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Commercial Fire Sprinkler Code Requirements

Fire sprinkler systems are one of the most effective ways to protect a commercial building and its occupants during a fire, and in California, they are required for any newly built or remodeled facility with a fire area of over 5,000 square feet in size.

The California Fire Code lays out the specifications for fire sprinkler installations, inspections, maintenance, and more. Suppose you own or operate a commercial facility anywhere in California. In that case, it is good practice to familiarize yourself with both the California Fire Code and your local fire sprinkler code regulations.

Fire Sprinkler Code Regulations

The California Fire Code is based on the International Fire Code, with additions from the California Code of Regulations that refer to NFPA 25 and NFPA 13. Developed by the National Fire Protection Association, NFPA 25 details the requirements for the inspection, testing, and maintenance of water-based fire protection systems, while NFPA 13 details the standards for fire sprinkler installation.

According to these codes, any commercial building with a fire area larger than 5,000 square feet that is newly constructed or recently remodeled must have a fire sprinkler system installed, along with any facilities that are 55 feet tall or above. Fire area refers to the floor space enclosed by the exterior walls of a building, fire walls, fire barriers, or fire-rated horizontal assemblies.

What Type of Systems Do Commercial Buildings Need?

Most commercial buildings will use a wet pipe system, where the pipes that supply the fire sprinklers are always full of water, allowing a fast response to a fire when necessary. In areas that are not heated or are prone to freezing, dry pipe systems may be necessary.

In sensitive areas like data centers or museums where water could cause irreparable harm to the contents of the building, a dry pipe pre-action system is used to release the water only after a series of conditions are met. For the most sensitive areas, pre-action systems with inert gases can be used instead of water to extinguish the fire, significantly reducing the chance of damage to materials inside the building.

In areas where materials like fuel, chemicals, or explosives are stored, a deluge system will be necessary to instantly flood the area with water in the event of a fire. This prevents the fire from spreading quickly and igniting other flammable substances nearby.

How Often Do Commercial Fire Sprinklers Need To Be Tested?

Under the California Fire Code, most components of a fire sprinkler system must be inspected under the same intervals as the NFPA 25 2011 edition, including annual inspection of fire sprinklers, pipes, fittings, hangers, and seismic bracing.

But for certain tests, the California Fire Code differs from NFPA 25. The timelines for these tests include:

  • Quarterly: Quarterly inspections and testing should be done for spare sprinklers, gauges on wet-pipe systems, and gauges on dry, pre-action, or deluge systems.
  • Annually: Waterflow alarm and supervisory devices, vane-type, and pressure-switch-type waterflow alarms, and mechanical waterflow alarms should be tested and inspected annually.

If accessible, five-year inspections are recommended for sprinklers, pipes and fittings, hangers, and seismic bracing in concealed spaces.

Benefits of Having a Fire Sprinkler System in Northern California

Commercial fire sprinklers can automatically act to limit the spread of a fire, protecting everyone inside and the building itself.

This can provide several benefits for the business, including:

  • Faster reaction to a fire
  • Limiting the spread and heat of the fire
  • Significantly reducing the amount of damage incurred
  • Controlling the fire until first responders can arrive

Fire Sprinkler Installation & Inspections in Northern California

Foothill Fire Protection works hard to meet the unique needs of our clients, delivering quality products on time and on budget while maintaining the highest safety standards.

We offer fire sprinkler installation and replacement, as well as complete fire sprinkler inspection and testing to ensure your commercial building has the best protection possible.

To schedule fire sprinkler installation, inspections, and testing in Northern California, call Foothill Fire Protection today at (916) 663-3582 or contact us online.


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