You know what they say about an ounce of prevention? In the fire-safety industry, it's worth about $43,000. That's because the average monetary property loss to fire damage in homes without sprinkler systems is $45,000. In homes with sprinklers, it's just $2,200. Moreover, sprinklers can save lives by providing as much as 10 minutes longer egress to let people escape burning homes.

Citing these statistics, Tom Prymak, vice president of marketing for Tyco Fire Prevention, is eager to see more municipalities include residential sprinkler requirements in their local building codes. And manufacturers are bringing more appealing products to market, such as Tyco's Rapid Response system, to improve homeowner acceptance. “There's a movement and awareness growing out there today about the benefits of residential sprinkler systems,”

Prymak says. “The sprinklers themselves are designed to be more aesthetically pleasing, and water flow rates in the systems are lower — they're designed and tailored for the residential market.” Prymak acknowledges that installing a residential sprinkler system (which should always be done by a fire sprinkler professional) is more expensive in retrofit situations than with new construction. In a new home or addition, expect a system to cost $1.50 to $2 per square foot of living space. For retrofit, add another 50% to the price to accommodate the additional labor requirements.

Water lines in Tyco Fire & Building Products sprinkler systems are orange for easy identification. Dricon from Arch Wood Protection (left) also can be color-treated for the same reason.
Water lines in Tyco Fire & Building Products sprinkler systems are orange for easy identification. Dricon from Arch Wood Protection (left) also can be color-treated for the same reason.

Also suitable for new construction or down-to-the-studs remodeling is Dricon lumber that features a fire-retardant treatment from Arch Wood Protection. “It isn't always necessary to frame your whole house or addition with Dricon,” says Huck DeVenzio, manager of product information for Arch. “There are some places where it makes more sense than others. For instance, any place with an electrical box, around cooking areas in the kitchen, or in the chimney wrap around a fireplace area.”

Water lines in Tyco Fire & Building Products sprinkler systems are orange for easy identification.  Dricon from Arch Wood Protection (left) also can be color treated for the same reason.
Water lines in Tyco Fire & Building Products sprinkler systems are orange for easy identification. Dricon from Arch Wood Protection (left) also can be color treated for the same reason.

Whereas untreated wood fuels a fire, Dricon's fire-retardant treatment reacts with combustible gases and converts them to carbon char, carbon dioxide, and water. The surface char prevents the fire from spreading and insulates the underlying wood from being consumed. Comparatively, Dricon costs about 30% more than nontreated lumber, but offers a valuable benefit that traditional framing can't match.

For an easy and inexpensive fire-safety retrofit that doesn't require structural changes, Pearl Protected manufactures escape ladders that are permanently mounted in the wall space beneath second- or third-story windows. Easy to deploy and re-store, the ladders come in custom lengths and feature aluminum rungs and nylon sides. Easy enough for a child to use, the ladders can hold up to 1,500 pounds.