Standardization of Residential Riser Assemblies

by V.C. “Digger” Weigand of Victory Fire Protection, Inc.

As the demand for Residential Fire Sprinkler systems has grown in our area of the country, it has quickly become one-third of our business at Victory Fire Protection, Inc.

We are now doing on average over 250 residential systems annually; this includes Town Homes, average sized homes in suburban developments, and semi-custom and custom homes – some of these, based on their size and contract value, approach the scope of small commercial work.

Although no two houses are exactly the same, I have come to the conclusion that standardization of the riser assembly in similar projects is a major factor in being able to deliver a cost effective, high-quality, easy to install and understand sprinkler system.

In our area the water purveyor demands a separate supply line for the sprinkler system with a backflow and meter, from this point we have standardized on 1 1/2″ steel pipe and a preassembled AGF RiserPACK. The steel pipe allows for a quick installation because we use grooved ends and my people are accustomed to working with it. They don’t need to be concerned with what type of floor joist system they will encounter in unfinished basements, and it offers the flexibility for future modification. The 1 1/2″ size guarantees good water flow and typically allows for the use of smaller sized CPVC pipe and fittings throughout the house, resulting in a material cost savings. We were also early adopters of the preassembled riser. We have tried the offerings from a number of manufacturers, and have happily discovered that the AGF RiserPACK suits our variable needs best.

The fact that the RiserPACK is rated at 300 PSI and made up with Listed and Approved parts assures me a problem-free installation. I also appreciate the high-quality look of the domestically made product and the depth of flexibility in which it is offered. The RiserPACK is offered in both NPT thread and grooved which works well with my standardization goals. The cast-in letters provide required signage, and the larger gauge is easier to read in basements. The bronze body is not subject to paint chips during installation. They have included some nice features like wrench flats and ribs for a hanger. However, on of the biggest benefits is the orifice-specific test and drain valve; NFPA 13D requires it and this feature has saved me from having to remove a sprinkler and do a “bucket test” for acceptance by an AHJ on a number of occasions.

Whenever possible, we like to try and stay within the heated envelope of the house. However, certain municipalities in which we work require service to the garage and/or accessible attic spaces necessitating an anti-freezing loop. The compact size of the AGF RiserPACK and the flexibility of the steel pipe make this an easy feature to incorporate into our standard riser configuration, allowing us to deliver an easily understood and maintained sprinkler system riser, rather then a confusing assembly of pipe, valves, gauges, and switches. With planning and coordination, an efficient repetitive riser configuration can be installed that does not take up much space (in what may become a finished basement) keeping both the builder and new homeowner happy.

I have discovered over the years that standardization, attention to detail and the use of quality materials and workmanship are the keys to providing a finished product that the builder will use as a selling feature.

Residential sprinkler systems are gaining a foothold in many parts of the country. As contractors, we must accept that the installation we do are not only reflections of our own desire to provide a quality product, but are a reflection of the entire fire sprinkler industries desire to create a safer environment in a place people should feel the safest – their own home.

Originally printed in the January 2004 edition of Fire Protection Contractor Magazine.