Three fire sprinklers in a cabinet

A spare sprinkler head storage cabinet with the right number and type of heads keeps systems compliant – and working

Every NFPA-compliant fire sprinkler system requires a stock of spare fire sprinkler heads. Yet understocked fire sprinkler head cabinets are one of the most common fire code violations spotted by inspectors.

In this article, we explain what you need in a fire sprinkler cabinet and where to keep it. We'll cover the number and type of spare sprinklers heads required, and go over common labeling and listing requirements.

Already know what you need? Feel free to skip directly to our selection of replacement fire sprinkler heads and components, including fire sprinkler head cabinets.

The number of spare fire sprinklers required varies with the system's size

At a minimum, your fire sprinkler head replacement cabinet should contain six spare fire sprinkler heads and a fire sprinkler wrench suitable to the type of sprinklers in-use.

Fire code varies from city to city. But many jurisdictions have adopted guidelines from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). NFPA 13: Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems stipulates that each fire sprinkler system requires a stock of at least six spare sprinklers (with the exception of dry fire sprinklers, which we'll touch on in the next section).

From the 2019 edition of NFPA 13

16.2.7.1* A supply of at least six spare sprinklers shall be maintained on the premises so that any sprinklers that have operated or been damaged in any way can be promptly replaced.

A.16.2.7.1 A minimum of two sprinklers of each type and temperature rating should be provided.

In a later section (16.2.7.5), NFPA 13 adds that the stock of spare sprinklers varies with the size of the fire sprinkler system. The table below details these requirements.

Number of Spare Fire Sprinklers Required in NFPA 13 Systems (2019)
Total Number of Sprinklers Installed Spare Heads Required
Under 300 No fewer than 6
300-1000 No fewer than 12
Over 1000 No fewer than 24

Some systems may have only two fire sprinklers of one type – and many more of another. The minimum number of spare heads is firm. After that, it's up to the installer and the building owner to decide how many fire sprinklers of each type are required.

Fire sprinkler head cabinet

This cabinet currently holds six sprinklers and a wrench. The system it serves should have fewer than 300 sprinklers.

Exact spares not required for some dry sprinklers, but a means of restoring the system after activation is required

NFPA carves out one big exception for fire sprinkler cabinets: dry sprinklers.

Dry type sprinklers are specially designed and installed for use in areas exposed to low temperatures. Used in docks, freezers, and other locations, these sprinklers feature a length of metal pipe called a barrel that extends from the sprinkler to the piping.

Manufacturers provide dry sprinklers with barrels in different lengths. The lengths of these barrels vary with expected ambient temperatures: as temperatures grow colder, the minimum length of the barrel grows longer. Some manufacturers provide the sprinklers with barrels as long as four feet.

Because dry pipe sprinklers' lengths can vary even in a single sprinkler system, NFPA 13 requires cabinets for dry sprinklers only if they are all the same length.

From the 2019 edition of NFPA 13

16.2.7.4 Where dry sprinklers of different lengths are installed, spare dry sprinklers shall not be required, provided that a means of returning the system to service is furnished.

The NFPA 13 handbook advises that building owners may keep a stock of their longest sprinklers on hand or use non-dry-type sprinklers as temporary replacements when needed.

All replacement sprinkler heads should be stored in a properly-placed cabinet

As cited earlier, NFPA 13 section 16.2.7.1 requires that sprinklers remain in a cabinet and that that cabinet stays on-site. While some facilities employ on-call sprinkler contractors, there is no guarantee that such contractors will have the replacement sprinklers your facility requires. Place these cabinets in an accessible location. One good practice involves storing spare keys in a fire department lockbox or in a location where 24-hour staff—security guards, front desk attendants, and so on—can get to them.

Proper placement also involves keeping the cabinet out of places where heat might inadvertently activate the heads.

From the 2019 edition of NFPA 13

16.2.7.3 The sprinklers shall be kept in a cabinet located where the temperature to which they are subjected will at no time exceed the maximum ceiling temperatures specified in Table 7.2.4.1 for each of the sprinklers within the cabinet.

These temperature requirements vary with the temperature rating of the sprinkler, as described in table 7.2.4.1 and adapted below.

Maximum Ceiling Temperatures for Fire Sprinklers by Rated Discharge Temperature (2019 Edition of NFPA 13)
Maximum Ceiling Temperature Sprinkler Discharge Temperature
100F (38C) 135F-170F (57C-77C)
150F (66C) 175F-225F (79C-107C)
225F (107C) 250F-300F (121C-149C)
300F (149C) 325F-375F (163C-191C)
375F (191C) 400F-475F (204C-246C)
475F (246C) 500F-575F (260C-302C)
625F (219C) 650F (343C)

Each fire sprinkler cabinet requires the wrenches needed to add or remove all installed types of sprinklers

Cabinets containing replacement fire sprinklers must include at least one wrench. However, every cabinet ultimately needs enough fire sprinkler wrenches to install and remove every type of sprinkler currently installed.

