Fire sprinkler systems for HMO’s – any thoughts?

by Readers Question

11:14 AM, 12th April 2013
About 7 years ago

Fire sprinkler systems for HMO’s – any thoughts?

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Fire sprinkler systems for HMO’s – any thoughts?

Fire sprinkler systems for HMO's - any thoughtsWe have a 3 storey Georgian terrace that we let as an 8 bed student property. All the ceilings are old lath an plaster, but in order to meet current standards, we should really board over every ceiling with plasterboard, incurring a massive cost, and also ruining much of the character of the rooms by removing the traditional cornicing.
We then have the issue of the old wallpapered walls which would be ruined at the top by removing the cornicing. Add to this the disruption to the tenants/loss of rent while the work is being done, decorating, cleaning up, the list goes on.

We can avoid all of this by putting in a sprinkler system, but how much will this cost? Does anyone have experience of installing a sprinkler system in an older property, would you recommend it? It would immediately solve all our issues, and even mean no more fire doors and auto closers.

It seems like a no brainer!

Regards

Jon Champion



Comments

Lee Pye

16:25 PM, 12th April 2013
About 7 years ago

Regardless of any regulatory issues of taking this path, I think it is a recipe for disaster !

The damage caused by the discharge of sprinklers would be tremendous and would leave you open to all sorts of claims for the tenants' personal possessions, every time the sprinklers go off. Given the nature of student lets on the whole, I cannot help but think that this would be frequently.

The cynic in me thinks that every time one of them has a broken iPad, laptop, tv or anything else for that matter, the sprinklers would be mysteriously activated. Much in the same way it would by somebody 'having a laugh' when there's a house party in full flow ! That of course doesn't even include the times when one of the tenants accidentally sets fire to the toaster or leaves the oven on and the door open etc...etc.

I'd be interested to see what path you eventually take, but if it was me, I'd be taking the pain of the ceiling upgrade now and not having to live with sprinkler issues forever. Maybe you could even incorporate some degree of sound proofing into the scheme as well if your budget would stretch to that ?

Lee Pye

Mark Crampton Smith

17:10 PM, 12th April 2013
About 7 years ago

What happens when one of your tenants burns the toast?

Gilly

17:55 PM, 12th April 2013
About 7 years ago

Be thankful you do not live in Wales, otherwise you would have no choice. These sprinkler systems are becoming law after September of 2013 in any new build or major renovation project (personally I am going to stop doing them after this time.) This is all because one woman (I am sorry to say, as I normally favour women in positions of power) who used to be with the Fire Brigade, decided in her wisdom to pursue this path. A consulation document notes that the cost and improvement in statistics for deaths is minimal, but depite this damning result, the legislation went ahead and good old Wales proves yet again that they are the first to insist on even more legislation at a time when they are crying out for more private sector accommodation. Some strange statistic has been bandied about that it will possibly save 8 lives a year - rather less than lightening attacks I believe.

Forgive my sarcasm, but although I thoroughly applaud safety and high standards for rented accommodation, I really believe that it is going too far. My tenants are living in much safer conditions than I live, or any of my friends for that matter and although statistics continue to suggest that tenants in 3 story houses are six times more likely to die in house fires, I have read in various documents or fire safety that this is completely untrue and you are now more at risk in a single family home. This is especially so since no smoking regulations and the legality of gas certificates, since when no comprehensive report has been issued.

I have been told by various experts at recent landlord meetings that the cost enviseaged by the Welsh Assembly will be about £1500 but if that avoids changing Victorian doors, alarm systems etc there can be a saving. However, the Water board are now insisting on special connection measures which will cost a further £1500! I made some enquires some time ago, as I wanted to keep my beloved doors and the cost without the water board problems appeared to be more in the region of £3000. (By the way I kept my doors without installing sprinklers, after going to a tribunal, as there is a little used regulation of low risk housing which many hmos fall into - do look it up).

The only plus point is that they do look fine - quite unobtrusive, smaller than smoke alarms and probably wouldn't be noticed by most tenants. They operate separately in an individual room - rather than it appears on tv programmes where everything is deluged. Many companies in Wales have already fitted them in readiness and the cost has improved. It is just this sort of thing for which grants should be available (and preferably not paid for out of reduced utility bills - as with the Green deal, which again I would not countenance - I just get on and install these measures myself at my own cost - call me foolish, but I really can't be bothered and can rarely wait for it all to happen). Any fire officer thinks they are fab.

