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Home > Fire Sprinklers > Design & Installation Issues > Wardrobe Closets in Health Care

Wardrobe Closets in Health Care Occupancies

NFPA 13, 2007 edition, section 8.1.1.(1) (a) requires that a building have sprinkler coverage throughout. The Standard is very specific in permitting the omission of sprinklers under certain circumstances. There is an exception for closets in as follows;

"Sprinklers are not required in clothes closets, linen closets and pantries within dwelling units of hotels and motels where the area of the space does not exceed 24 sq ft, the least dimension does not exceed 3 ft, and the walls and ceilings are surfaced with noncombustible or limited-combustible materials."

The appendix note for this reads; "Portable wardrobe units, such as those typically used in nursing homes and mounted to the wall, do not require sprinklers to be installed in them. Although the units are attached to the finished structure, the standard views those units as pieces of furniture rather than a part of the structure; thus, sprinklers are not required."

This code exception leaves open some gray areas, and therefore our office has issued the following statement of clarification on how we treat this exception;

  1. Free-standing wardrobes are considered to be furniture, therefore, do not need to have fire sprinkler protection within them.
  2. Wardrobes which are affixed to the walls must be protected, although not necessarily provided with sprinkler heads inside the wardrobe.
  3. Federal inspectors of health care facilities may not recognize wardrobe closets that are less than 12 sq ft in area as exempt from fire sprinkler protection, even though the state does. Where both the federal and state authorities have jurisdiction, the most stringent of the two requirements must be met.
  4. Alternatives to putting sprinkler heads inside a wardrobe are as follows:
    • (a) Remove the top of the wardrobe so that the spray from the nearest sprinkler head can cover the wardrobe;
    • (b) Remove the door to the closet or wardrobe;
    • (c) Replace the solid door with a louvered door;
    • (d) Provide additional sprinkler heads outside the wardrobe to serve as a water curtain and protect the opening to the wardrobe.