the local fire code.

Even with proper installation, your system could malfunction at some point. That’s why proper maintenance and regular testing of your restaurant fire suppression system is key to preventing many issues. If your system does break down, you now know how to troubleshoot and identify common problems that can be fixed quickly by a pro repair service.

However, keep in mind that sprinkler systems are only one aspect of a restaurant’s fire suppression system. You also have vent hoods, fans, make-up air systems, and your fire alarm.

Ensure that your business is always well-protected by calling Nationwide Fire Protection, where our professional fire suppression installation and repair personnel are ready to be dispatched to your location throughout the areas of Denver, Colorado and Los Angeles, California.

For fire sprinkler system installation and repair, and fire protection you can always count on, call Nationwide Fire Protection for a free quote.