Fire sprinkler systems for HMO’s – any thoughts?

Fire sprinkler systems for HMO’s – any thoughts?

11:14 AM, 12th April 2013, About 9 years ago 50

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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!


Jon Champion



18:11 PM, 1st May 2013, About 9 years ago

From what I've heard, sprinkler systems have a pretty low accidental failure rate, so you wouldn't have to worry about them going off. But the expense of installation might be a little high, about the same as having a new carpet put in place. But, it shouldn't take too long, so your loss of rent wouldn't be very high. I guess you have to look at it from the perspective of potential water/fire damage from a sprinkler system, or the water/fire damage from a fire hose. I feel the choice there is pretty simple, but how would the sprinkler system affect the aesthetics of the rooms?

by Mark Hulbert

21:32 PM, 4th August 2013, About 8 years ago

Sprinkler systems avoid the need for fire doors, fire escapes, maximum distances from room to fire exit, smoke alarms etc. so large cost savings. They are triggered by heat rather than smoke, so burning the toast doesn't set them off - it requires a significant fire in the room to generate the temperature increase to trigger the nearest sprinkler. Other sprinklers in the same building (even in the same room) will not go off because the nearest sprinkler cools and therefore controls the fire until the fire brigade arrive. They should be mandatory in all buildings, especially in HMO's and especially 3-storey HMO's. Sprinkler systems are less expensive to fit than many people imagine - clearly it depends very much on building size, but £1000 - £3000 is a reasonable usual range. To prevent the landlord being liable for water damage, I think a clause in the tenancy agreement stating that fire/water damage in a person's room is the responsibility of the person renting (and therefore responsible for controlling guests/parties/other events in) that room.

by matchmade

22:27 PM, 4th August 2013, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Hulbert" at "04/08/2013 - 21:32":

I'm sorry Mark, but yours is an extreme position: retro-fittings of sprinklers in the nation's entire housing stock is impractical, unaffordable and would create the most appalling political storm. Most homeowners don't even service their boilers, let alone conduct annual gas safety checks as landlords have to, and many don't even have battery smoke alarms. Are you seriously proposing in a time of severe economic difficulties to force everyone to spend £1000-3000 on sprinkler systems?

I also object to your denigration of HMOs: most houseshares have 3-4 adults living in them and sharing a single kitchen, just like a married couple with teenage or adult children living at home. This is a completely different situation from bedsits, where each unit is self-contained with its own cooking facilities, and the authorities should distinguish between these before they start slapping ever-more-onerous restrictions on househares and killing off the supply of affordable rooms for single people.

by Mark Hulbert

22:32 PM, 5th August 2013, About 8 years ago

I didn't mean to imply that installing the best fire protection (= sprinklers) should be immediately mandatory, only that it is the direction in which we should be moving. This is to me self evident. I agree that immediate compulsion is clearly impossible.

The main thrust of my comment was to state that (e.g. should you find yourself renovating a building, especially a large HMO or where an expensive fire detection system is already mandatory, a sprinkler system is not prohibitively expensive and should be considered.

My comment in no way denigrated HMO's - please re-read. These forums do not need to contain any vitriol whatsoever.


22:45 PM, 5th August 2013, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Hulbert" at "05/08/2013 - 22:32":

If an HMO was to converted back to normal dwellings would a sprinkler system installation be an impediment to such conversion and affect values.
For purpose built original HMO fine; for conversions, not so sure!!?
Appreciate most LL would not wish to get rid of an MO; but Article 4 etc is becoming a real pain and LL might like to give up and reconvert to normal property types.

by Ian Ringrose

12:18 PM, 6th August 2013, About 8 years ago

At present the regulations for sprinkler systems seem to make them a lot more expensive than is needed.

Given that any HMO properly will always have a fire alarm system and a fire will most often start in a single room, I do not understand way a sprinkler system for a HMO has to be specified so that there is enough water flow for all the sprinklers to operate at the same time.

I like the mist type systems that use a lot less water, but can control all common fires for more the long enough for the fire brigade to rake over.

What if the cost of fitting sprinkler systems was halved, but it was 99% as effective – would we then be able to get lots more sprinkler systems fitted and therefore a lot more life’s saved…

by Heather Griffin

7:16 AM, 7th August 2013, About 8 years ago

That sprinkler system they want to put is a good idea. But I think they should plan it very well because installing this sprinkler system is not too easy. I suggest to consult first to the expert before buying and installing a sprinkler system. Hope it helps!

by Alan H

14:28 PM, 16th September 2013, About 8 years ago

HMOs are an interesting challenge for the sprinkler industry, because in many cases there's little or no construction work to tack the sprinkler installation onto (unlike a loft conversion or other major refurb projects). This means that the sprinkler system will come out several times more expensive than it would have in new build - sprinklers weren't designed for that. Domestic sprinklers often also need a tank which takes up quite a lot of space.

I don't think forcing sprinklers in all new homes makes a lot of sense, and the Fire Protection Association agrees. Fire safety in new homes is already pretty good in the UK and if we are going to mandate more sprinklers, it should be in high risk properties. The Welsh assembly government assessed the benefit of sprinklers in all new homes and found it to be hugely negative, saving only a few lives and at a huge cost. However they went ahead anyway. I hope England will not follow suit.

In HMOs the current LACoRS recommendations (which do have legal force) seem sensible to me. The main case I'm aware of where you need fire suppression is where the only viable escape route from one or more rooms passes through a living area (where there could be a fire). This is no different to modern building regs.

You can now get retrofittable sprinkler alternatives that suit this "inner room" problem well - these solutions use water mist, don't require a tank, are much quicker to fit, and are designed primarily for single room use. Try googling for retrofittable sprinkler alternatives - there are several competitors on the market. Oxford has quite a lot of three storey open plan town house HMOs using these systems.

by Paul Goulder

18:21 PM, 16th September 2013, About 8 years ago

I'm finding it impossible to purchase sprinkler sets to fit into flats. Does anyone know where I could go to?

by Alan H

22:30 PM, 16th September 2013, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Paul Goulder" at "16/09/2013 - 18:21":

Paul, I'd have thought that in new build almost any residential sprinkler company can do it. In retrofit/conversion you probably want to look at alternatives like water mist devices (e.g. Automist) or even fire curtains.

The layout that you can achieve and how many rooms you need fire suppression in will depend on who's assessing your project. For HMO use it may come down to how flexible and confident your environmental health / housing officer is. They might be willing to look at a fire engineer's report (commissioned by you) if you are doing something unusual. For building regs purposes what you can achieve will depend on whether you are with LABC or a private sector approved inspector, and how much fire engineering homework that approved inspector has done. For example BS9991 says that open plan flats above first floor need fire suppression in all habitable rooms, but often you may be allowed suppression in just the open plan living area.

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