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Home Depot System Design

Home Depot System Design

Home Depot System Design

Has anyone had any experience with the design of a sprinkler system in a Home Depot? Specifically the wood racks area. NFPA13 2007 shys away from any suggestions. Annex C leaves one to believe that water systems, even with in-rack sprinklers, cannot control  a fire.


RE: Home Depot System Design


I thought the Home Depots were designed by TVA or their subsidiary of Fire Materials Group.  You may be able to contact a TVA office in your area about how they have dealt with them in the past.


RE: Home Depot System Design

Thanks Travis, but what is TVA?


RE: Home Depot System Design

Sorry.  TVA is a national (maybe even interational by now) consulting firm.  I  believe the full name is TVA Fire and Life Safety.  They are a subsidiary of the Telgian Group.

TVA does some of the Wal Mart & Sam's Clubs as well.

Based on how helpful the consultants are with Sam's / Wal Mart (ha ha) I don't know if they would be willing to help or not, but it may be worth a shot.

RE: Home Depot System Design

Okay, I see. Yeah, some people don't like to share for free, but sometimes you can get connected to the right person. I'll try my luck and see who I get.
Thanks for the info,

RE: Home Depot System Design


I've been there and done that with a number of Home Depots and big boxes. FMG is big on Central EC-25 sprinklers and Home Depot loves using slatted fixtures. If you have any questions let us know and welcome to our group.

Travis, Telgian is TVAs old name. I've known the guy who was "T" and the "V" for over 25 years (the "A" was associates) and I don't know how times they wanted me to work for them. If you want the history I'll let you know.

RE: Home Depot System Design

Stookeyfpe, thanks for the welcome and the response to my post.
The area in the store I'm interested in is the wood products section where there are the cantilevered racks which hold the 2x's, siding, plywood, etc. I am putting them in the solid shelf catagory because the material on them create solid "shelves". The two ec-25 sprinklers I checked out are not listed to be used in a situation involving solid shelving. According to their data, they are to be used with the area/density method of NFPA13 and NFPA13 does not give area/density data for solid shelving that I can find. Annex C discusses fire test with different sprinkler arrangements and they all failed.
Can you describe the design data you used in your systems protecting these stores?


RE: Home Depot System Design

There are some special criteria for EC 25 sprinklers that are basically based on the retail stores in NFPA 13.  I don't have the exact section right now, but it is under the special design considerations.  

That may give some insight.

RE: Home Depot System Design

are you the ahj or sprinkler company???

what state are you in

RE: Home Depot System Design

Yes Travis, NFPA13 2007 chapter 20.3 is the area in there that addresses the siuation and that would do the trick as long as some adjustments are made to the storage configuration the owner is using.

cdafd, I'm the sprinkler contractor in Georgia. The project is a design/build with no engineer involved at this time; however, it looks as though that is going to change. It is turning out to be too big of a responsibily for me to take on I feel.

RE: Home Depot System Design

normaly the design is already set and given to the sprinkler contrac by hd and it is a matter if the ahj will accept it.

I did have a contact with their consulatant but can not find his card, will look next week and if I find i send you a message.

It is nice to see a sprinkler contrac questioning the design.

RE: Home Depot System Design

That would be great. The insurance company for the project is my next contact. I have e-mailed the area representative for TVA as Travis suggested, but he is out of the country at the time.
As for questioning the design, well, as a small child I was one of those irritating kids that always followed everything someone said with "why?".

RE: Home Depot System Design

When I was an AHJ I was called a "nazi" when it came to gondola racks. The problem with gondola racks is their large surface area. As far as I am concerned they are solid shelves and you are correct in your analysis that the EC-25 will not work.

In a manuscript I just finished and will be published early next year on the subject of High Piled Storage, I wrote the following on cantilever racks:

A type of storage rack whose use is increasing is the cantilever or gondola rack. These are cantilevered structures that are designed to support long, bulky items such as dimensional sheet lumber, rolled carpet, furniture, pipe or tubing or textiles. Gondola racks do not have upright columns that face the aisle. NFPA 13 currently does not have any specific requirements for the protection of these racks. The primary concern with this type of storage rack is they can create large shielded areas that limit or prohibit the penetration of sprinkler water. Depending on the total area that is shielded and the degree of obstruction to water penetrations, storage in gondola racks may need to be treated as solid shelves, which would require the installation of in-rack sprinkler protection.

