Mary is the owner of a small retail store located in a commercial building. One morning, as she is opening the store, she notices a small puddle of water on the floor under a fire sprinkler. She initially thinks it might be just a minor leak and decides to clean it up with a mop. However, as she investigates further, she realizes that the water is coming from the fire sprinkler system and that it is a much bigger problem than she initially thought.
In this scenario, the best thing she can do is contact a fire sprinkler contractor like the professionals at Legion Fire Protection! We can guide you through the steps to either close the valve or other temporary solutions until we can arrive on the scene.
What causes fire sprinklers to leak?
When it comes to a leak in your fire sprinkler system, the cause is usually due to corrosion, physical damage, equipment failure and freezing temperatures.
Black steel pipe is the most common type of pipe material used in most commercial fire sprinkler systems. NFPA 13 lists copper tubing as another option for piping material in sprinkler systems, while certain types of sprinkler systems allow the use of plastic pipes such as CPVC and PEX tubing.
Corrosion can become a costly problem for fire sprinkler systems. Corrosion leads to leakage which in turn can lead to an impaired system. Corrosion can affect your fire sprinkler heads, piping as well as any accessories used to hang the pipes.
Piping: Susceptible to pinhole leaks or rust buildup limiting the flow of water.
Fire Sprinkler Heads: Corrosion can clog the water discharge orifice, affect the deflector and discharge pattern, or completely seal the plug, preventing water from reaching the fire.
Additionally, components such as piping hangers and fittings can also be affected by corrosion, leading to further issues in the system's functioning.
Corrosion can affect both wet and dry pipe sprinkler systems. Exposure to oxygen is one reason for this phenomenon, while another cause is Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion (MIC), which is an aggressive and rapid form of corrosion instigated by bacteria.
Accidental or Malicious Damage
The pipes and heads of fire sprinklers can be damaged by warehouse equipment, such as forklifts or any other heavy machinery. Carrying tall objects in short spaces without being cautious of your surroundings may also cause you to accidentally nick a low hanging fire sprinkler head. We’ve had calls from home owners that were doing home renovations that accidentally caused damage to their system in the process as well.
Failing to inspect and maintain your system can cause noticeable signs of untreated corrosion damage to become a bigger problem. Keeping a routine inspection & maintenance schedule is crucial. Not only do you keep your property safe, but you are staying within local codes.
A prevalent issue that can cause leaks in fire sprinkler systems involves o-ring seals and the presence of contaminants in the water, which can lead to corrosion and leakage. Over-tightening of sprinkler heads or fittings can also result in leaks in the system.
Although wet fire sprinkler systems are typically installed in buildings where the temperature remains above 50 degrees, certain situations can leave them vulnerable to freezing. For example, if a portion of the wet system extends to an unheated attic, storage area, or garage exposed to the elements.
Adding antifreeze to the water in your wet pipe system can reduce the freezing point of the water inside which will reduce the risk of the pipes freezing.
Unlike a wet system where the pipes are full of water, a dry fire sprinkler system's pipes do not require antifreeze since they contain air. However, the presence of moisture in the air can cause condensation in the system's low points, which could potentially freeze and cause the pipes to burst.
So you’ve discovered a leak
If you’re in Southern California and you’ve noticed a leak coming from your fire sprinkler system, it is best to call a professional to advise you on how to proceed. Upon discovering a leak in your fire sprinkler system, it is crucial to identify the cause of the leak and determine if evacuation of the building is necessary. Water can create a hazardous environment, as it may cause electrical components to short-circuit or even spark a fire in your facility.
Our professional technicians will be able to help you evaluate your situation. If a substantial amount of water is flowing out of your system, shutting off the water supply to the facility may be required to prevent water damage. Even if the leak appears to be minor, it is wise to verify pressure gauges according to the manufacturer's instructions to identify additional leaks in the piping circuit.
How much does it cost to fix a leaking fire sprinkler?
The cost of your repair will be determined by the amount of damage that has accumulated and caused the leak in the first place. Sometimes only a small portion of pipe needs to be replaced which can be done much quicker and economically. But on the flip side, if long time neglect and insufficient maintenance of your system has degenerated and compromised the ability of your fire sprinkler system to do its job, the cost of repair will be much higher.
Legion Fire Protection in Southern California has over 2 decades of experience. As a professionally licensed C16 contractor, our technicians are prepared for any situation when it comes to fire sprinkler repairs or other services. We are happy to help you get on the right track with a regular maintenance schedule in order to prevent any leaks from occuring in the future.
Contact us today and see what we can do for you! Serving Orange County, Los Angeles County, Riverside County & San Diego County.