OOoooh that feels better - a lot lighter in the upper torso region......

Mark Alexander

18:04 PM, 12th April 2013
About 7 years ago

@Gilly - I'm pleased that our forum has been a place for you to vent and thank you to you and Lee for making this thread a very interesting thread.

Tom Doolin

18:05 PM, 12th April 2013
About 7 years ago

Jon. If you have high ceilings then you may be able leave the original ones where they are to protect their architectural integrity. Get your builder to put a timber framework about 10cm below the coving. Fix the plaster boarding to this frame and have it skimmed. I have done this in a number of properties. I've been charged around £300 all in for ceilings of approx 16 sq m.

Yvonne B.

18:50 PM, 12th April 2013
About 7 years ago

DON'T PANIC - I had the same problem - there's a fairly easy and cheap solution.

I believe the fire regulation is to make the fire proofing between flats 1/2 hour.

You can acheive this by overboarding your floorboards in the rooms above with basic cheap hardboard! This achieves your 1/2 hour and is very good for carpeting straight over!

Yvonne B.

18:59 PM, 12th April 2013
About 7 years ago

Please find below details from;

http://www.north-herts.gov.uk/guide_to_fire_protection_in_homes_in_multiple_occupation.pdf

6E: The Upgrading of Floors and Ceilings
The floor and ceiling construction between floor levels in any house in multiple occupation must
be able to resist the spread of smoke and flame from any fire.
1/2 Hour Fire Resistance
Confirm construction to be a minimum of 25mm square edge softwood boarding on 75mm x
50mm (7” x 2”) softwood joists under drawn with 16mm (3/8”) lath and plaster in sound condition.
Over lay all floorboards above ground floor with minimum 4mm dense hardboard to total floor area.
Further information is available in Building Research Establishment Digest 208,
“Increasing the Fire Resistance of Existing Timber Floors.”
Other specifications are available and reference can be made to manufacturers’ detailed specifications if supported by detailed fire test documentation.

Chris

20:44 PM, 12th April 2013
About 7 years ago

I would challenge the comment that says 'it would only save 8 lives a year".
If it was his child/brother,friend, that was saved, I guess he would not think it such a trivial survival rate.
And comparing a fire, which is usually started by occupants, to random acts of lightning strikes, shows a gross misunderstanding of the situation.

Sprinklers are normally hidden from view and protected by a thin covering.It would take flames of a certain ferocity to melt the cover and activate the sprinkler. If this was to happen I would suggest that computers and personal possesions are pretty much history any way, so again this seems a mute point to make.

They are not set off by ovens being opened, or candles burning ect ect.

The amount of water that is dispersed is not as drastic as people think. There may be some water damage to rooms below but again I would make the point that this is a far more acceptable situation to be in, than letting a fire burn unchecked and possibly killing someone, while awaiting the fire brigade, who will spill thousands of gallons of water onto a fire anyway.

At the end of the day fire is rare, but that is no reason not to be ready for it and the devastating effects on your tenants and the aftermath that will effect your business.

If there is a fire there is going to be smoke damage.There is going to be water damage. Some insurance companies offer discounts for properties with a sprinkler system.

There has never been a death in a property with a fully functioning sprinkler system.That is a pretty impressive statistic.
Much more interesting than people killed by lightning strikes each year.

If you are in the business of housing people, whether you like it or can afford it, you are also in the business of protecting those people to the best of your ability! FACT!
There are other ways of making your property meet fire regs so I would always look at those first but for complete peace of mind sprinkler systems cant be beaten.

The only way things get better and safer is by pushing the boundaries.

Yvonne B.

21:08 PM, 12th April 2013
About 7 years ago

Envirograf also do a fire retardent paint which you can paint onto lath & plaster ceiling to achieve 1 hour fire resistance.

Paint is expensive but labour is cheap and minimum disruption to tenant, you can just plastic sheet their stuff, no need to move everything out.

http://www.envirograf.com/brochures/Fire_protection_coatings.pdf

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Mark Alexander

21:34 PM, 12th April 2013
About 7 years ago

@Yvonne, I spent quite a lot of money modernising my home a few years ago and even went do far as adding air conditioning. No sprinkler system though. Have you had one installed in your home and if not may I ask why not?

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