I know that Home Depot is now extending in-rack sprinklers when the cantilever rack contains Group A plastics. But in all of the other stores I've seen (and I usually go into one big box store any time I travel just to see what I find) none of them have in-rack sprinklers.

RE: Home Depot System Design

would stick with TVA and they have plenty of reps in the us they can send you to for your question.

one thought is what ignition sources are in the area of the lumber storage, and if there is one if you have a pile of lumber what is the likely hood that it will catch on fire and continue to burn in the manner it is stored.

also look at the obstrucion rules for the head used and look at the depth of the pile is it over four feet or what ever the obstruction rule is for the head.

RE: Home Depot System Design

"one thought is what ignition sources are in the area of the lumber storage, and if there is one if you have a pile of lumber what is the likely hood that it will catch on fire and continue to burn in the manner it is stored."

Oh man do not go down that road, unless your crystal ball is real good and you can predict when and where the fire will start. All it takes is some nut with a lighter and you will have one uncontrolled fire. Private warehouses are bad enough now we invite the general public, and all the nuts that we have living with us to a building with a huge fire load, it is a wonder more of these big box stores do not burn more often.

I use the NFPA 13 solid shelving rule,< then 20 sq. ft , not required, 20-64 sq. ft 1 level on in-rack sprinklers, more then 64 sq. ft. in racks sprinklers required at all levels. Most I see are greater then 64 sq. ft.,and yes I do not see in-racks at all. Only place I see in-racks in Big Box stores are the paint isles, that is before the store manager gets the bright idea to move the paint to a different aisle, and of course the in-racks are never moved.

Really makes you wonder what the TVA guys are doing since I usually see tons of ESFR obstructions too. When I look at these buildings I just tell the underwriter just figure it as a nonsprinkered building, since 6 months after the store opens nothing is the same place and between the banners, new lighting and everything else I see, the fie protection systems have little hope in controlling a fire.

I am usually very popular with our underwriting folks. But then again I have my profit sharing to think about and the many shares of stock I own with the company. These young kids are with us for a few years and move on and can care less what they put on the books. I really piss then off when I evaluate the fire protection unacceptable, then it has to get kicked up to a higher level, which means they can not write the business the way they wanted and have to follow the book. Oh the insurance works so much fun.

RE: Home Depot System Design

My suggestion is to use ESFR protection.  (12) K25s at 15psi (12) or 12 - K14 at 50psi.  This way you are protection not just the wood storage commodity but also the Class IV and the potential for plastics that may be introduced at a later time.  

By the way “rrewis” is that Russell.

RE: Home Depot System Design

ESFR? Are you smoking crack? Another mechanical engineer playing the role of fire protection engineer.

Let me help. Read NFPA 13, Section, 2002 edition. If you can figure that one out and ensure that the design is compliant, then your the ultimate FP man.

Feeling happy enough to slap a seal on the design grandmark?

RE: Home Depot System Design

Yes, it is Russell. Have we crossed paths at some time?

RE: Home Depot System Design

Aw Stookey,

don't you know that ESFR is the answer to everything??? (tounge-in-cheek).

I agree with you.  These consulting/specifying engineering firms that claim fire protection as one of their areas of expertise should be careful.  Also, many times, the fire protection portion of the specs from these types of firms are not even done by an engineer, any engineer, regardless of area of expertise, and only signed off by an engineer, who likely knows very little about what he/she just signed off on.

And my comments to rrewis.....

I also commend you for questioning the design, however, you say this is a design build project.  

To me, design build means that each individual contractor brings the "Engineering" to the project for their trade.  

Are you an engineer, or your firm an engineering firm?  It sounds as if you are not, as you have aluded to getting one involved.  

I would have thought that you should have one on staff or under contract to have been able to bid/participate in this design/build project to begin with.

Just my two pennies worth.

RE: Home Depot System Design

firepe, no we do have an engineer in-house; however, we do have one on call when needed. Design-build in our area is when owners or contractors put the responsiblilty for a proper sprinkler system on the sprinkler contractor's certificate and licence. The only approval needed in most cases is the owners insurance company and local ahj whom more times than not has already worked with the sprk. contractor previously and developed a relationship. The ahj usually is not as knowlegeable as the sprk. contractor so he too relies on him to see that all is done correctly. What is comes down to is that the sprk. contractor puts his certification and license on the line (in comes that insurance we pay for). Generally these projects are well within the range of expertise of the sprk. contractor, but now and then one comes along such as the project we are discussing, that the sprk. contractor had best back away from taking on that resposibility. I may have misled the forum, this project is not a Home Depot but rather a manufacturing plant which stores raw wood materials the same as the cantilever racks in a Home Depot store.