From the 2019 edition of NFPA 13

16.2.7.6* One sprinkler wrench as specified by the sprinkler manufacturer shall be provided in the cabinet for each type of sprinkler installed to be used for the removal and installation of sprinklers in the system.

A.16.2.7.6 One sprinkler wrench design can be appropriate for many types of sprinklers and should not require multiple wrenches of the same design.

NFPA-compliant cabinets include only wrenches specified by the manufacturer. If you have a variety of sprinklers in use—and those sprinklers require different wrenches—your fire sprinkler cabinet will require more than a single wrench.

To learn more, read our blog: "Which Fire Sprinkler Wrench Do I Need?"

Required wrench for fire sprinkler head cabinet

This wrench from Reliable (RASCO) is a specialized tool designed to quickly (and safely) add or remove various fire sprinkler heads.

Each cabinet must contain spare fire sprinkler heads with the right style, temperature rating, and other critical characteristics

NFPA 13 requires that spare sprinklers kept in a cabinet bear a close resemblance to the sprinklers currently installed.

From the 2019 edition of NFPA 13

16.2.7.2 The sprinklers shall correspond to the types and temperature ratings of the sprinklers in the property.

The NFPA further details the requirements for replacement sprinklers in NFPA 25: Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems.

From the 2017 edition of NFPA 25

5.4.1 Sprinklers.

5.4.1.1 Where a sprinkler has been removed for any reason, it shall not be reinstalled.

5.4.1.2* Replacement sprinklers shall have the proper characteristics for the application intended, which include the following:
(1) Style
(2) Orifice size and K-factor
(3) Temperature rating
(4) Coating, if any
(5) Deflector type (e.g., upright, pendent, sidewall)
(6) Design requirements

A.5.4.1.2 To help in the replacement of like sprinklers, unique sprinkler identification numbers (SINs) are provided on all sprinklers manufactured after January 1, 2001. The SIN accounts for differences in orifice size, deflector characteristics, pressure rating, and thermal sensitivity.

Replacement sprinklers don't need to match exactly. NFPA guidelines don't, for instance, require the exact same sprinkler or even the same model. But locating an exact match is the easiest way to ensure the same performance characteristics for the sprinklers you have and the sprinklers you need to purchase.

Fire sprinkler identification numbers can make completing your cabinet simple

Your sprinkler's sprinkler identification number (SIN) can make this task considerably easier. The SIN is imprinted on most sprinklers made in the last 20 years (and listed in a complete fire sprinkler cabinet, as we'll describe next). The sprinkler identification number, or SIN, identifies the manufacturer and model of a fire sprinkler. When used with other information, a SIN can produce an exact match.

Sprinkler Identification Number

The sprinkler identification number, or SIN, identifies the manufacturer and model of a fire sprinkler. When used with other information, a SIN can produce an exact match.

For more on identifying your sprinklers' characteristics and their sprinkler identification numbers, check out our blog on quick response and standard response sprinklers.

Complete fire sprinkler head cabinets contain a list of the sprinkler types currently installed

All fire sprinkler cabinets must contain a full list of the sprinkler types currently installed.

From the 2017 Edition of NFPA 25

5.4.1.5.6 A list of the sprinklers installed in the property shall be posted in the sprinkler cabinet.

5.4.1.5.6.1* The list shall include the following:
(1) Sprinkler identification number (SIN) if equipped; or the manufacturer, model, orifice, deflector type, thermal sensitivity, and pressure rating
(2) General description
(3) Quantity of each type to be contained in the cabinet
(4) Issue or revision date of the list

A.5.4.1.5.6.1 The minimum information in the list contained in the spare sprinkler cabinet should be marked with the following:
(1) General description of the sprinkler, including upright, pendent, residential, ESFR, and so forth
(2) Quantity of sprinklers to be maintained in the spare sprinkler cabinet

The list helps facilities managers or maintenance contractors select an appropriate replacement when a spare is used. It also expedites sprinkler system inspections required in NFPA 25 by allowing the inspector to confirm that the cabinet contains an appropriate number and type of spares.

Stocking and selecting your fire sprinkler cabinet

QRFS carries a wide selection of fire sprinkler heads designed to meet the needs of your NFPA-compliant system. We offer commercial fire sprinkler heads and wrenches from Victaulic, Senju, Tyco, Viking, and Reliable. We also stock durable, 22-gauge steel sprinkler head cabinets to hold three, six, twelve, and even 24 spare fire sprinklers.

Our selection includes large cabinets for storing early-suppression fast response (ESFR) fire sprinkler heads with extra large orifices (ELO).

Click here to browse our selection of fire sprinkler cabinets.

When you buy from QRFS, you benefit from our responsive and knowledgeable customer service. We strive to stay up to date on industry best practices and NFPA Code, so we can provide you with the information you need, when you need it.

Questions about sprinkler cabinets? Having trouble choosing one? Call us at +1 (888) 361-6662 or email [email protected].

This blog was originally posted by Jason Hugo and Anna Hartenbach at QRFS.com/blog on August 17, 2017, and updated on February 4, 2019. Check us out at Facebook.com/QuickResponseFireSupply or on Twitter @QuickResponseFS.