Paint and Sprinkler Heads Don’t Mix

Spring has sprung and for facilities looking to remodel, redecorate, or revamp their look this Spring, repainting walls and ceilings is a standard “go-to” solution. A fresh coat of paint in a new color can make an old space look brand new again.

Before painting, stop and read this!

Don’t let that fresh coat of paint create more challenges and costly headaches for you! In our experience, many facility managers, designers, and painters, while focused on the fresh look, miss the mark on safety compliance. Unintended painting of fire sprinkler heads places the facility and occupants at risk while creating a code compliance issue that is certainly not inexpensive to resolve.

Your fire sprinkler system is a network of pipes filled with either pressurized water or air. In many cases, the piping is located behind walls and above ceilings, with each exposed sprinkler head connected to this system of pipes. In the event of a fire, the sprinkler head is activated by heat rising above a certain pre-set temperature with water being released from the pipes to the head to extinguish or control the flames. The most important part of the fire sprinkler head is the colored glass bulb within the head. As temperatures rise during a fire, the chemicals in the bulb cause it to break, which allows the valve stem above the bulb to drop, releasing water from the pipes and out through the head.

If the sprinkler head is painted, the paint insulates the glass bulb, ultimately preventing it from breaking at the pre-set temperature or, even worse, sealing the valve – preventing it from dropping after the bulb breaks. This, in turn prevents water from being released from the sprinkler head to extinguish or control a fire and places the facility and its occupants at a great and unnecessary risk.

Additionally, remedying a painted sprinkler head is not an easy or inexpensive fix. If painted sprinkler heads are discovered during your annual sprinkler inspection, they will be marked as deficiencies. As directed in NFPA 25 Section, painted sprinkler heads cannot be cleaned and must be replaced. This requires our certified sprinkler technicians to drain down your fire sprinkler system and replace every painted head. This process is time consuming, inconvenient, and costly for you.

So, as you gear up to freshen up this Spring, be sure that you communicate with your designers and painters ahead of time to ensure that sprinkler heads remain untouched – especially if your painter intends to use a paint sprayer to cover a large area at one time.

If you would like additional helpful tips or should you discover that your sprinkler heads have been compromised by paint or if you’d like The Life Safety Professionals at Integrated Fire Protection to inspect your fire sprinkler or other fire and life safety system, please call us at (770) 458-8828!