Chrome cup and skirt retrofit escutcheon with parts separated

Decorative retrofit sprinkler head escutcheons install quickly, facilitating timely activation of fire sprinklers

Fire sprinkler escutcheons cover the hole left in a wall or ceiling when a sprinkler head is installed. But the benefits are more than just aesthetic: by preventing hot air from passing into attics or other spaces, an escutcheon helps ensure that fire sprinklers activate at their rated temperatures.

Retrofit fire sprinkler escutcheons, also called split-ring or two-piece escutcheons, can make the task of replacing a defective or broken escutcheon much easier. In this article, we'll look at the types and function of fire sprinkler escutcheons, including recessed, flat, and adjustable models. We'll wrap up by explaining how to install retrofit sprinkler head escutcheons in their place.

If you’re more interested in ordering escutcheons than reading about them, skip directly to our full selection of retrofit fire sprinkler escutcheons.

Escutcheons, required in NFPA-compliant systems, are found with all kinds of fire sprinklers

While some facilities with open ceilings leave fire sprinkler system piping exposed, most conceal those pipes behind a wall or ceiling. Escutcheons, typically finished to match the color of the fire sprinkler, allow sprinkler heads to pass through drywall or other materials without exposing the open spaces behind them.

This white escutcheon has an outer ring and an inner split ring

This white retrofit sprinkler head escutcheon fits recessed fire sprinklers.

Fire sprinkler escutcheons are essential to sprinkler performance. An escutcheon that doesn't fit or can't withstand rising temperatures may delay sprinkler activation or cause serious malfunctions. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), which develops model fire standards for adoption by state and local governments as code, has specific guidelines pertaining to the use of escutcheons with sprinkler heads. These rules are presented in NFPA 13: Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems.

From the 2016 edition of NFPA 13

6.2.7 Escutcheons and Cover Plates.

6.2.7.1 Plates, escutcheons, or other devices used to cover the annular space around a sprinkler shall be metallic or shall be listed for use around a sprinkler.

6.2.7.2* Escutcheons used with recessed, flush-type, or concealed sprinklers shall be part of a listed sprinkler assembly.

A.6.2.7.2 The use of the wrong type of escutcheon with recessed or flush-type sprinklers can result in severe disruption of the spray pattern, which can destroy the effectiveness of the sprinkler.

6.2.7.4 The use of caulking or glue to seal the penetration or to affix the components of a recessed escutcheon or concealed cover plate shall not be permitted.

Rising smoke and heat travels along the ceiling. In NFPA-compliant systems, these ceilings resist the passage of smoke and heat. But an undersized escutcheon could allow that heat to bypass the fire sprinkler head. If hot air goes around the head, the sprinkler's activation could take longer, allowing the fire to spread.

A white-finished pendent sprinkler in an open hole in the ceiling

A fire sprinkler without an escutcheon hangs from a ceiling. Source: TripAdvisor.

What does the NFPA mean by the phrase "listed sprinkler assembly"? Listings certify that a third-party group has tested sample fire sprinkler heads—with escutcheons and cover plates included—to ensure that the sprinkler performs as designed. In short, this requirement means that escutcheons must be approved for use with specific sprinklers. 

Fire sprinkler escutcheons, featured on pendent and horizontal sidewall fire sprinklers, come in three standard types

Pendent and horizontal sidewall fire sprinklers are commonly found in residential and commercial buildings, including schools, hospitals, hotels, and even family homes. The three standard types of fire sprinkler escutcheons are:

  • Recessed
  • Adjustable
  • Flat

To choose an escutcheon type, it's important to know what type of fire sprinkler you have and how far the pipe protrudes from the wall or ceiling.

Recessed fire sprinkler escutcheons

Most commonly found in schools and offices, recessed sprinkler head escutcheons cover cutouts in ceilings, walls, and soffits, providing a low-profile, finished appearance. The inner ring is designed to encircle a recessed fire sprinkler head at a specified depth within the outer ring.

A side-by-side comparison of standard and retrofit flat escutcheons

Adjustable fire sprinkler escutcheons

Adjustable escutcheons come as a two-piece assembly with a cup and a skirt. Many models provide up to 2" of adjustment to cover the exposed pipe between the ceiling or wall and the fire sprinkler head itself. Cups as long as 12" are available for extended coverage.

A side-by-side comparison of standard and retrofit adjustable escutcheons

Flat fire sprinkler escutcheons

Flat sprinkler head escutcheons are used when the base of the sprinkler frame is flush with the ceiling. These escutcheons are the simplest of the three types, featuring a single plate made from two hinged components.

Chrome flat retrofit escutcheon

Retrofit sprinkler head escutcheons make replacement easier

Standard escutcheons install permanently. The hole in the center seats over the fire sprinkler's thread connection, which screws into the pipe supplying water. Adding one of these escutcheons after installing the fire sprinkler head would require removing the head, which requires shutting down and draining the system.

Retrofit escutcheons make replacing escutcheons considerably easier. Unlike standard escutcheons, retrofit escutcheons install with no need for sprinkler system shutdown. Each retrofit escutcheon secures to the head by pressing two detachable halves together. Like standard escutcheons, retrofit escutcheons are available in various finishes and styles, including recessed, adjustable, and flat.

How to install a retrofit fire sprinkler escutcheon in five easy steps

This example assumes that you're working with removable ceiling tile and a ceiling-mounted pendent fire sprinkler. Pendents, the most common sprinkler style, hang from above-ceiling piping to discharge water on the spaces below.

A chrome fire sprinkler hangs from the ceiling

A pendent fire sprinkler installed in ceiling tile. Source: Wikipedia.

To get started, you'll need a step ladder and something to use in cutting off the previous escutcheon (kitchen shears or pruners may be used). Proceed cautiously: even a small impact with heat-sensitive parts on the fire sprinkler head can trigger activation. Make as little contact with the fire sprinkler head as possible.

  1. Lift up the ceiling tile, making room for your head and hands.
  2. If your current escutcheon includes an outer ring or skirt, remove them by slowly pulling them down over the sprinkler head.
  3. Cut the cup (adjustable) or inner-ring (recessed) using kitchen shears or pruners, and remove it from the sprinkler head. For flat escutcheons, simply cut the plate and remove.
  4. Fasten the retrofitted inner-ring (recessed), cup (adjustable), or entire escutcheon (flat) around the sprinkler head.
  5. Install the outer ring (recessed) or skirt (adjustable) by sliding it up and over the sprinkler head.

Ordering retrofit sprinkler head escutcheons at QRFS

QRFS stocks retrofit escutcheons for fire sprinklers with 1/2-inch and 3/4-inch thread connections. Choose from chrome, white, and brass finishes for all three escutcheon types: flat, recessed, and adjustable. Our escutcheons provide from 3/4 of an inch to 3 inches vertical adjustment to help you position the escutcheon for maximum coverage of sprinkler parts and the installation hole.

Brass retrofit fire sprinkler escutcheon

This brass retrofit adjustable escutcheon is just one of many retrofit escutcheons available at QRFS.

Click here to view our entire selection of retrofit fire sprinkler escutcheons.

Questions about our selection of split ring retrofit escutcheons? Call us at +1 (888) 361-6662 or email [email protected].

This blog was originally posted by Jason Hugo and Cameron Sharp at QRFS.com/blog on June 3, 2016, and updated on January 22, 2019. If this article helped you find what you need, check us out at Facebook.com/QuickResponseFireSupply or on Twitter @QuickResponseFS.