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The purpose of this article is twofold. First, at John Robinson’s Inspection Group, we’d like you to take measures to keep your garage free from fire. Fortunately, there are ways this can be done, some of which are described below. Secondly, garage fires do happen, and we’d like you to make sure that a fire cannot not easily spread to the rest of your house. While you can perform many of the recommendations in this article yourself, it is a good idea to hire an Inspector from John Robinson’s Inspection Group to make sure your home is safe from a garage fire.

 Why do many garages pose a fire hazard?
  • Where are you most likely to do any welding, or any work on your car? These activities require working with all sorts of flammable materials.
  • Water heaters and boilers are usually stored in garages, and they can create sparks that may ignite fumes or fluids. Car batteries, too, will spark under certain conditions.
  • Oil and gasoline can drip from cars. These fluids may collect unnoticed and eventually ignite, given the proper conditions.
  • Flammable liquids, such as gasoline, motor oil and paint are commonly stored in garages. Some other examples are brake fluid, varnish, paint thinner and lighter fluid.

The following tips can help prevent garage fires and their spread:

  • If the garage allows access to the attic, make sure a hatch covers this access.
  • The walls and ceiling should be fire-rated. Unfortunately, it will be difficult for untrained homeowners to tell if their walls are Type X fire-rated gypsum. An Inspector from John Robinson’s Inspection Group can examine the walls and ceiling to make sure they are adequate fire barriers.
  • The floor should be clear of clutter. Loose papers, matches, oily rags, and other potentially  flammable items are extremely dangerous if they are strewn about the garage floor.
  • Use light bulbs with the proper wattage, and do not overload electrical outlets.
  • Tape down all cords and wires so they are not twisted or accidentally yanked.

If there is a door that connects the garage to the living area, consider the following:

  • Do not install a pet door in the door! Flames can more easily spread into the living area through a pet door, especially if it’s made of plastic.
  • Does the door have a window? John Robinson’s Inspection Group inspector’s can inspect the window to tell if it’s fire-rated.
  • The door should be self-closing. While it may be inconvenient, especially while carrying groceries into the house from the car, doors should be self-closing. You never know when a fire will happen, and it would be unfortunate to accidentally leave the door open while a fire is starting in the garage.
  • Check the joints and open spaces around the door. Are they tightly sealed? Any openings at all can allow dangerous fumes, such as carbon monoxide or gasoline vapor, to enter the living area. John Robinson’s Inspection Group inspector’s can recommend ways to seal the door so that fumes cannot enter the living area.

Concerning items placed on the floor, you should check for the following:

  • Store your flammable liquids in clearly labeled, self-closing containers, and only in small amounts. Keep them away from heaters, appliances, pilot lights and other sources of heat or flame.
  • Never store propane tanks indoors. If they catch fire, they can explode. Propane tanks are sturdy enough to be stored outdoors.
In summary, there are plenty of things that you can do to prevent garage fires from spreading to the rest of the house, or to keep them from starting in the first place. However, it is highly recommended that you have your garage periodically examined by an Inspector from John Robinson’s Inspection Group.

Some misconceptions are merely inconvenient. And some – like the many myths that surround the use of fire sprinklers in homes – can be deadly.  The inspectors at John Robinson’s inspection Group hope to shed some light on the subject with this article.

The federal government and more than 400 local governments – not to mention the national model building code authority, the International Code Council – have all recommended that all new homes offer this life safety system. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a business that is not protected by fire sprinklers. Yet misconceptions persist about the cost, convenience and effectiveness of home fire sprinklers, where 80 percent of all fire deaths occur.

 

“As a volunteer firefighter, I regularly see the devastation to families and their property due to home fires,” says Eric Skare of Lakeville, Minn. Skare, who works for fire-safety systems maker Uponor, is a fire safety expert. “Many of these people live right in my own community, and their losses are seared in my memory.”

Whether you’re building a new home or renovating an existing one, it’s important to know the truth behind some common fire sprinkler myths: 

Myth: Installing home fire sprinklers is too expensive.

Reality: On average, installing a stand-alone fire sprinkler system – the kind that runs off a separate, dedicated system of water pipes – in a new construction home adds just 1 to 1.5 percent to the total building cost, according to the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition.

That expense drops even lower when adding a multipurpose system, which combines the cold-water plumbing and the fire sprinklers into a single, efficient system. Installation costs for a multipurpose system, like those made by Uponor, averages 57 cents less per square foot than traditional stand-alone systems – a savings of $1,368 for a 2,400-square-foot home, according to the Fire Protection Research Foundation. What’s more, the foundation reports, home insurers give an average premium discount of 7 percent to homes with fire sprinkler systems.

Myth: Smoke alarms alone are enough protection against fires.

Reality: Smoke alarms can alert you to the presence of smoke, but do nothing to put out a fire. Home fire sprinkler systems act quickly to reduce heat, flames and smoke from a fire, giving you valuable time to get out safely. “Sprinklers put out most home fires in seconds, before the fire department arrives and before there’s major damage,” says Jayson Drake of Uponor North America.

Functioning smoke alarms reduce by 50 percent the risk of someone dying in a home fire. That risk decreases by 80 percent when sprinklers are present, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Myth: Fire sprinklers can cause excessive water damage to your home and belongings.

Reality: Fire sprinklers actually minimize damage. Fires cause more than $8.5 billion in direct property damage every year, according to the NFPA. Fire hoses discharge up to 250 gallons of water per minute into a burning home, causing significant damage as firefighters work to control and extinguish the fire. Sprinklers, use just 15 gallons of water per minute. Fire damage is far less in homes with sprinklers; a 15-year study in Scottsdale, Ariz. put the average loss for a sprinklered home at $2,166 compared to $45,019 for a home without sprinklers.

Myth: Home fire sprinkler systems look bad and will ruin the aesthetics of a house. 

Reality: New home fire sprinkler systems are very unobtrusive, and can be mounted flush with walls or ceilings, or concealed behind decorative covers.

Myth: Fire sprinklers don’t add value to a home and aren’t worth the investment.

Reality: Forty-five percent of homeowners prefer a home with fire sprinklers, and nearly three in four think sprinklers increase a home’s value, according to research by the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition. What’s more, fire sprinklers can help lower your homeowners’ insurance rates; most insurance companies offer discounts for homes that have the systems.

But the greatest value of fire sprinklers is their ability to help save lives and preserve a
family’s home. In home fires where no sprinklers are present, families lose their homes and all their possessions, even if they escape unharmed themselves. When sprinklers are present, families survive – and so do their homes and possessions. Sprinklers reduce the average property loss by 71 percent, according to the NFPA. – (ARA)