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Fire sprinkler in attic?

Question asked by mmarsha9 on Feb 15, 2019
Latest reply on Jun 6, 2019 by rfdacm02

I am a Single Family 2 story homeowner in the Town of Lewiston, New York.  My home was built in December 2015 by Forbes Capretto Homes.  During the building process, I was told by the builder that due to the incline of the street in which my street is adjacent to, I need a fire sprinkler system.  The builder told me they needed to have a sprinkler head anywhere electrical power was.  One of the areas they told me a sprinkler was needed was a uninsulated/unheated attic space.  I inquired about the potential of that line freezing in the cold winters and they told me that Anti-freeze would be used in that specific line to prevent freezing. 


About one week ago, I found that sprinkler head leaking.  I was able to shut off the water that was going to that line and it stopped the leaking.  I had two companies come out to assess the sprinkler head.  Both companies stated that per code, a sprinkler head is not needed in the attic.  This morning, I had one of the companies come to my house.  The solution they recommended, considering the fact that it’s not required per code, was to simply keep the separate valve going to the pipe in the attic turned off and to plug the line after the pipe was drained where the sprinkler head was.  The alternative was to try and heat that space or use a heat trace on that line which is financially not a solution for me. 


After I had the line capped, I received a call from the Town of Lewiston Fire Inspector. Before telling him my specific situation, I asked him a hypothetical question as to if a fire sprinkler is required in an attic space if I were to build a home today.  He said, no.  I then told him my specific situation and he informed me that the sprinkler service company should’ve applied for a permit prior to doing work and that the sprinkler is required.  He stated that because this attic space in question has a small man door that is inside a closet in a bedroom, that it must have it.  He said because that attic has the potential to be used as storage, it needs a sprinkler.  The attic is not currently being used for storage or living space.  In fact, there isn’t even flooring in that space and you can barely stand inside it. 


Ultimately, he gave me two options, one, to put the sprinkler head back in that line or two, block off access to that attic with some sort of physical barrier.  I believe either request is objectively unreasonable for my circumstances.  I’ve been told by both sprinkler companies that even with an antifreeze solution, that pipe and sprinkler still have the potential to freeze and again malfunction.  This in turn has the potential to cause extensive damage to my house.  I have reviewed the online 2019 NFPA 13D and found that a sprinkler system in my attic is not required.  Specifically, section 8.3.5 states the following: “Sprinklers shall not be required in attics with or without storage, penthouse equipment rooms, elevator machine rooms, concealed spaces dedicated exclusively to and containing only dwelling unit ventilation equipment, floor/ceiling spaces, elevator shafts, crawl spaces, and other concealed spaces that are not used or intended for living spaces.”          


Finally, does the Town of Lewiston have the authority to mandate my compliance in this matter even though their requests contradict what is documented in the NFPA 13D 8.3.5? I was under the impression that the NFPA sets the standard for the United States.   The Town of Lewiston Fire Code website says they adhere to the code set by New York State.  When you pull up NYS code, it says it adheres to the code set by the International Fire Code.  When you access the code from the IFC, it says it adheres to the code set by the NFPA.