Thanks for all the input,

RE: Home Depot System Design

Can you say in-rack sprinklers?? They will not like to hear it but it is the only option with cantilever racks with the lumber. Then again if they cut the lumber to 4' lengths that will work too. smile

Fire Sprinklers Save Firefighters’ Lives Too

Not ALL Sprinkler Systems Are Created Equal! An Inadequate Sprinkler Design Is JUST As Bad As A Nonsprinklered Building!! When Occupancies Change So Should The Sprinkler System. See NFPA 25, 2002, Edition, Section 4.1.5, 4.1.6 &

RE: Home Depot System Design


I hope you don't take this the wrong way...

It still sounds like you were taking on the practice of engineering.  You by admission are not an engineer, nor is your company.  

Justify your involvement however you want, but simply because you are the sprinkler contractor and you may generally know more than the local AHJ, does not diminish that fact.

Also, NICET certification is not engineering licensure, and is not intended to take it's place, even though a few states have circumvented this original intention.  It's true you may indeed know more than the AHJ, and the engineer you propose to use, but it is folly not to include an engineer on a design build project.

You may want to re-think your future involvement in this type of project.  You may think you are insured, but if, god forbid, something were to happen, say a fire, maybe even loss of life, any good loss investigator will catch on pretty quick that you were practicing engineering, without a license, and I'll bet your policy has an out for the insurance company if you do that.  That would be a pretty tough pill to swallow if you were left holding all of the liability, when you thought you were covered.  

RE: Home Depot System Design

firepe, I take no offense to your comments. I understand what you are saying. You are correct, I am taking on engineering; however, the state I am in does not require an engineer. I am not trying to justify our position but rather stating how it is. Taking on this responsibiliy is quite common among all sprinkler contractors in this area. We do not take on any project that we cannot go to all the involved codes/standards and put our finger on that portion of those codes/standards that can back up our design data. This is the reason that I started this thread. The project was out of the scope of NFPA13 so I was checking with you guys to tell me if I had overlooked it. From all the response I received it is evident that I have not overlooked anything and now the time has come to back away and put the responsibilty on an engineer.
Our insurance cannot have an exception clause for lack of engineer. The certificate I was referring to is not a Nicet certificate but rather a certificate of competency issued by the state along with the contractor license. Being an engineer soley does not qualify one for this certificate. He/she must meet the same requirements as the contractor.

Just as a follow-up to this thread, I found the engineer who designed the Home Depot in my town. It was designed with a ceiling density of .60 over 2000 sq. ft. without in-rack sprinklers.

Thanks for your input,

RE: Home Depot System Design

A Home Depot is a unique animal, as is a Lowe's. It's not just ceiling sprinkler density and design area. It's the flammable liquids, the oxidizers in the swimming pool chemical area and the Group A plastics mixed in with the general merchandise.

I should have changed my handle for all of these postings as I will probably be asked about it in court one day.

If "they" are building this store without in-rack sprinklers for the protection of the previously mentioned high challenge commodities and adding aerosols (they are), then run like a screaming scared child because the design is totally wrong.

These and other Mercantile occupancies are the new challenge facing the FPE communtiy. All designs are based on specific fire tests that can be changed in 30 minutes by 10 store employees based on the number of SKUs (standard kitting units) flying (or not flying) off the shelf. We have got to include this in the engineering design. InspLCRep confirms this in every one of his posts.

And ESFR is not our Lord's blessing for solving all of these problems.

By the way - this has been one of the more honest and educational posts. Thank you for asking the tough question.

Russell, whatever I can do, I will help. But this retail environment is ripe for big large loss fires given the dynamics of retailers and their intense understanding of moving product without even considering the fire protection system design, or hazmats or the other variables like pallet types.

I really hope we don't hurt or kill some firefighters along the way.

RE: Home Depot System Design

"And ESFR is not our Lord's blessing for solving all of these problems."


