Painting a ceiling

No. Learn why you can't paint sprinkler covers – and the aesthetic alternatives

A fresh coat of paint on the walls can spruce up a home or business. During the process, it's natural to wonder if you can also paint the cover plate of your concealed fire sprinklers to match the room or spruce it up. After all, what’s the point of painting a white ceiling another color if the sprinkler’s concealer is still bright white?

But before you get out the roller and paint brush you must know: painting a cover plate voids your fire sprinkler’s manufacturer warranty and could endanger lives.

In this blog, we’re going to discuss why it is crucial that you do NOT paint your cover plates and outline options to match your sprinkler covers to your ceiling (yes, you have options!). However, if you’ve learned enough already, you can browse the Internet’s largest selection of replacement fire sprinkler covers here.

Fire Sprinkler Cover Plate

Behind this ceiling-mounted cover plate hangs a pendent fire sprinkler head. Source: Fox Valley Fire

Fire sprinkler cover 101

A cover plate is a thin piece of decorative metal connected to a frame using temperature-responsive solder. It is designed to react to a very specific temperature. As ceiling temperatures rise at or above a cover plate’s specifications, the solder melts, releasing the plate and exposing the concealed sprinkler. More specifically, most common concealed fire sprinkler cover plates are designed to release at about 135°F (57°C), freeing the sprinkler’s glass bulb to activate at 155°F (68°C). Other temperatures are available but operate similarly.

Common paint, on the other hand, is not designed to respond to a specific temperature and dries like glue; both detrimental to a cover plate’s temperature responsiveness. By painting a cover plate, you are putting a dangerous roadblock in the way of your sprinkler’s normal operation.

In addition to the life-safety implications, painting a cover plate voids the warranty on your fire sprinklers. Victaulic’s warranty, for example, states, “This warranty shall not apply to any product which has been altered in any manner outside of Victaulic’s factory.”

Warning: DO NOT paint or in any other way modify your fire sprinklers or their cover plates!

However, that doesn’t mean you are stuck with an unflattering sprinkler cover plate color.

Custom fire sprinkler cover plate options

Selection of Senju custom cover plates

Senju Sprinkler creatively matches their cover plate to your ceiling.

While each manufacturer is different, some have more out-of-the-box color options than others. The big five (Tyco, Viking, Victaulic, Reliable, and Globe) follow the pattern mentioned above: White and chrome are standard, black is an option, and custom colors are only available upon request. But another manufacturer we proudly stock, Senju Sprinkler, offers a plethora of cover plate options as standard. Additionally, they go out of their way to provide residential cover plates that match the ceiling perfectly, as demonstrated by the image above.

Because of the difference between manufacturers, the first and most important step if you want to spruce up your fire sprinkler cover plates is to determine the manufacturer of your fire sprinkler. The easiest way to do this is to look at the sticker located on the inside of the cover plate. It is usually on the backside of the cover plate itself, as shown in the image below, or on the base of the cover plate’s frame. It is important to note: cover plates are NOT interchangeable between brands. You MUST purchase covers that are the same brand, size, and temperature as the original.

The inside of a Victaulic cover plate.

The inside of a Victaulic cover plate.

But be careful: removing the cover plate can potentially damage the sprinkler. Usually, cover plates screw out but occasionally they have tabs that hold them in place and require a gentle but firm tug to remove them. It is always better to be safe than sorry. A sprinkler contractor can help if you run into trouble. And if your sprinkler brand is listed below, we can help with the next step:

Tyco Cover Plates from QRFS Reliable Cover Plates from QRFS
Victaulic Fire Sprinkler Cover Plates Available at QRFS Viking Cover Plates from QRFS
Senju Sprinkler Cover Plates Available at QRFS

 

After locating your sprinkler’s brand, next determine your color preference. Go to your favorite hardware store where you purchase paint and pick up a paint swatch that matches your wall or ceiling. If your sprinkler matches the brands listed above, give QRFS a call. Otherwise, contact a local sprinkler contractor or the manufacturer directly. The manufacturer, through us or otherwise, will provide pricing and a lead time. Each custom color usually requires a paint set-up fee and the actual cost of paint and production.

A painted fire sprinkler

Fire hazard! Notice the bulb is completely covered in paint. This blocks the heat-responsive element from reacting, and a similar issue can happen with the temperature-sensitive solder on a cover plate.

If you are painting your walls, make sure to carefully tape off the cover plates and fire sprinklers. If paint mistakenly gets on the sprinkler or cover plate, you should promptly call a local, licensed fire sprinkler contractor to replace it.

Now you know why you should never paint your fire sprinkler cover plate and what your options are for matching your sprinkler system and ceiling color. If you’re in the market for new cover plates, please click the link below to get started:

Click here to view QRFS's cover plate selection!