Ask ten contractors what the cost of pipe replacement for a fire sprinkler system is, and you will receive ten different answers.
If we are strictly talking about pipe replacement cost, the average on sprinkler pipe replacement with labor, material, and equipment ranges between $6 - $8 dollars per square foot. However, variables are significant and include location within the country and union or non-union labor being utilized for the repair.
Other factors to consider when trying to come up with a nice clean financial number for pipe replacement are the market volatility on steel piping — especially with US tariffs on imported steel creating a spike in demand, causing domestic price increases to keep up. Many building owners and end users feel this pinch when their fire sprinkler system experiences leaks and failures attributed to corrosion.
Here are some important things to keep in mind when considering the cost of repairing your fire sprinkler system.
Raw material costs continue to inflate in price in addition to labor, which can exceed $200 per hour in emergency service call events to respond to a leak during off hours, weekends, or holidays.
Consideration must also be given to the different types of facilities serviced, a parking garage installation may be easily accessible and therefore lower labor costs can be expected, but much higher repair costs will need to be considered for casinos, hotels, warehouses, national park buildings, data centers, and any type of facility that is ornate in design with hard-to-reach areas or high ceilings that require lift equipment.
Business disruption can be a factor in facilities that operate 24-hours a day, facilities that are occupied by patrons or guests, and facilities that house hydrophobic equipment or processes.
In all of these instances, disrupting the primary business operation not only causes an inconvenience but can also result in lost business opportunity — and ultimately lost revenues.
Facilities located in far or remote areas may require additional time for the contractor to reach, which adds time (and subsequently cost) to the service call. It is not uncommon to pay for approximately 4-6 hours of labor covering drive time, which is one more reason repair work can be costly, since these billed hours often do not include any of the actual labor time spent at the facility performing the repair work.
Unexpected Consequences of Pipe Replacement
Given that oxygen has been identified as the primary driver of corrosion in water-based fire sprinkler systems, it is understandable that each instance of pipe replacement results in more oxygen being introduced into the system, which results in more corrosion.
The dirty secret of the fire protection industry is that each leak repair contributes to additional corrosion activity in the system. With enough corrosion damage to the pipe network, the oxygen introduced from a single leak repair can be enough to cause the next leak. When reviewing leak history of a fire sprinkler system it is very common to find that the leak frequency increases over time as a result of cumulative corrosion damage to the pipe.
Making a small investment — like adding an automatic air vent to the riser or a nitrogen inerting generator to the fire sprinkler system — can proactively put that portion of the maintenance operations budget to good use, preventing many service calls for repair and replacement.
For more information on repairing vs. replacing your sprinkler system, read our blog post below.