I think the entire ESFR thing is totally out of control. It is scene as a cure all for ALL warehousing problems and it is far from it. Too many spec buildings have them installed and advertised as come rent my building and store anything you want we have EFSR the greatest thing since sliced bread! What do they have, K 25 heads since they have a lower head pressure and sometimes no fire pump required. Great you have Class 1-4 commodity or non-expanded plastics inside of a cardboard box you are good to go. BUT you have anything else, exposed plastics, expanded plastics, combustible or flammable liquids, etc they are the wrong choice. How many building owners review what the tenant plans to store in the building and will the ESFR prtotect it AND makes sure it does not change? My experience NOT many! How many fire departments and Code Officials ask these questions???

Sometimes I wish FM never came up with this option. ALL it was ever met to be was an option to do away with in-rack sprinklers. Even through in-racks are the most efficient way of controlling and extinguishing a fire. Take a look at all the test data, in-racks do one hell of a job. Look at all the 3B liquid testing and protection data, what do you see, barriers and in-racks at each level of storage. They work very well since they are so close to the fire.

Do not get me wrong ESFR are great and have a place in the fire protection menu of options. However they should not always be the ONLY option everyone things of.

ESFR are great when 1. They are installed correctly regarding obstructions and 2. NOTHING changes in the storage configuration regarding the type of commodity stored, new ceiling obstructions, blockage of transfer and longitudinal flue space,etc. Now how many warehouses have you been in that NOTHING changes?

I still can not believe I have to have meetings with HVAC, steel, lighting contractors, etc. to tell them the sprinkler system can NOT move, you have to move your obstruction. After the meeting where everyone agrees with me I visit the job site after the install and find obstructions!

Hell we are going on 20 years ESFR have been around when will they get it??

Fire Sprinklers Save Firefighters’ Lives Too

Not ALL Sprinkler Systems Are Created Equal! An Inadequate Sprinkler Design Is JUST As Bad As A Nonsprinklered Building!! When Occupancies Change So Should The Sprinkler System. See NFPA 25, 2002, Edition, Section 4.1.5, 4.1.6 &

RE: Home Depot System Design

Hi Stookeyfpe, so what if I smoke crack.  Oh, just for the record I'm not an engineer at all.  I'm just a dumb old pipe fitter.

Now, Let ME help You. Read NFPA 13, Section, 2002 edition. If YOU can figure out that this section is the section of 13 that references "Special Design for Rack Storage of Class I-IV up to 25'"

The section I think you meant to give me.
Just a minute I need another hit off this crack pipe. ....... there we go thats better.

NFPA-13, 2002 & 2007 EDETION
Chapter or 16.2.3 covers ESFR sprinklers for rack Storage of class-I through IV commodity up to 25'.
" or ESFR Protection as defined shall not apply to the following."
"(1) Rack Storage involving solid shelves"

NFPA-13, 2002 & 2007 EDETION
3.10 or 3.9.3 Rack Storage Definitions
3.10.10 or Solid Shelving This describes a particular type and arrangement of “Shelf” and is illustrated in both handbooks via a photograph.  It does not directly address a solid unit load situation that may be present in a cantilever rack type arrangement.  Cantilever rack storage is illustrated in A3.10.8(j) in the 2002 handbook and in A3.9.3.7(j) in the 07. this IMO is nit the same.

The only reference to a solid unit load is located in 3.9.18 (02) and (07).  This definition refers to nonexpanded plastic.  

If the lack of air pockets in a solid unit load of plastics retards the ignition and combustion process.  Would the same not hold true for a solid unit load of a class II commodity such as banded plywood, and other construction lumber?  
I am of the opinion that ignition and combustion would indeed be inhibited by the lack of open space and air pockets.  I interpret the meaning of in the 2002 edition and in the 2007 as referencing loosely stacked storage in “solid shelf rack” situations only.  I do not believe that solid unit loads of class I and II commodities have been adequately addressed by NFPA, nor have any adequate burn test been conducted for this storage arrangement.  I do however have the opinion as do many FPEs.  that ESFR sprinklers providing close to 100gpm each or 1200gpm over the remote area (properly installed with no obstructions, and I do know that this is the tricky part.) will and are more than adequate to protect this type of class II commodity obstructed or not.   The overhead ESFR protection of a lumber storage area will also allow for future rearrangement of product (within applicable guidelines).

Back to the Rock.

