Fire Sprinkler Escutcheon vs. Cover

Learn the difference between fire sprinkler escutcheons and cover plates used in concealed sprinklers

The fire sprinkler industry is rife with jargon – and hardly anybody outside of the industry understands these special words. Beyond the sprinkler contractors, fitters, firefighters, and other professionals that make up the core industry lies an even larger secondary market consisting of building and homeowners, maintenance professionals, inspectors, media personalities, and even politicians that have created additional variations and misnomers for the same fire sprinkler system components. In this blog, we dive into the names and use cases for two of the most confused part names: fire sprinkler covers and fire sprinkler escutcheons. So without further adieu, The Definitive Guide: Fire Sprinkler Covers vs. Escutcheons.

Fire Sprinkler Covers

Let's start with fire sprinkler covers, otherwise known as sprinkler concealers, sprinkler cover plates, or sprinkler caps. A fire sprinkler cover is a thin metal plate connected to a frame via a temperature responsive solder designed to melt at a specified temperature. When installed, the cover plate provides an aesthetic and functional barrier between the sprinkler and the room’s occupants, as the diagram below illustrates.

Concealed Fire Sprinkler Diagram

The cover plate is a part of the concealed sprinkler’s assembly. Beyond the aesthetic benefits, it also provides additional protection for the sprinkler by deflecting any objects that might unintentionally hit the sprinkler and keeps the majority of dust, dirt, and debris away from the head itself. During a fire event, the cover plate’s solder melts at a temperature that's usually about 20 degrees Fahrenheit lower than the sprinkler’s activation temperature. The plate then harmlessly falls to the ground, allowing the sprinkler to deploy and activate at its specified temperature. In most applications, the cover plate falls off at around 135 degrees Fahrenheit and the sprinkler’s thermal sensor activates at 155 degrees Fahrenheit, though other temperatures are available.

Important aspects to note about fire sprinkler covers:

  1. Each manufacturer designs their own cover plate, and they are not interchangeable. Before ordering replacements, determine the manufacturer of your sprinkler and then order cover plates that match both the brand and the model. If your sprinkler is from Tyco, Viking, Reliable Victaulic, or Senju Sprinkler, we have inventory ready to go. If it's not, contact us.
  2. Under no circumstances can you paint a fire sprinkler cover, though options do exist to get custom, colored cover plates from the manufacturer.
  3. When replacing cover plates, it is crucial to procure the correct temperature plate – usually, about 20 degrees Fahrenheit lower than the sprinkler itself.

Not sure which fire sprinkler cover plate you need? Read this simple guide to finding the right replacement cover plate.

Fire Sprinkler Escutcheons

There is probably no other fire sprinkler product with more name variations than the sprinkler escutcheon. Beauty rings, trim rings, sleeves, 401s, adjustable, extended, ESSRs, cups, and – yes, even what's sometimes referred to as ‘donkey dicks’ are all variations on the traditional escutcheon name. The purpose of a sprinkler escutcheon is two-fold: first, it aesthetically surrounds the base of the sprinkler, adding what amounts to a decorative trim while pleasantly covering the cut-out in the ceiling or wall. Escutcheons are also functional, as they block heat from rising into the wall or ceiling which can potentially delay the activation of a sprinkler. For our purposes, we’re going to categorize fire sprinkler escutcheons into three broad categories: flat escutcheons, recessed escutcheons, and adjustable escutcheons.

A flat, split-ring escutcheon.

A flat, split-ring escutcheon.

Flat escutcheons are, as you probably guessed, flat. The sprinkler itself is neither recessed or additionally extended from the wall or ceiling, enabling the flat escutcheon to cover properly the wall or ceiling cut out. See flat one-piece escutcheons here.

Recessed escutcheons sit at a specified depth with a decorative ring covering the cutout while the inner ring remains around the base of the recessed sprinkler. Recessed sprinklers are common in schools, offices, etc. – nearly anywhere with drywall or ceiling tiles in a smaller room. See recessed escutcheons here.

Adjustable escutcheons extend to a specified distance and, as the name implies, are adjusted to encase a sprinkler that does not sit flush or recessed with the wall or ceiling. See adjustable escutcheons here.

The choice of the escutcheon is solely dependent on the design of the sprinkler system. For example, adjustable escutcheons are used when the system must cover a larger room and, therefore, are extended beyond the wall or ceiling to avoid oversaturating the closest wall and provide better area coverage. As a quick reminder, all sprinklers have a spray discharge pattern that covers a set area within a room, as demonstrated by the image below.

Fire Sprinkler Discharge Graph

Often, to cover the room with the fewest number of sprinklers, the sprinkler itself is extended beyond the wall or ceiling to expand its coverage area. In that situation, an adjustable escutcheon makes the most sense. As an example, hotel rooms often have only one or two sprinklers covering the entire room. Because the sprinklers are away from the wall, water can soak the largest possible area in a fire event.

Sprinkler warning sign

Most escutcheons are installed during system fitting and are not replaceable as-is without draining the system and removing the sprinkler head. However, another option exists: retrofit, or split, escutcheons. Again, as the name implies, these are escutcheons designed to be installed after-the-fact (retrofit) and are split, so removal of the sprinkler is not required. As you can see in the table below, every escutcheon we offer at QRFS has both a standard and retro-fit option and they are available in multiple finishes – but just like the cover plates, you cannot paint them.

One Piece Escutcheon
Flat One Piece Escutcheon
Flat Split Ring Escutcheon
Retro-fit Flat Split Ring Escutcheon
Recessed Two Piece Escutcheon
Recessed Two Piece Escutcheon
Retro Fit Split Recessed Escutcheon
Retro-fit Recessed Split Two Piece Escutcheon
Adjustable Two Piece Escutcheon
Adjustable Two Piece Escutcheon
Retro-fit Two Piece Adjustable Escutcheon
Retro-fit Adjustable Two Piece Escutcheon


Need to replace fire sprinkler escutcheons? Don’t drain the system – use retro-fit escutcheons. Here’s a handy guide to installing retro-fit escutcheons.

So now let’s put our two sprinkler components head-to-head. A sprinkler cover (or cup, cover plate, or concealer) is part of the concealed sprinkler head assembly, designed specifically for a manufacturer’s model, and has a thermal element (solder) that responds to fire by falling out of the sprinkler’s way just before sprinkler activation. An escutcheon (or beauty ring, trim ring, cup, and, yes, ‘donkey dicks’), on the other hand, provides a decorative trim around the sprinkler that covers the cutout in the wall or ceiling. Both are replaceable, though with different requirements.

Recap of differences between cover plates and escutcheons

Congratulations! Now you’re equipped with the knowledge and jargon necessary to correctly identify cover plates and escutcheons. In the comment section let us know any other names you may have heard or used for fire sprinkler covers or escutcheons. If you have further questions, feel free to call us at 888-361-6662 or contact us here.