Author(s): Russell Fleming. Published on September 1, 2011.

Revamping, Remodeling, and Reinstallation
Should a sprinkler be taken out of a system and returned to service in the same system?

NFPA Journal®, September/October 2011 

Among the curiosities of NFPA 13, Installation of Sprinkler Systems, are the two small Sections and in the 2010 edition, two small sections that address "revamping" pipe schedule and hydraulically designed sprinkler systems. When NFPA 13 is translated into other languages, a term such as "remodeling" or "renovating" is presumably substituted. The term "revamping" has its origins in shoe repair, when a shoe was provided with a new vamp, the forepart of a shoe or boot that covers the foot behind the toecap.


July - August 2011
A discussion of the "small room rule"

May - June 2011
Sprinkler protection of ductwork with combustible contents

March - April 2011
NFPA 13 and maximum time limits for audible alarms

January - February 2011
Meeting minimum-temperature requirements for wet-pipe systems

November - December 2010
Opinion should never be accepted in lieu of informed consensus judgement 

September - October 2010
Distinguishing between an 'obstruction inspection' and an 'obstruction investigation'

The sections in NFPA 13 dealing with revamping have been in place for decades and originated as part of a rule addressing return bends: "In revamping existing systems, where it is not necessary to retain sprinklers in the concealed space, ½-inch or ¾-inch close nipples inserted in the existing sprinkler fittings may be used with 1-inch pipe and fittings for the other portions of the return bend."

As such, revamping in NFPA 13 came to be associated with one particular type of renovation: the changing of upright sprinklers to pendent sprinklers located below a new ceiling. This type of renovation was popular in the mid-twentieth century. Today, however, it is probably more common to see renovations involving the removal of ceilings to expose the underlying structure.

Basically, the special revamping rules allow the use of a short pipe nipple with the same diameter of the upright sprinkler being removed to accommodate a new armover without a change to branch line fittings. All other piping and fittings must be a minimum of one-inch (25-millimeter) steel pipe or ¾-inch (20-millimeter) copper tube per the usual rules of the standard. There is concern for the physical strength of this small nipple in areas subject to earthquakes, so it is not permitted to be less than one inch in diameter.

Obviously, there are many other types of system remodeling and other special rules. One of the major accommodations of the standard to the possibility of future system changes is the permission to use "minimum 1-inch (25-millimeter) outlets fitted with hexagonal bushings to accommodate sprinklers attached directly to branch line fittings to allow for future system modifications."

As the 2013 edition of NFPA 13 is being prepared, a proposed change addresses an issue important to modification and remodeling efforts: the question of whether a sprinkler can be taken out of a system and then returned to service in the same system. While Section 6.2.1 of the standard requires that only new sprinklers be installed in systems, it has long been industry practice to allow sprinklers to be re-installed in the system following a minor piping change, provided the sprinklers were carefully handled and did not leave the room.

Under new proposed language, an existing sprinkler removed for purposes of internal pipe inspection or to drain or relocate a drop will be permitted to be re-installed, provided it has not been damaged during removal or re-installation. Before such sprinklers are re-installed, they will have to be examined to ensure there are no deposits or residue in the sprinkler orifice that would affect sprinkler activation or water flow through the orifice.

By clarifying the limited circumstances under which sprinklers can be re-installed, the committee is simultaneously indicating its intent that only new sprinklers be installed following all other changes involving revamping or remodeling of sprinkler systems. The automatic sprinklers are obviously the key component in a fire sprinkler system, and it is important that any changes to the system do not inadvertently compromise performance.

Russell P. Fleming, P.E., is the executive vice-president of the National Fire Sprinkler Association.