RE: Home Depot System Design

I'll admit I'm just:


Another mechanical engineer playing the role of fire protection engineer.

But my interpretation was very similar to GrandmarkFP's.

Maybe rather than crack references we could all benefit from why ESFR is the incorrect application. I continue to benefit from the code interpretations in this forum.

The question that keeps not getting answered for me is: if rack sprinklers are the required and only method of fire protection for this style of storage... why doesn't 'Home Depot' or any similar store use them?

RE: Home Depot System Design

I agree that the name calling could have been omitted.

As for ESFR protection in general,  I, myself, believe that many knowledgable FPE's are concerned that ESFR gets taken for granted, and treated as the magic pill to solve all of your storage problems.  

Let's remember that this is SUPPRESSION mode protection, not CONTROL mode.  Let's also remember that this was developed as a means of avoiding in-racks, and is extremely dependent upon maintaining proper flue spaces, no solid shelves, no open top containers, etc., not to mention how sensitive it is to obstructions.

So, does this specific example lend itself to ESFR???  There are those of you that wish to take the approach or attitude that "it doesn't say I can't" or use some other similar means to justify your decision.  

What ever happened to finding out what the intent actually is with something??  The standard is POORLY worded in many areas, still, to this day.  You cannot simply rely upon, "it says this", or because there is no comma here, "I think it says that".

I think what you are seeing here are some very good fire protection engineers being doubted by some non-fire protection engineers (or non-engineers period) because what the fire protection engineers are saying is NOT convenient to your cause.

What is the intent??  That's the question.  Has it been tested, can you justify it's use?  I think sometimes we need to dig a little deeper than just superficially what does it say, especially with ESFR.  This is too touchy of a protection scheme to be speculating on what the standard says or doesn't say in black and white, or how it's punctuated.  It should ALWAYS be a matter of erring on the side of caution.

In this specific case, lumber, whether you feel it is a solid unit load or not, placed onto racks in such a way that has the net effect of a SOLID shelf, I think you should listen to what some of these knowledgeable, qualified, fire protection engineers (me included, lol) are trying to tell you.  If it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck..........

RE: Home Depot System Design

To follow up on my previous post....Digging a little deeper....

It's a duck!!

NFPA 13, 2002 3.10.10 defines Solid Shelving as follows:

"solid shelving is fixed in place, slatted, wire mesh or other type of shelves located within racks.  The area of a solid shelf is defined by perimeter aisle or flue space on all four sides (of a typical pallet load).  Solid shelves having an area equal to or less than 20-sq.ft. shall be defined as open racks.  Shelves of wire mesh, slates, or other materials more than 50% open and where the flue spaces are maintained (around a typical pallet load) shall be defined as open racks."

NFPA 13, 2002, lists conditions that MUST be met if ESFR is to be used in a "SLATTED" shelving configuration (not SOLID, but rather SLATTED, but still lends some evidence at to intent).  

Requirement (5) states that "transverse flue spaces at least 3-in. wide shall be provided at least every 10 ft horizontally.  

Requirement (10) states that "solid plywood or similar materials shall not be placed on the slatted shelves so that they block the 2-in.(minimum) spaces btween slats, nor shall they be placed on the wire mesh shelves."

NFPA 13, 2002, Solid Shelves, the commentary discusses "the limit of 20-sq.ft. is established as representing the amount of blockage typically presented by a standard pallet load, which is considered acceptable based on traditional testing". (Again, intent.  20-sq.ft. is derived from a pallet load, which implies that there shopuld be spaces between pallet loads).

All of these excerpts help to define a clearer picture of the intent.  

While it may be possible to maintain adequate longitudinal flue spaces in this situation, it does not seem likely that adequate transverse flue spaces are possible (every 4-5-ft.), which would exclude the use of ESFR.

RE: Home Depot System Design

Hi ChrisConley: This is a great question.  here is a theory.

Quote from ChrisConley’s earlier post:

"if rack sprinklers are the required and only method of fire protection for this style of storage... why doesn't 'Home Depot' or any similar store use them?"
This is a hypothetical answer.

Maybe these are performance based designs.  Maybe the companies that are commissioning them to be installed have spent a lot of money and time to conduct their own burn test to prove the installation of these type of systems with out the use of in-rack sprinklers. Until this information (if it exist) is codified by an official entity the information will most likely remain proprietary.


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